Hoping to get your gut health in fighting shape? You could be doing *all* the things in your quest to maintain bacterial balance and keep inflammation at bay—yet soon enough, you’ll likely wonder if your efforts are paying off.

To help you decipher if you’re headed in the right direction, board-certified gastroenterologist Kenneth Brown, MD, shares how to tell if your microbiome is inflammation-free (or pretty darn close). Plus: a few tips worth adopting if you’re not quite there yet and hope to expedite the balancing act.

5 signs of an inflammation-free gut

1. Regular bowel movements

If you ask me, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a full BM—especially if they’re not as consistent, complete, or comfortable to pass as you’d like them to be. “A bowel movement every day, with little or no straining, is an indicator that your digestive system is working well,” says Dr. Brown. In addition, “The color, texture, and frequency of stools can tell you a lot about your gut health.”

Per a 2015 study published in the journal Gut, your stool’s consistency is strongly associated with all major microbiome markers including microbiota richness and composition, enterotypes, and bacterial growth rates. (Note: Bristol stool chart types three and four are in the proverbial sweet spot, while types six and seven often indicate that inflammation is present.)

“A bowel movement every day, with little or no straining, is an indicator that your digestive system is working well. The color, texture, and frequency of stools can tell you a lot about your gut health.”
—Kenneth Brown, MD, board-certified gastroenterologist

Bonus: A solid poop (in terms of form and quality) doesn’t only have the power to make you feel lighter and more at ease in your body; it can even promote a better mood.

2. A lack of digestive distress

Of course, having bulky and regular BMs isn’t the only marker of peak digestive health. Digestive comfort and ease across the board can indicate that your microbiome is inflammation-free. “If you experience minimal discomfort such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn, it’s a good sign that your gut is balanced,” shares Dr. Brown.

3. Strong immune function

When you have a robust immune system—e.g., you don’t fall sick often (or only develop mild symptoms and have speedy recoveries when you do) and maintain an overall sense of well-being—odds are your gut is in pretty good shape. “The immune system is supported by the gut,” Dr. Brown explains. “When there is gut inflammation, the immune system can’t function properly.”

4. Calm and clear skin

Happy, healthy skin from head to toe—namely with an absence (or a remission) of inflammatory skin conditions—are a great sign that your gut is also free of inflammation. “In some cases, inflammation in the gut can cause skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and acne,” says Dr. Brown. Bad bacteria can lead the immune system to react with an inflammatory response, which can trigger or exacerbate these dermatological issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a healthy gut is linked to clear, non-irritated skin.

“In some cases, inflammation in the gut can cause skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.”

5. A balanced mood, energy, and vitality

It’s clear that the state of your gut has far-reaching effects that go beyond digestive considerations alone. That said, an overall sense of well-being from one day to the next can indicate that your gut is functioning as it should. For instance, Dr. Brown says that a balanced, inflammation-free gut will support mood stability, steady energy levels, and a good night’s rest—in part since the gut produces as much as 95 percent of the body’s serotonin. This neurotransmitter is closely linked to everything from stress (or conversely, a sense of calm) and mental health to focus and memory.

How to build an inflammation-free gut microbiome, according to a gastro

If you notice any or all of the signs above, congrats! If not, don’t panic. Ahead, Dr. Brown offers a few foolproof tips to help decrease gut of inflammation in no time:

  • Fill your diet with whole foods and fiber. Polyphenols (molecules that give fruits and veggies their colorful hues), too, are particularly worth loading up on in spades. This winning combo “will help feed your healthy bacteria and keep harmful bacteria away,” the gastro says.
  • Give your body time to digest. “Our digestive system needs time to do its job of breaking down our foods, which takes a lot more time, energy, and blood flow than we realize,” Dr. Brown explains. To allow it to do its job well, he suggests aiming to build in a few hours’ worth of buffer room between your main meals.
  • Get moving. Physical activity is another surefire way to help your gut break free from inflammation. “Regular exercise can help reduce stress, increase mood chemicals, and improve the microbiome,” says Dr. Brown. Anything that gets you up and at ‘em will do, though he cites walking, hiking, and yoga as some of his faves. In terms of the latter, “Certain yoga poses help stimulate digestion through gentle massage, and diaphragmatic breathing during yoga can reduce stress and stimulate the digestive system,” he notes. “All of this can help relieve gas, discomfort, and bloating.”
  • Find your inner calm. Shifting to low and slow mode can work wonders for your mind, mood, and microbiome alike. “Stress is a huge disrupter of your digestion and microbiome,” warns Dr. Brown. “By taking time to focus on relaxation, you’re helping your whole body heal.” It’s your call as to how to unwind and practice self-care; the ultimate objective is to make sure it works for you.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Appleton, Jeremy. “The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health.” Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.) vol. 17,4 (2018): 28-32.

  2. De Pessemier, Britta et al. “Gut-Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions.” Microorganisms vol. 9,2 353. 11 Feb. 2021, doi:10.3390/microorganisms9020353

  3. Vandeputte D, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, et al. Stool consistency is strongly associated with gut microbiota richness and composition, enterotypes and bacterial growth rates. Gut 2016;65:57-62.


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