The Signs, Symptoms & Importance of Gut Health

Your gut plays a crucial role in your body’s immune response. But how can you support it effectively? Discover our consultant’s expert advice in our blog.


Everyone knows just how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly and enjoy a well-balanced diet. But did you also know just how pivotal your gut can be in influencing the way you look and feel?

Put simply, your gut is so much more than a food-mashing machine.

Comprised of an intricate ecosystem of bacteria collectively known as the gut microbiome, your gut also functions as part of your immune system, playing a crucial role in not only defending your body against harmful pathogens but, at the same time, maintaining a harmonious balance with useful microorganisms in your gastrointestinal tract.

In other words, maintaining a healthy gut is vital to your overall health and wellbeing, helping you stay protected against various illnesses, infections and potential medical conditions.

In this article, we speak to Mr James Kinross — one of our expert consultants here at OneWelbeck — all about the importance of gut health, discussing the key signs to watch out for and some of the best ways to keep it running as efficiently as possible.

Why is gut health so important?

The gut, often referred to as the body’s ‘second brain’, is a complex system responsible for several important bodily functions. This not only includes digestion and nutrition absorption but also the regulation of both your immune response and mood.

“Gut health describes the optimal gut function, not just in its ability to prevent disease but also to promote health and happiness,” according to Mr Kinross, a Colorectal Surgeon at OneWelbeck Digestive Health.

“The reason why gut health is so important is because a large part of our immune system is located within the gut. Without an optimally functioning immune system, you’ll start to experience significant consequences, leaving yourself vulnerable to harmful pathogens and potential diseases.”

The role of the gut microbiome

Comprised of trillions of microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses and more, your gut microbiome forms a symbiotic relationship with you as its host. This effectively means that — in return for you providing it with the nutrients and habitat to live in — your gut then supports you by keeping you safe from illness and infection.

Maintaining this relationship is vital for maintaining your overall health and wellbeing, with your diet and various other lifestyle choices playing a particularly important role.

“A lot of the things that we do to maintain our health, like exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, help regulate our gut microbes, which is key to keeping your gut happy,” Mr Kinross says.

“This means maintaining a healthy diet that is high in fibre, low in animal fats, low in saturated fats and low in ultra-processed foods. It also means avoiding alcohol and smoking, and prioritising exercise.”

The gut and the brain

Maintaining good gut health is not only important from an immunological point of view, but it can have a significant impact on your mental health as well. This is due to the intricate connection between the gut and the brain, otherwise known as the gut-brain axis.

Through this complicated communication system, the brain and the gut can influence each other’s function, impacting not only the way in which you digest food but also your mood, ability to make decisions and various other cognitive functions.

As such, having poor gut health can lead to issues like inflammation, altered gut-brain signalling and even a reduced production of neurotransmitters — the chemical messengers that carry signals from one neuron to another.

Over time, this can then affect your mental wellbeing and cause conditions like depression, insomnia, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — a disorder that Mr Kinross is seeing more and more often in younger people at OneWelbeck.

“We get a lot of young people with severe abdominal bloating symptoms related to IBS and other symptoms that haven’t been properly addressed anywhere else.

“We see lots of people in their 20s and 30s where their guts just basically aren’t coping with modern life. The impact of the COVID pandemic has been catastrophic.”

Signs of poor gut health

Recognising the signs of poor gut health is crucial to maintaining both your physical and mental health.

While certain types of gut symptoms can vary from individual to individual, there are some key signs you’ll need to be particularly wary of. These include:

  • Digestive discomfort – frequent gas, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation can indicate an imbalance in your gut microbiome, often caused by a disruption in your gut’s ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Weight fluctuations – suddenly gaining or losing weight suddenly could be associated with poor gut health, due to the impact it can have on hormones responsible for appetite and fat storage regulation.
  • Sleeping problems – since the gut microbiome communicates with the central nervous system, poor gut health can affect your sleeping pattern and overall energy levels.
  • Skin conditions acne, eczema and rosacea can all be caused by the inflammation frequently brought on by having poor gut health.
  • Mental health issues – as we’ve highlighted already, the connection between the gut and brain can lead to mood swings and increased feelings of anxiety or depression.

How to improve your gut health

Many people fail to act on poor gut health until it’s too late, either picking up an illness or presenting with other types of symptoms before being seen by a medical professional.

To prevent this from happening to you, Mr Kinross recommends that you treat your gut in the same way as your car, getting it serviced regularly — even when you’re feeling healthy.

“I believe that patients should see their gut like a car engine, which needs regular checkups to ensure it's working properly. It's much better to get your gut assessed when you're feeling healthy and well, instead of waiting for a disease to happen.”

Mr Kinross also believes that there is a “very big difference” between being given general advice about how to improve gut health and being able to actually follow it effectively.

Instead, he believes that each patient requires a different strategy, needing to be worked with individually to help “reprogramme their behaviour”.

“You can’t just say, ‘Here’s the information — now go away and tell me when you’ve done it’. You need to change people’s human behaviour, but it’s not always that straightforward.”

With this in mind, Mr Kinross has recommended some important advice to help more patients learn to look after and prioritise their gut health:

  • Seek help – “Do not feel the need to suffer in silence, because you’re not alone. There are lots of other people like you, all in similar situations and in need of help.”
  • Avoid crazy online fad diets – “You’ll only make yourself worse, not better. We see lots of people following Instagram influencers who we have to tell to stop everything they’re recommending, to help get them back on track.”
  • Get checked professionally – “Get your gut health seen by someone who can give your holistic care and look at you as a whole. They will have the specialities and equipment to help you through it and offer more practical, individualised advice.”
  • Avoid processed food – “Junk food, high-fat food, high-protein food and even certain supplements tend to do a lot more harm than good.”

Check your gut health with OneWelbeck

While making certain lifestyle changes can help you better regulate the microbes in your gut, Mr Kinross says that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving gut health.

Instead, he recommends that each patient should be seen on an individual basis, working with a dedicated team so that treatments can be tailored around their specific circumstances.

“While it’s easy to make general recommendations on how to improve your gut health, the gut is highly individualised. So we recommend that all of our patients work closely with a clinician to create tailored, specific diets targeted towards your specific health needs.”

“At OneWelbeck, we work in a very multidisciplinary way. We’ve got really good dietitians, gastroenterologists and surgeons, and our team look at each patient holistically. We are also lucky enough to have state-of-the-art diagnostic facilities and effective ways of tailoring these interventions to each individual.”

To find out more about the team at OneWelbeck or our range of digestive health facilities, simply contact us to get started. We can help you get your gut health back on track, tailoring our specialist advice and treatment plan around your specific requirements.

How OneWelbeck can help

Here at OneWelbeck, we have a team of exemplary specialists, state of the art facilities and diagnostics, and highly competitive financial packages for self-funding patients as well as those with private health care.