These days there are a lot of people dealing with a huge range of health issues. Many of these issues have a direct link to the gut. Your intestines are home to millions of bacteria. These bacteria are both beneficial (good) and opportunistic (bad).
Both bacteria are meant to live in harmony with one another; the good bacteria keeping the back bacteria in “check”.
Problems within the intestines begin to occur when too many opportunistic bacteria colonies are in the gut and not enough beneficial bacteria colonies. This is when gut dysbiosis can occur. Keep reading to find out what gut dysbiosis is and what can cause gut dysbiosis.
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What Is Gut Dysbiosis?
Gut Dysbiosis is when there is a microbial imbalance in the intestinal tract. This imbalance occurs when the bacterial colonies in your gut become out of balance. Gut Dysbiosis is most commonly reported as a condition in the gastrointestinal tract and mainly in the small intestines. This is known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or small intestine fungal overgrowth (SIFO).
Typical microbial bacteria colonies found in the body are beneficial, helpful and necessary. These beneficial colonies carry out functions that help in areas such as digestion.
When the balance of this good and bad bacteria is disturbed, the good bacteria have a hard time keeping the bad bacteria’s growth in check. This then leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Causes of Gut Dysbiosis
When the balance of the flora (bacteria) in the bowels is disrupted; dysbiosis can occur. But what causes this disruption?
The current lifestyle of western living plays a big role in the negative impact on the microflora of the GI tract. This negative impact on the gut microflora are a result of:
- High sugar intake
- diet high in processed foods
- drinking 2 or more alcoholic beverages a day
- low fiber intake
- pesticides (such as on unwashed fruit or veggies)
- high levels of stress or anxiety which can weaken your immune system
- poor sleep
Symptoms of Gut Dysbiosis
Symptoms of gut dysbiosis may vary depending on the types of bacteria that are out of balance. Common symptoms include:
Dysbiosis can also occur in other parts of the body, however for this blog post, I have chosen to focus solely on the gut.
Can Gut Dysbiosis Be Diagnosed?
If you want to find out whether you have gut dysbiosis, then you will need to see your doctor. Your doctor will go over your medical history, assess your symptoms and then may order one or several of the following diagnostic tests.
Organic Acid Test (OAT)
Your doctor will collect a urine sample and then send it to a laboratory. The lab technician will test the urine for certain acids that bacteria can produce. If acid levels are abnormal, this may mean that certain bacteria are out of balance.
My youngest daughter sees an integrative doctor. Every six months to one year, we take an organic acid test. I collect a urine sample from my daughter and send it to a lab to be tested. Based on the information from the organic acid test, the doctor knows which bacteria are out of balance and then we adjust my daughter’s diet and vitamin therapy accordingly.
Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)
You will be given special equipment to take home to obtain a stool sample. You will then send this sample to the lab to be tested. The lab tech will test the poop to see what bacteria, yeast or fungi are present. The results of this test will tell your doctor if there is an imbalance or overgrowth.
Hydrogen Breath Test
Your doctor will have you drink a sugar solution and breath into a special balloon. The air in the balloon can be tested for gases produced by bacteria. Too much or too little of certain gases can indicate a bacterial imbalance. This test is often used to test for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
How To Bring Balance Back To Your Gut
If you have gut dysbiosis, there are many options you can choose to help bring your gut flora back into balance.
If you are seeing a doctor, he may suggest medications to help control the bacteria. Some medications he may suggest are:
- Ciprofloxacin: an antibiotic that treats gut infection resulting from dysbiosis.
- Rifaximin (Xifaxan): an antibiotic that treats symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common condition associated with dysbiosis.
- Co-trimoxazole (Septrin): an antibiotic that treats gut and urinary tract infections that result from dysbiosis.
Keep in mind that these antibiotics given are for severe cases. The use of antibiotics can be helpful, but can also exacerbate the issue and continue the vicious cycle of gut dysbiosis.
Natural Ways To Help Balance The Gut Microbiome
There are many dietary changes that can be made to help restore balance in your bowels.
Foods to Remove From Your Diet
Remove processed inflammatory foods from your diet. Such as:
- Pre-made packaged food
- Foods high in sugar (corn syrup)
- Processed meats: deli meat or canned meat
- Dairy – this can be inflammatory for some
- Breads, Oats: these foods can be inflammatory for some and cause a gut imbalance
Take one of these foods out at a time and begin to eliminate them from your diet until your gut dysbiosis is healed.
Having more colonies of beneficial bacteria will help to balance out the gut and keep the opportunistic bacteria in check.
Foods to Add To Your Diet
Here are some foods to start incorporating into your diet to help feed and strengthen this good gut flora.
- Pre-biotic: add prebiotic (fermentable fibres) to your diet. The beneficial bacteria in your gut LOVE fermentable fiber! These bacteria feed off of this type of fiber which is exactly what we want when restoring balance to our gut microbiome. Here are some examples:
- asparagus – great anti-inflammatory benefits
- dandelion greens – great fiber rich substitute for greens in your salad
- leeks and onions – both contain high amounts of inulin fiber. This in turn promotes growth of healthy gut bacteria
- apples – high in pectin which is a type of prebiotic fiber
- flax seeds – promotes healthy gut bacteria and regular bowel movements
- Fermented Foods: add fermented foods to your diet. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics. These probiotics help restore a healthy gut microbiota and intestinal barrier. Here are some examples:
- unpasteurized sauerkraut
- yogurt (homemade is best)
A Few More Things
Aside from diet, here are a few more things you can do to help bring balance back to your gut microbiome.
- Focus on good sleep habits: get 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. This will help to support good gut health
- Exercise: developing a daily exercise program will help to keep your gut microbes healthy.
- Find ways to manage stress: yoga, meditation, deep breathing – these are 3 ways to help your body to manage stress.
Make some of these a daily part of your life to help support your gut microbiome.
Although gut dysbiosis can be an issue, there are ways to help realign your body so that your gut is functioning properly again.
Start implementing these tips slowly and you will be surprised at how much better you will feel over time. None of this information is a quick fix. Remember, healing a broken gut takes time. However, with small steps in the right direction, you will help your body and get your gut back on track.
Have you experienced gut dysbiosis? If so, what did you do to help heal your gut? Share in the comments!
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope it helps you!