What are the side effects of poor gut health?

Published February 19, 2015

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A healthy functioning digestive system is essential for a healthy life. When it’s not working well it’s often obvious because of the side effects produced, but not always. Poor gut health not only impacts your nutritional well-being, but can also cause several side effects including:

  • Poor nutrient absorption – The principal role of the digestive system is to break down the food we eat and bring nutrients to all of the body’s cells for growth, repair and energy. When the digestive process is insufficient, it means that the absorption of nutrients may be impaired. Over time, nutritional deficiencies may occur. If you have poor digestion and aren’t getting the nutrients your body needs, you may feel tired, sluggish, unable to think clearly and become more susceptible to illness. In fact, all of the body’s cells and tissues may be affected by poor gut health including the skin, immune cells, brain, bones and muscles.
  • Bloating – Bloating occurs when there’s a buildup of gas, which may be due to eating too fast, food intolerance, constipation, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine or an inability to digest certain foods.1 Occasional bloating is common, but if it’s persistent then something may be awry.
  • Excessive gas – Passing gas is a normal by-product of digestion, but if it happens excessively it may indicate a problem. Gas can collect in the digestive system because of poorly digested foods, which are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine where the gas is produced.2
  • Constipation – When the digestive system is in good working order, you’ll experience regularity. On the contrary, a slow and sluggish digestive system can result in constipation.
  • Diarrhea – Diarrhea may be a side effect of poor gut health, which may be due to a gastrointestinal illness, an inability to digest certain foods or an underlying digestive disorder.3
  • IndigestionSymptoms of indigestion, including a feeling of fullness after meals and minor heartburn, may occur from time to time. Indigestion may be caused by unhealthy eating habits such as overeating, smoking or drinking too much alcohol, or it may be a symptom of a digestive condition.4
  • Stress – Poor gut health and digestive disorders can be a source of stress for some people, as it may affect their ability to socialize, their relationships and day to day activities.
  • Other health conditions – Gut bacteria play numerous roles in the body including maintaining a healthy digestive system and supporting immune function. When the healthy population of bacteria in the digestive tract is out of balance due to antibiotic use, stress or digestive problems, it may contribute to the development of various health conditions.5


  1. Donohue M and Krucik G, Abdominal bloating, URL access: http://www.healthline.com/symptom/abdominal-bloating
  2. Blake K and Krucik G, Gas and flatulence, July 2012, URL access: http://www.healthline.com/symptom/flatulence
  3. Natural Standard, Gastrointestinal disorders, 2014, URL access: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/medical-conditions/g/gastrointestinal-disorders.aspx
  4. Rice S and Spriggs B, What is indigestion, July 2012, URL access: http://www.healthline.com/symptom/indigestion
  5. Hawrelak J and Myers S. The causes of intestinal dysbiosis: A review. Altern Med Rev 2002; 9(2):180-197

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