What is Gut Dysbiosis and How is it Caused?

Disbyosis or dysbacteriosis is an imbalance of bacteria and microbes in our bodies.   Our bodies contain close to one hundred trillion bacteria and microbes – which reside mainly in our gut and make up what is known as the human microbiome. Most of these bacteria are ‘commensal’ meaning they are good for us and co-exist in harmony with our bodies, supporting our digestion, our metabolism and our immune system and protecting us from infections and pathogens (harmful invasive bacteria).

Among the many functions of our microbiome, it is responsible for

  • Synthesizing vitamin K and other essential nutrients
  • Maintaining the health of our gut lining to prevent infections crossing into our blood
  • Breaking down fibre and cellulose into valuable compounds
  • Supporting our immune system, keeping it healthy and functioning effectively

What is Dysbiosis

Our microbiome is made up of a large number of different strains and species of bacteria. The most dominant of which – in a healthy gut – will be commensal.
However when the quantity and proportion of these friendly bacteria are reduced, the harmful strains and pathogens are allowed to grow unchecked causing an inbalance which can lead to dysbiosis.

Types of Dysbiosis and Causes

Dysbiosis normally occurs in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract – often resulting in inflation of the gut lining which can lead to our gut lining becoming permeable or‘leaky’
However dysbiosis can also occur on our skin and in our genitalia – where colonies of bacteria exist and can be causes by any change to the normal balance of microbiota. Often it is either a result of exposure to harmful bacteria or the uncontrolled growth of a single type of bacteria.

Dysbiosis in our gut is often due to one or a combination of the following

  • Antibiotics and antibacterial medications
  • Changes in our diet such as the increased consumption of sugars, refined starch and processed foods and food additives such as preservatives, emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners
  • Traces of harmful chemicals and toxins in our foods, such as pesticides on unwashed fruit, vegetables and cereals.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor dental hygiene, which allows bacteria to grow out of balance in your mouth
  • High levels of stress, anxiety or depression, which affects the immune system

How to tell if you have Dysbiosis

The effect of dysbiosis on the body ranges from digestive disorders, such as cramps, diarrhea and constipation, which can be mild are short lived – to more serious ailments and chronic conditions
Common symptoms include:

  • Digestive problems, including cramps, constipation &/ diarrhea
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Acid reflux or heart burn
  • Vaginal or rectal infections or itching
  • Food intolerance, gas and bloating
  • Inflammation, aching joints
  • Acne, skin rashes, and psoriasis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • ADHD or issues with concentration
  • Anxiety or depression

If you have had any of these symptoms over a prolonged period or if you have a had prolonged courses of antibiotics in the recent past, a prior diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or a history of “stomach bugs,” gastroenteritis, and/or food poisoning you may well suffer from Gut dysbiosis and should seek advice and diagnosis from your doctor.

Chronic conditions resulting from Dysbiosis

Gut dysbiosis is serious as it is often the precursor to more serious chronic conditions and ill-health – including

  • IBS and leaky gut
  • Gut diseases, such as colitis
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Skin conditions, such as acne and eczema
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Auto immune diseases such as Parkinson’s and MS
  • Cancer of the colon or rectum

Treatments for Dysbiosis

Treatments may vary according to the type and cause – if there is a bacterial infection treatments may involve a targeted antibiotics, probiotic supplements or Fecal Microbial transplants – experimental treatments with promising results.

However changes to diet and lifestyle are strongly advised as these are often at the root of bacterial imbalance. Our sedentary lifestyles and western diets, low in vegetables, high in sugars, refined starch and processed foods are often to blame.

How to Prevent Dysbiosis

Gut Dysbiosis can be prevented through a few important changes to diet and lifestyle – which need to be maintained for the long term

Foods to eat more of:
• Increase the amount of natural plant fibre in your diet; such as fruits, leafy greens and resistant starches
• Fermented foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics; including sauerkraut, kimchi, cheeses, kefir, natural yoghurts
• Foods high in healthy fats; such as oily fish, olive oils and nuts
• Changes to your liftestyle – including regular exercise and treatments for stress such as meditation
• Foods that you can add to your diet include:

Foods to reduce or stop eating altogether include:
• Processed meats, such as deli meat and salted or canned meat
• Refined carbohydrate heavy foods such as pasta, white rice, noodles, white bread and dough
• Foods high in sugar
• Processed foods, containing preservatives and emulsifiers
• Artificial sweeteners

Antibiotics & Medication:
• If you are ill, check with your doctor with the cause is bacterial and whether treatment by antibiotics is really necessary.
• Take probiotic supplements and fermented foods together with any necessary course of antibiotics to help reintroduce important ‘friendly’ strains of bacteria back in to the gut