You feel generally happy most of the time. Sadness, fatigue and other symptoms associated with depression can be linked to gut health. After all, many neurotransmitters live mostly in our guts--not our brains--so if our digestive system isn't in tip-top shape, it might affect our depression risk according to emerging research.
Your weight stays constant over time. Unexplained weight loss or gain can be a symptom of an underlying condition such as celiac disease or a thyroid disorder. Digestive issues such as malabsorption of nutrients or even (gulp) tapeworms or other parasites in the digestive tract can also affect one's weight and energy levels.
You have regular bowel movements that don't take effort. It's not the number of bowel movements you have a week that matters; rather the regularity of those movements. Healthy can be once a day, three times a day or three times a week. Although texture, softness and even color can vary substantially day to day and person to person, very loose, hard to control or painful stools are not normal. Speaking of, you should never see blood in your stool (even a dark black color can be a sign of blood). This can be a symptom of several diseases and conditions including ulcers, cancers, hemorrhoids or diverticulitis.
You sleep soundly through the night. While sleep disruptions have many underlying causes, digestive disorders can cause you to wake during the night because of acid reflux or because you feel the urgent need to have a bowel movement.
A healthy digestive system is able to process many types of food in many types of combinations at many times of the day or night--without causing disruptions to other bodily processes or interfering with your day-to-day life. There's no test you can take to find out if you have a healthy digestive system. The best way to determine if your system is functioning properly is to track it over time. If you're already keeping a food diary, add a note every day about how you felt after each meal and when and if you had a bowel movement. It may sound gross, but this kind of information can help your doctor make a correct diagnosis if you think you may have a problem.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, M.Ed., Licensed and Registered Dietitian.
American Psychological Association, "That Gut Feeling," www.apa.org, accessed on November 26, 2013.
Mayo Clinic, "Heartburn" www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on November 26, 2013.
Mayo Clinic, "Irritable Bowel Syndrome," www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on November 25, 2013.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Gastroparesis," nih.gov, accessed on November 25, 2013.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "The Digestive System and how it Works," nih.gov, accessed on November 25, 2013.
WebMD, "Chronic Constipation," www.webmd.com, accessed on November 25, 2013.
What Does Digestive Wellness Really Look Like?
A Picture of Digestive Health
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