11 Signs You Never Knew were Related to Gut Trouble — and their Solutions

  • October
    02

    DO YOU EVER FEEL BLOATED, tired, gassy, heavy or sick after eating?

    When I was a kid, my family would joke about calling “dibs” on washrooms in the house after a big meal out. To me, this was normal. It was normal to eat past being full, normal to have stomach cramps, and normal to sit on the toilet for an hour with a magazine.

    I mean, that’s why so many washrooms have a pile of magazines, right?

    It wasn’t until I was studying Naturopathic medicine and became aware of the foods that I was eating (and not eating), that I started to noticed some major changes:

    • I was no longer doubled over in pain after eating
    • my skin was clearer
    • my poo was a healthy chocolate brown with toothpaste consistency and no straining
    • I had less pain in my body, especially my hips, back and elbows
    • I didn’t have brain fog or fatigue after eating
    • my PMS symptoms were diminished
    • I could expect 1-3 healthy bowel movement a day, within 5 minutes of being on the toilet
    • I also had an increase in energy and inadvertently more self-confidence

    There are many seemingly unrelated symptoms from a person’s diet. The gut is like a highway junction to every part of the body. It’s mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) gives direct access to the blood stream which carries nutrients, oxygen, toxins, waste products, cytokines and inflammatory markers to the whole body. So when there is trouble in the gut, you can have systemic issues seen in the skin, joints, mind, mood, sexual organs, lungs, heart (ie. blood pressure), muscles and of course the stomach and bowels themselves.

    If you experience any symptoms after eating a large meal or foods that aggravate your gut, you probably have a combination of some of the following:

    1. food sensitivities
    2. food intolerances
    3. food allergies
    4. autoimmune conditions (ie. Celiac disease, Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis)
    5. heart burn
    6. indigestion
    7. dysbiosis and Candidiasis
    8. leaky gut syndrome
    9. stress and psychological blocks
    10. physical obstructions, damage or dependencies (ie. laxatives)
    11. gut infections

    GASTROINTESTINAL PHYSIOLOGY

    The lining of the stomach, small intestine and large intestine are made up of many layers: mucosa, submucosa and muscularis.

    These layers control digestion, nutrient absorption, and regulation of harmful toxins [1].

    The mucosa layer are actually folds of tissue covered with hairlike projections called villi that increase the surface size by 30-folds to maximize nutrient absorption. Each villi is lined with tightly-packed cells, tight junctions and each cell has even smaller microvilli among them (increasing the surface area by 600-fold), which only allows broken down nutrients to be absorbed into the blood stream. This layer is also responsible for local immune functions and regulating the microflora to protect the submucosal layer.

    The gastrointestinal mucosal lining is made up of many layers to stimulate digestion and protect toxins (and food particles) from reaching the blood stream. Photo credit: Britannica

    The GIT mucosal lining is made up of many layers to stimulate digestion and protect toxins (and food particles) from reaching the blood stream. Photo credit: Britannica

    The submucosal layer contains blood vessels that are the freeways to every part of the body (except the brain), including the muscles, nervous system and immune system of the spleen, bone marrow, thymus and lymphatic glands.

    For example, if a foreign particle (ie. toxic bacteria from the hot dog you ate at last night’s game) enters the blood stream, antibodies will be created to that toxin and signal for your immune system to not only eradicate it, but also recognize it in case you have another craving for sausage.

    The muscularis layer is made up of muscle tissue. It’s responsible for churning up your undigested foods and moving it along down your digestive tract.

    There are hundreds of enzyme reactions, mucosal immune responses, microorganism interactions (10×14) and digestive processes happening after every meal you consume. And they all happen without you being conscious of them.

    Let’s first define a few key terms:

    Mucous membrane – a layer of mucosal cells that form the lining of your digestive tract starting from your mouth and ending at your anus. This is a highly absorbable surface, which requires an effective immune system to regulate the environment

    Allergen – any substance that causes an allergy reaction

    Antigen – any substance that induces and antibody to be produced or released

    Antibody – a large Y-shaped protein (aka. immunoglobulin, Ig) produced by the immune system upon exposure to a foreign substance/antigen. Antibodies are crucial for identifying pathogens (ie. bacteria or viruses) and signalling for your immune system to fight them off. There are 5 main immunoglobulins: IgM, IgG, IgA, IgE, IgD. We will discuss IgG and IgE in more detail

    Enzyme – a diverse group of proteins capable of breaking down molecules into smaller subsets that can be readily absorbed by the body. It is often described as a “lock-and-key(s)” system where only unique molecules (ie. keys) can fit into the enzyme (ie. lock), which then allows catalytic reactions to occur


    11 Signs You Never Knew were Related to Gut Trouble — and their Solutions

    1. Food Sensitivities

    Food sensitivities are often difficult to diagnose with IgG antibodies produced after approximately 30 days after recognition of the food antigen. Once a threshold of IgG antibodies are made, symptoms begin 24-48 hours post-ingestion and IgG antibody levels rise slowly and linger for up to 3 months [2].

    Symptoms can vary from migraines, to cognitive ‘brain fog’, to behavioural difficulties in children with ADHD, to chronic digestive concerns (constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas, IBSIBD), to skin issues (acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis), to low energy, weight gain, water retention and joint pain.

    SOLUTION: The most common food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, corn, soy and eggs. Blood tests for IgG antibodies are often inaccurate, especially if a person is in a heightened state of inflammation. I prefer a more practical method with the Hypo-Allergenic Diet. Yes it can be more time and energy intensive, but not only will you be able to see if you are sensitive to a particular food, but you will also know how your body reacts while healing your gut.

    HypoAllergTo get your free comprehensive Hypo-Allergenic eManual including dietary guidelines, recipes for a 7-day meal plan, shopping lists, and food re-introduction schedule, sign-up HERE.

    2. Food Intolerances

    Food intolerances are due to a lack of appropriate enzyme to breakdown a food into basic units that are able to be absorbed by the gut lining and used for physiological activities by the body. This is a non-immune specific reaction. For example, people lacking the lactase enzyme cannot breakdown lactose and are considered lactose intolerant.

    Sudden initial reaction within 30 minutes of ingesting aggravating food and can last a few hours. Symptoms such as explosive diarrhea, excessive gas, low energy and fatigue, dehydration, and malnutrition are experienced.

    SOLUTION: Taking digestive enzymes for your particular food intolerance (ie. lactase pills) will resolve symptoms. If you find that you are still experiencing discomfort after taking the digestive enzymes, you may actually be suffering from a food sensitivity to that protein (ie. lactose) or another compound in your food (ie. casein or ovalbumin sensitivity).

    3. Food Allergies

    Food allergies such as the common peanut allergy is an IgE – Type I Hypersensitivity/ Anaphylactic reaction. Food allergies have a clear cause and effect with rapid onset whereby mast cells and basophiles release histamine when exposed to an allergen and cause an inflammatory response (red, swollen, itchy) that varies from uncomfortable to life threatening, such as anaphylaxis.

    There can be local and general inflammation to the skin (rash, hives, eczema, urticaria, atopic dermatitis), respiratory system (asthma, wheezing, restricted airflow), digestion (cramps, nausea, diarrhea) and vasculature (edema).

    SOLUTION: There are 3 main scenarios:

    1. If you have a negative reaction, avoid eating those foods in high amounts and introduce minute doses to build up your tolerance. See this study on peanut allergies and always carry your Epi-Pen with you.
    2. If you have tested positive to a food allergen but are not experiencing symptoms, continue eating that food and carry an Epi-Pen just in case. The minute you stop eating it you’re body will have a major IgE reaction and potentially be life threatening.
    3. If you have a toddler who has a high likelihood of food allergies, studies have shown it is more beneficial to introduce those foods earlier on than delay exposure [3].
    Read more about the differences between food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities.

    4. Autoimmune GIT Conditions

    Most autoimmune conditions are further exacerbated by inflammation, stress and eating food sensitivities. Direct trauma or inflammation to the gut lining allows more systemic inflammation, chances of “leaky gut syndrome” (see below) and autoimmune reactions.

    Celiac disease varies from a gluten sensitivity like an anaphylactic bee sting to a mild mosquito bite. To diagnoses celiac disease, a combination the following tests are commonly performed:

    • Anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTG- IgA)
    • Anti-endomysial antibody (EMA- IgA)
    • Anti-gliadin antibody (AGA- IgA)
    • Deamidated gliadin peptide antibody (DGP- IgA)
    • with a possible endoscopic biopsy of injured tissues

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition of the small intestine, where there is both an inflammatory conditions and a loss of microvilli in a portion of the small intestine.

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) includes both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis (UC). They both affect the intestines, however Crohn’s can be found in patches throughout the GIT and extend throughout the thickness of the bowel wall, while UC is only affects the mucosal layer and is found at the end of the large intestine.

    The inflammation of the bowels can be very painful during flare-ups and you can see mucous or blood in the stool. Watch the following video to learn more.

    SOLUTION: Eat a Hypo-Allergenic Diet and avoid inflammatory foods and stress. These are complex conditions that can have many triggers. Speak with your Naturopathic doctor and family practitioner for treatment options.

    5. Heart Burn and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD)

    These conditions can be due to excess or insufficient stomach acid. Several healthy foods can trigger relaxation of the lower esopageal sphincter (LES), such as fish oils, and worsen your condition.

    Burning of the chest region and up the throat are common symptoms experienced. Make sure you know the difference between a heart condition, lung condition, stomach ulcer, and indigestion since they can have similar appearances. Some conditions may be serious, so make sure you know what emergent signs and symptoms to look out for.

    SOLUTION: To know whether or not you have hypo- or hyper- chlorhydria (low or high stomach acid levels), you can go and get tested at your primary physician, or you can do your own test at home.

    Here is the Apple Cider Vinegar Test:

    1. Take 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
    2. If you experience no burning or sensations, you are probably have hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) and need to increase your stomach acid levels by subsequently adding 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar each day until you reach 6 tbsp/d or a slight burning sensation arises. If no symptoms arise, maintain that dose per day and only decrease by 1 tbsp/d unless burning is felt.
    3. If you do experience burning (and probably immediately), avoid acidic foods (sour vinegar, citrus fruits and meats) for 1 week and start dosing  1-2 tsp of sodium bicarbinate (aka. baking soda) in a full glass of water per day.

    Ensure that the burning pain you experience is not a heart condition or peptic ulcer by going to your family doctor and having the appropriate tests run.

    6. Indigestion

    Indigestion can occur for several reasons: eating too fast, not chewing enough, fatty and greasy meals, alcohol, difficult to digest foods, lack of stomach acid, food sensitivities, bacteria imbalance, and stress.

    Frequent stomach upset after eating, bloating, gas, diarrhea, burps and undigested food in the stool are common findings. However, it’s the location and timing of the symptoms that can help distinguish indigestion from other condition.

    Indigestion occurs within 1 hour of eating and so the discomfort will be experienced in the stomach (between the base of the rib cage) and not lower down in the intestines.

    SOLUTION: Because there are various causes of indigestion, the most important steps for gut health and prevention are:

    1. Take 3 deep and slow breaths before you eat anything. Breathing is a great way to turn your nervous system into parasympathetic mode for resting and digesting.
    2. Focus on eating only. No multitasking or rushing through your meal. The body needs at least 20 minutes to digest and register if it is full.
    3. Chew your food well. Not only do you break up the food into smaller pieces, but you stimulate saliva and stomach acid production
    4. Avoid greasy and fatty foods. The occasional burger and steak are great, but try to make fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meats, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates the foundation of your diet. If not, you could be eating yourself sick.
    5. Make some quiet time for you. Indigestion can be your body’s way of telling you you are over-stressed and need time to recover. Stress isn’t bad unless we let it take control of our thoughts, words, and actions. Make at least 5 minutes per day to sit and be quiet.
    6. Probiotics. If you have a lot of smelly gas, burping and abdominal distension you may be suffering from dysbiosis. Probiotics can help to re-balance your gut flora as well as some fermented foods (see below).

    7. Dysbiosis

    The imbalance of gut bacteria flora is termed dysbiosis. Our bacteria flora is in constant flux with trillions of bacteria lining the GIT helping to break down food, defend against infections, and creating by-products. Some of these bacteria are “bad”, but bad is not a great term because it’s more about the quantity and ratio of bacteria in the gut that we should care about.

    There are few bacteria that only need a small population to cause chaos in our bodies (see gut infections). Many times you may consume a potentially dangerous organism only to have your immune system and healthy bacteria get rid of them without any signs for worry.

    Dysbiosis can occur from eating a poor diet, gut infection or after a course of antibiotics. Symptoms such as smelly gas, burping and abdominal distension are common.

    SOLUTION: Probiotics and fermented foods can help to re-balance the gut flora and decrease discomfort. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchee, and miso are high in natural probiotics. If you are taking antibiotics, make sure to take your probiotics at least 3 hours away from each dose, since the antibiotic will destroy the beneficial bacteria as well.

    8. Leaky Gut Syndrome

    When there is damage to the gut lining (ie. loss of microvilli in Celiac disease) or major inflammation (ie. food sensitivities), large particles can pass through the tightly packed mucosal cells to enter the blood stream. This is called leaky gut syndrome.

    This “leaky gut” is partially why IgG testing can be so inaccurate. With major gut inflammation, many of food particles can enter the blood stream to mount an IgG response. This doesn’t mean that you will always to sensitive to these foods, but that in a heightened state of reactivity, almost every food will cause some reaction.

    Leaky gut syndrome allows large particles to pass through the tightly packed mucosal cells to enter the blood stream. Photo credit: Kitchen Stewardship

    Leaky gut syndrome allows large particles to pass through the tightly packed mucosal cells to enter the blood stream. Photo credit: Kitchen Stewardship

    Sometimes food particles have similar structures as molecules in your body and the antibodies can start to attack your own cells. We saw this earlier with autoimmune diseases, but they can also take on different forms such as:

    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Addison’s disease
    • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
    • Graves’ disease
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Psoriasis

    SOLUTION: Eat a Hypo-Allergenic Diet and avoid inflammatory foods and stress. These are complex conditions that can have many triggers. Speak with your Naturopathic doctor and family practitioner for treatment options.

    Click here to download your Anti-inflammatory Diet Guide.

    9. Stress and Psychological Blocks

    There are some people who are running on so much adrenaline and have so much stress that they won’t let their bodies get out of the sympathetic nervous state to have proper nutrient absorption or regular bowel movements no matter how healthy they are.

    There are other people who have fear, anxiety and are uncomfortable eating or going to the washroom. These people have situational sympathetic nervous responses.

    Both of these types of people may experience indigestion, dysbiosis, food sensitivities, bloating, constipation, stomach cramps and anxiety. The trigger for each case will be different, however practicing parasympathetic-inducing exercises will help to control the stress put on the gut and help reset many other physical and mental conditions.

    SOLUTION: Parasympathetic-inducing exercises. Read the full list here:

    • Breath. Set your timer for every hour and take a moment to breath, calm your nerves down and ground yourself. Especially practice this first thing in the morning, before you eat, when you go to the toilet and before bed.
    • Mindful eating. Eating mindfully includes slowing down, chewing and swallowing each bite with focus.
    • Create boundaries. Don’t let other people’s moods, words and actions ruin your whole day. Be aware of how you are affected by others and choose what you allow into your bubble and what you don’t. Read more about creating healthy boundaries.
    • Get moving throughout the day. Little bits of activities can be scattered throughout the day to help you maintain healthy circulation, detoxification and stress relief. Get practical tip to fit exercise into your day.
    • Get outdoors. Not only does the fresh air and vitamin D improve stress, but a change of scenery helps to reset your day and mood.
    • Bite a pencil. It’s true. Biting a pencil horizontally will improve your mood and lower stress. Read about it here.
    • Prioritize. Making a list of only the most important things in your day can help to off-load unnecessary stress. You can extend this even further to look at your month, year and even what you want out of life itself. Many stressor that we have we unfairly put on ourselves. There are very few things in life that are necessary (ie. air, food, shelter, community), the rest is “fluff”.
    • Have more fun EVERYDAY. Be creative and grab a few friends and have fun. Even if you are by yourself, if you twirl or sing out loud you can’t help but feel great!

    10. Physical Obstructions, Damage or Dependencies

    Constipation, physical gut damage, and constant laxative use is no fun. These types of physical injuries and dependencies require specific analysis and treatment protocols from your Naturopathic doctor, primary care physician or specialist.

    If you have a bowel movement less than 1 time per week, you may be constipated. There are many reasons you might be constipated, including:

    • lack of fiber or hydration
    • magnesium deficiency and poor diet
    • uncontrolled stress
    • atonic colon – lack of physical strength in the muscularis layer
    • food sensitivities
    • lack of exercise
    • poor posture
    • poor digestive enzyme release
    • food or object obstruction
    • diverticulitis, diverticulosis, fecal impaction or hemrroids
    • pain
    • smoking
    • dependencies on laxatives, caffeine or herbal supports

    Ensure that any tenderness to the lower right abdomen is ruled out for appendicitis. Click here to learn more about emergent conditions.

    SOLUTION: Use this fun stool guide to see what your poo is says about you. Are you a straining cannon ball or a water rafting stool? Click below to find your character and ways to combine home care with medical treatments.

    Are you a straining cannon ball or a water rafting stool? Click here to find your character and ways to combine home care with medical treatments.

    Are you a straining cannon ball or a water rafting stool? Click here to find your character and ways to combine home care with medical treatments.

    11. Gut Infections

    This can be bacterial, viral, candida or a parasite infection that is causing a fever, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, fatigue and loose stools. Infections are no fun and you may be doing more harm than good with the foods you eat.

    Gut infections can vary from 24 hour food poisoning to persistent Candidiasis (Candida overgrowth). Most stomach bugs (bacteria and viral infections) are self-limiting with adequate rest, fluids and simple anti-microbial support.

    Traveller’s diarrhea happens quite frequently when people are exposed to foreign microorganisms while traveling. Diarrhea that persists for more than 3 days or worsens over time should be monitored by a health professional to avoid further injury and dehydration.

    Clostridium difficile (C. diff) bacterial infections often occur after a course of antibiotics and can persist for years if left untreated.

    H. pylori is a common bacteria that is present in all stomachs, however when it is allowed to proliferate it is very stubborn and can cause stomach ulcers.

    Candidiasis is often due to eating a sugar-rich diet (ie. natural sugar, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, root vegetables, fruit), lack of physical activity, diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and dysbiosis. Bloating, yeast infections and sugar cravings are frequently experienced.

    Parasitic infections are prevalent after camping trips, traveling to foreign countries, drinking contaminated waters or eating uncooked meats and seafood. If you notice small white eggs in your stool along with weight loss, lack of appetite (or ravenous appetite) and abdominal distension, get a stool sample to rule out parasitic infections.

    SOLUTION: Each of these infections will require a slightly modified treatment protocol to accurately target each organism. Supporting a healthy immune system, staying hydrated and eating a clean diet will be beneficial in all cases.

    • Practice clean hygiene. Wash your hands, use filtered water and  clean your fruits and vegetables with this homemade produce spray.
    • Hydrate yourself. Drink lots of filtered and re-mineralized water, soups, and green shakes, especially if you have diarrhea or are vomiting.
    • Sleep and rest. Your body heals when it is resting, so get your sleep.
    • Emergency cupboard nutraceutical supplements. Zinc, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), probiotics (if there is no bleeding or damage to the gut), N-acetyl cystine and electrolytes support a healthy immune system. Click here to see the research.
    • Immune boosting foods. Especially while traveling, supplements and medications may not be easy to find. Eat your way to health with citrus fruits, manuka or kanuka honey (not for pregnant women or infants), oatmeal, raw garlic, ginger, and onions. See the research here.
    • Botanical herbs for your health. If you are planning a trip to a remote location, you may want to pack your bags with Echinacea, black walnut extract, and Barberry for parasitic infections.
    • Contrast your shower temperature by spending 3 minute in hot water and 1 minutes in cold. Repeat several times as you shower to help promote circulation
    • Go on, brush your toxins off with dry skin brushing with a natural fiber brush. Making small circles patterns gently over the skin from the extremities to the heart will help to promote detoxification and circulation.
    • Clean up your diet and avoid sugary foods. Eating a low-sugar diet on top of other treatments can help control infections, however more intensive treatment is often needed for Candida and persistent parasitic infections. Speak with your Naturopathic doctor and read the following Candida Diet Guide.
    Download the Candida Diet Guide by clicking the image above.

    Download the Candida Diet Guide by clicking the image above.

    Gut issues are very common but their causes can be extremely varied. If trying some of these basic home remedies doesn’t help relieve your symptoms within 1 week please see a licensed health care practitioner.

    If your symptoms worsen or you experience bleeding or sudden unintentional weight loss please visit your closest emergency room.


This website is NOT to be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool. Always consult with your Conventional Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor for specific concerns. In cases of medical emergencies visit your nearest hospital or call 9-1-1.