What is Dysbiosis? … and do I have it.
Normal gut microflora is known as Eubiosis and when this delicate balance is interrupted it leads to dysbiosis, which is an imbalance between our good and bad bacteria…
So what you might say, but when you have about 1 to 1.5 kilograms of bacteria in your body which is 10 times more bacteria than human cells, when this balance is disrupted it can lead to many health problems other than an upset stomach.
The estimated 100 trillion microbes (who counts them) in your colon have recently been analyzed and the different species recorded in the Human Microbiome Project, and it is now being found that your gut bacteria can affect nearly every aspect of your health from obesity to depression and from digestion to immune function.
This is why it’s important to have healthy gut bacteria and prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria and fungus-like candida leading to Dysbiosis.
There are many different types of bacteria in our colon and many of these have a beneficial effect on our health, you will be familiar with some of their names like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium as these are some of the beneficial bacteria found in yogurts but there are many different species of these bacteria as I discussed in this article on Probiotics
, which explains which species are beneficial for our health.
What causes dysbiosis?
There are many different causes of dysbiosis, and to sum it up you could say the Western lifestyle is the main cause which creates this imbalance in our healthy bacteria, and encourages the overgrowth of bacteria that have negative effects on our health.
You can do a lot to improve your chances of not getting dysbiosis and I will outline these below.
Antibiotics are the biggest cause of dysbiosis and they can be life-saving in certain situations, but it is estimated they are over prescribed about 50% of the time, this is leading to bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant.
When you take antibiotics they help to kill the bacteria that is causing your illness, they also kill many of the good bacteria and allow an overgrowth of candida and bad bacteria once you have finished taking them.
New molecular analysis techniques show that the good bacteria can take longer to recover than previously thought, especially combined with a poor diet, and studies have shown that it can take up to 4 years to recover from triple therapy for Helicobacter pylori.
In situations when antibiotics are essential it is important to follow up with not just probiotics and probiotic foods but also prebiotics to improve recolonization of beneficial bacteria.
Diet is also a major factor in dysbiosis and in particular a diet high in processed foods and not enough vegetables which does not create a healthy environment for beneficial bacteria, allowing candida and other bacteria to increase in numbers.
Vegetables, in particular, provide beneficial prebiotic fibers to allow your good species of bacteria to thrive. Artificial sweeteners and sulfites (a common preservative) also decrease levels of beneficial bacteria.
Cesarean section birth exposes newborns to less beneficial bacteria than a vaginal birth and these effects can last up to 6 months, sometimes a C – section is necessary to birth but more and more it is happening by choice and it can have long-lasting affects on a child’s beneficial bacteria leading to immune system issues later in life.
Stress is something else that affects your good bacteria, and in the fast-paced life with too many stimulants and lack of sleep, this increases gut motility and decreases gastric mucosa creating and environment for the harmful bacteria to thrive. Once again this is another component of improving your healthy gut bacteria that you can actively change by reducing stress.
Environment, people living on farms and in situations where they are exposed to animals have a better gut microflora then people living in cities and this is known as the hygiene hypothesis. Using antibacterial soaps and being obsessive with cleanliness, especially for children, can lead to less exposure to bacteria that can help to stimulate the immune system and has been shown to be associated with a higher rate of allergies.
What are the symptoms of dysbiosis?
Because of the important role that bacteria plays on our digestive function one of the first things that may give you clues to dysbiosis are digestion issues like bloating, excessive gas (especially if smelly), constipation, diarrhea, and nausea. These types of symptoms are common with dysbiosis but they do not have to be present and you may have more vague symptoms like fatigue, headaches, joint pain, weight gain, hormonal irregularities, food intolerances, and skin problems.
There is a lot of research now going into probiotics and the role that these beneficial bacteria have on mental health and there is a lot of good research showing that the imbalance of gut bacteria can lead to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and worsen the symptoms of autism.
Other specific conditions that dysbiosis can cause include autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
How is dysbiosis diagnosed?
You can often diagnose dysbiosis just from the symptoms that a person may have, or if they have been taking antibiotics recently, have high stress and have a poor quality diet high in refined carbohydrates. If these types of signs and symptoms fit the picture it is a good idea to start prebiotic and probiotic therapy while also focusing on making positive changes to the diet.
If you want to find out exactly what is happening with your bacteria, doing a special stool test like the G.I Map test will give you are a clear picture of exactly what parasites, fungus and numbers of good and negative bacteria in your body. This is a good investment in your health and helps to formulate a clear treatment strategy to help you get your health back on track.
It’s time to start looking after your good bacteria as too much of the wrong type can lead to obesity, depression or a growing list of other conditions, with the latest research it seems that the trillions of bacteria in your body can influence all aspects of your health.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions.