Do I have dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis refers to a microbial imbalance on or within the body; in other words, an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria.
It most often occurs in the digestive tract (leading to unpleasant symptoms, such as bloating, excessive wind, IBS symptoms etc). However, it can also present on any exposed surface or mucous membrane, such as in the vagina, lungs, nose, sinuses, ears, nails or eyes.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on intestinal dysbiosis, where digestion is compromised.
Toxic bowels and overall declining health can often be caused by diminishing levels of friendly bowel flora, coupled with and caused by the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and parasites, such as Candida albicans.
Bacterial enzymes can deactivate digestive enzymes in the gut (essential for the proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients) and convert human bile or components of food into chemicals, which promote the development of diseases. Some by-products of bacterial enzyme activity, like ammonia, also hinder normal brain function and various other essential processes in the body. These by-products, when absorbed, need to be processed by the liver, placing it under additional strain.
What can cause this imbalance?
An imbalance in bowel flora can be caused by the proliferation of pathogenic parasites, yeast and/or bacteria and can have any number of specific causes. For example:
- poor digestion (including low levels of digestive enzymes, constipation and other bowel disorders)
- chemical exposure
- poor diet
- overuse of medication (including antibiotics and birth control pills)
- mercury, for instance, in dental amalgams, may also have a role to play. It is thought that mercury can cause mutations in intestinal bacteria. These bacteria (either directly or indirectly) can then lead to the formation of small holes in the gut lining, which in turn has the potential to lead to dysbiosis and “leaky gut syndrome”.
Dysbiosis is also often an underlying condition in people who are generally unwell, but is either misdiagnosed, not diagnosed at all or simply dismissed as a non-existent condition. However, natural health experts are generally in agreement that the health of your gut has a direct impact on your overall health. How can it not, when your digestive tract is where you take in nutrients and eliminate waste which, if left in the body too long, can become toxic and a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
As such, dysbiosis has been associated with a number of health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) (e.g. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), chronic fatigue syndrome, yeast infections and rheumatoid arthritis.
How do you know if your intestines are healthy?
If you have intestinal dysbiosis, you are likely to experience one or more of the following signs:
- intestinal upsets
- stomach ache
- and/or diarrhoea.
One of the main reasons for mis- or non-diagnosis of this condition is that these symptoms fit with many other conditions. For example, Candida albicans (also known as “the yeast syndrome”). This is because Candida is actually a form of dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is just an umbrella term, which reflects the fact that yeast organisms aren’t the only intestinal parasites that can cause these symptoms. In fact, intestinal bacteria or viruses may be the primary cause of some of these illnesses, not yeast. However, the most serious dysbiosis cases are likely to involve both yeast and harmful bacteria in the intestines.
How do you reset your gut?
It is perfectly achievable to re-balance your bowel flora, with careful attention to your diet (including supplementation) and lifestyle.
However, it should be noted that after suffering intestinal diseases, the body may be vulnerable to other infections, both bacterial and viral. As such, treatment of dysbiosis would be sensible as part of any overarching treatment of intestinal infections.
One suggested approach is to remove all sources of carbohydrates from the diet, as the molecular structure of these foods is too large for direct entry into the bloodstream.
When diseased intestines are inflamed from the effects of dysbiosis, they cannot break down the molecules that are too large to be transported across the small intestinal surface into the bloodstream. Instead of entering the bloodstream, the undigested starch and sugar molecules serve as a continual source of food for bacteria and fungi. By removing starches and sugars, dysbiosis may possibly be corrected.
However, it is important not to make any drastic dietary changes (such as the complete elimination of a food group) without first consulting a nutritionist, dietitian or GP.
It is also recommended to “crowd out” bad bacteria and other pathogens, by taking in high amounts of friendly bacteria in the form of probiotic supplements. While probiotic foods can certainly be beneficial as part of the revised diet, these probiotics do not tend to colonise the digestive tract (unlike probiotic supplements, which do). It is important to increase numbers of healthy bowel flora for the long-term; not just during the process of digestion.
As such, high-strength multi-strain probiotics can offer support.
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