Early Signs of Gastrointestinal Disease and What You Can Do About It

Key Points:

  • Gastrointestinal diseases are on the rise — and one of the best ways to avoid a diagnosis is to recognize symptoms and treat them early on. While we shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about gut symptoms, they shouldn’t be normalized either. It’s time to take action to improve symptoms and overall health.
  • Key early symptoms of gastrointestinal disease can include constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, skin issues, bloating, and heartburn.
  • Holistic healing tools for GI symptoms include a microbiome-supporting diet, calming the nervous system, targeted supplements, and a gentle detox.

Your coworker is trying a new diet to balance her microbiome

And every fitness instructor on your feed is on a mission to find answers to mystery stomach bloat.

Growing up, discussing gut health and digestive issues was considered a faux pas. 

But today, it’s a normal part of the cultural conversation.

Perhaps it’s because younger generations crave deeper connections—conversations that honestly address physical and mental health without shame.

Or, maybe it’s because gastrointestinal diseases have become so prevalent that they’re impossible to ignore. The most common diagnoses, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and leaky gut, are consistently on the rise.

If you’re starting to experience regular cramps, bloating, and inconsistent bathroom trips, it’s time to address these symptoms head-on. After all, addressing these symptoms early on is the best form of treatment.

Let’s dive into the early signs of gastrointestinal disease and what you can do now to stop symptoms in their tracks.

Table of Contents:

Early Signs and Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disease

If you’re googling early signs of gastrointestinal disease, your intuition is probably telling you that something is wrong (call it a “gut feeling”). While we don’t recommend obsessing over early signs and symptoms, being informed can provide a starting point and roadmap to healing. Here’s what you should watch out for: 

  • Gas and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Floating stool
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Frequent belching
  • Bloating
  • Sugar cravings
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Mood swings
  • Skin issues
  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Sleep issues
  • Brain fog
  • Newly developed allergies
  • Inflammation

Ideally, you should be aiming for one to three bowel movements per day—preferably well-formed without any undigested food remaining. Too many bathroom trips in a day could be an early sign of gastrointestinal disease. While too few trips to the bathroom could also indicate dehydration or the need for more fiber in the diet.

List of Gastrointestinal Diseases

Understanding the early signs of gastrointestinal disease could help you find the right tools and diagnosis to stay ahead of symptoms. Here are some of the most common gastrointestinal diseases.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an umbrella diagnosis, often used to describe inconsistent and uncomfortable GI symptoms. It’s typically diagnosed when no other gastrointestinal disease can explain your persistent symptoms. There isn’t a firm understanding of what causes IBS in the first place, making treatment especially tricky.

The good news is that you don’t always have to know the cause to improve the symptoms of IBS. Holistic solutions that focus on dietary changes, targeted supplementation, nervous system regulation, and increased mineral and electrolyte intake can help.

Leaky Gut

Intestinal permeability (or leaky gut) occurs when the gut lining is compromised. The cells that line your gut intentionally allow nutrients to pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. (In fact, it’s only one cell layer thick!) For this reason, the gut lining is permeable — ushering nutrients in and out of the intestine.

However, if the gut lining is too permeable, it can start to release toxins, chemicals like glyphosate, and even microscopic food particles into the bloodstream. This is called a leaky gut. It’s characterized by a high inflammatory response and may be caused by a high toxic burden, pathogenic bacterial overgrowth, inflammatory foods like gluten, excess antibiotic use, alcohol consumption, and/or chronic stress.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

This gastrointestinal disease is hard to miss. It’s characterized by pain in the chest — as stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. Symptoms of GERD may include a burning sensation in the chest, trouble swallowing, acid reflux, and frequent belching.

It’s uncommon for GERD to develop without a deeper root cause issue at play. While pursuing symptom management, it may be helpful to explore common causes like low stomach acid, an H. pylori infection, high stress, and acidic food intake.

Microbiome Imbalance

Like many other systems in the body, the gut microbiome relies on a careful balance of bacteria to maintain a healthy ecosystem. An imbalance of bacteria could result in symptoms like gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, undigested food in the stool, blood sugar imbalances, poor immune system health, and even the development of autoimmune disease. A gut microbiome-friendly diet and careful focus on prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics can help.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Unhealthy bacteria can overtake the gut and eventually make a home in the small intestine. This is what we see in Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Typically, SIBO accompanies a diagnosis of IBS or another gastrointestinal disease. It’s possible to treat, though, and may be managed with a low-fermentation diet or low FODMAP diet and careful supplementation.

Holistic Support for Gastrointestinal Diseases

There are effective ways to treat the early signs of gastrointestinal diseases — getting ahead of the symptoms before they become life-altering. Here are some powerful holistic treatments for gut dysbiosis.

Supportive Diet and Lifestyle Choices

Diet and lifestyle can play a big role in your recovery from gastrointestinal disease — starting with, as a general rule, eating whole and minimally processed foods. 

That said, we don’t recommend hopping on a restrictive diet without a game plan. If you don’t understand the root cause of your gut issues, diets like the low FODMAP diet (helpful in some cases) can cause more harm than good.

It’s also essential to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals before removing food groups. Working with a holistic practitioner or functional medicine provider to understand exactly what gastrointestinal disease you have is the best way to target your symptoms with a helpful diet rather than a harmful one.

The same goes for exercise. For a sensitive gut, harsh activities like running and CrossFit could cause more harm than good. You may want to ease off intensive exercise and focus more on walking, yoga, pilates, and activities that bring you joy.

Nervous System Support

The gut and the brain are connected by something called the gut-brain axis. Meaning, a “gut feeling” or “butterflies in your stomach” could actually be anxiety showing up in your gut from a stressful situation. Most of us are under more stress than we’d like to admit — and this can wreak havoc on our digestive system over time.

Calming your nervous system with things like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping, brain retraining, nature walks, vagus nerve stimulation, somatic exercises, and meditation can all help to relieve persistent gut symptoms.


When used intentionally, supplements can be a powerful addition to support overall gut health. Especially for those dealing with frequent diarrhea and malnourishment, supplements can help replenish nutrient stores.

Our favorite supplement for GI health, butyrate, can strengthen the intestinal wall and help to balance blood sugar levels — supporting symptom relief while you work on other lifestyle factors. Other supplements like minerals, adaptogens, collagen, targeted probiotics, and colostrum may be helpful in rebuilding your gut lining, too.


Heavy metals, mycotoxins, microplastics, and pollution can all play a role in your gut ecosystem (and not for the better). As environmental toxins continue to rise, so do gastrointestinal diseases — and this may help us draw some conclusions on the root cause of persistent GI symptoms.

If you’re suffering from a high toxic burden, you’ll probably notice increased inflammation, brain fog, metabolic issues, thyroid issues, mood changes, and weight fluctuation — on top of gut symptoms. Consider essential supplements like phospholipids and glutathione to help support a healthy detox.

When It's Time to Seek an Expert Opinion

When it comes to gut health, most of us try quick-fix remedies for symptom management. Other times, we are willing to invest the time by trying different dietary and lifestyle interventions — after all, healing from a gastrointestinal disease using a food first approach takes time.

However, what if you are not seeing the results you’d have hoped for several weeks to months down the line? 

In cases of SIBO, leaky gut, and microbiome imbalance, one must pay careful attention to the bacteria and yeast that make up your gut ecosystem. The best way to do this may be stool testing with a functional medicine practitioner. 

Once testing reveals the bacterial imbalances in your gut, your practitioner can help you target them with prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. Biofilm disruptors and bacteriophage supplements can be helpful, too.

Don’t wait until symptoms become unmanageable. Partnering with an expert today can help speed up your gut healing timeline.


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