What is Dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis is a term to describe a microbial imbalance within the body and, most commonly, in your gut. Think about dysbiosis as the opposite of symbiosis. When everything is running smoothly and symbiotically, the microbial colonies of beneficial bacteria in your gut are helping you to function. They aid in digestion, fight off harmful bacteria, create essential vitamins, and more. These helpful bacteria all hang in a delicate balance, and when that balance is thrown off, it is known as dysbiosis.
Like any ecosystem, the lack of one species and the overabundance of another will quickly become problematic. This is no different for your gut’s microbiome. When in a state of dysbiosis, the colonies of bacteria within your gut are unable to communicate, which will lead to further overgrowth of one bacteria at the expense of another. If left unchecked, more and more of the beneficial colonies will be damaged, and the vicious cycle of dysbiosis will continue. Typically, your gut will be able to rectify dysbiosis on its own, if anything you will experience temporary symptoms like mildly loose stools. More severe cases, however, may require diagnosis and treatment from a professional.
How Will I Know If I Have It?
The balance of your gut bacteria will ebb and flow, and the balance may never be perfect. Your body’s natural functions will keep this in check and correct it regularly. Common symptoms of dysbiosis can include nausea and other mild symptoms that can be attributed to a number of other things. If you notice symptoms worsening, or begin to notice any of these symptoms that are commonly associated with dysbiosis however, it may be time to consult a professional. These symptoms may include:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Upset stomach
- Brain fog
There are a number of tests that we can do to help determine the health of your gut, and if dysbiosis is, in fact, the problem. If there is dysfunction in your body, your body will tell you! Stool samples are one excellent way to determine the presence of harmful bacteria in your gut and in your body. Many physicians use a SIBO breath test to determine the presence or absence of imbalanced bacterial flora but, in our experience, it is very insensitive. Another test we often use to determine the presence of imbalance is a urine test which measures metabolites of both yeast and bacteria in the urine. No one test is perfect.
What Causes Dysbiosis and How Can I Prevent It?
There are many ways that your gut health can be thrown off. Sticking to an overall healthy lifestyle is the best way to maintain your body’s natural bacterial balance and prevent the overgrowth of anything harmful. We recommend maintaining a diet that is high in fiber; low in added sugars and highly processed foods; and avoids excessive amounts of fat for healthy digestion. We also recommend only taking antibiotics under a doctor’s supervision and when medically necessary. While antibiotics are good at killing off the harmful bacteria in your system, they can also kill beneficial bacteria and anything that affects your body’s microbial composition can cause dysbiosis.
Stress is also a major cause of bacterial imbalance. The stress hormone, cortisol, has a powerful regulatory effect on your immune system and a major role of our immune system is to maintain a healthy ecosystem in our gut. Too much or too little of this powerful hormone can cause significant deterioration of the gut microbiome.
Exercise – to many people’s surprise – is another lifestyle factor that plays a very important role in maintaining healthy gut flora. We also find a number of individuals with underlying nutritional insufficiencies or metabolic disorders that contribute to dysbiosis. Leaky gut, toxin exposure, poor sleep patterns are all factors that may influence how healthy your digestive system microbial flora is.
If I’ve Got It, What Can I Do To Fix it?
If you have come down with a case of dysbiosis, it is important to rebalance as it can be a risk factor for other digestive issues and chronic diseases. An elimination diet and some healthy stress resilience is always a good start when realigning your gut health. Eliminating triggering foods will help your symptoms to subside but will not fully repair the damage and does not address other contributing factors.
The best way to treat dysbiosis and to create lasting results is to take a holistic approach to your digestive and overall wellness. Since most gut health dysfunction is generally caused by more than one factor, effective treatment must also be multifactorial.
Our team of professionals is here to support you in creating a healthier lifestyle for your gut health, and managing your dysbiosis and gut symptoms. Work together with experts in functional medicine, nutrition, and stress resilience to create an individualized wellness plan for your ailment and your overall health. We are seeking to not only address your dysbiosis symptoms but to understand the root causes of why you are having those symptoms in the first place. After addressing these issues at their roots, we will work to create a wellness plan by building the skills and habits you need to heal your dysbiosis, and to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.