Dysbiosis is a condition caused by an imbalance in the bacterial community (microbiome) of the human gut. Dysbiosis disrupts the ecoystsem of the gut, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and indigestion, among others.
What is dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis, also called dysbacteriosis, is a condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract. The body has colonies of beneficial bacteria called microbiota.
These organisms are essential for health and play various roles in the digestive system. But, when these bacteria become imbalanced, like the bad ones overpowering or outnumbering the good ones, it can lead to illness.
Dysbiosis occurs when the bacteria in the gut become imbalanced, causing a wide array of digestive disturbances.
Aside from symptoms that include indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, it can be linked to other conditions including, but not limited to, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.
Gut Dysbiosis: Starving Our Microbial Self
The gut microbiome
There are trillions of microbes living in the gastrointestinal tract. There more than 400 species of bacteria in the gut, which means having more bacteria in the digestive tract than the cells in the body.
These bacteria and microbes are essential in digesting food, fighting off harmful pathogens, and synthesizing vitamins. In a nutshell, microbes are vital for overall health, and without them, you wouldn’t be able to survive.
Also called microflora, these lively bunch of microbes should always be in balance, with the good bacteria overpowering the bad bacteria. When certain factors affect the balance, it can lead to disease, particularly dysbiosis.
In general, bad bacteria and yeast aren’t problematic. In fact, they work hand in hand with the rest of the gut bacteria if the body has adequate amounts of beneficial bacteria.
These good bacteria make sure that the number of the bad bacteria are at bay and ensure they aren’t being overpowered. The only time digestive problems start is when the bad bacteria start to outnumber the good bacteria.
Learn more about the gut microbiome here.
Benefits of the gut’s normal flora
The gut microbiome has many benefits, not only concerning the digestive system but also for overall health. The gut bacteria help in producing hormones such as serotonin, a feel-good hormone linked to mood control.
Low levels of serotonin have been linked to various conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Also, the gut bacteria aid in the extraction of nutrients and calories from food. These nutrients include vitamins, amino acids, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids.
The microbiome in the gastrointestinal tract help manage the appetite and body weight. That’s why gut bacteria have been linked to obesity.
The gut bacteria have numerous other benefits, including digesting fiber to form stool, strengthening the immune system, controlling mood and cognitive health, and repairing damaged tissues.
They are also beneficial because they boost energy levels, reduce yeast infection occurrences, improve cholesterol levels, improve oral health, and contribute to greater life expectancy.
What happens in dysbiosis?
In gut dysbiosis, there are changes that happen in the gut microbiome. These changes can prevent the person from properly digesting food, leading to the various symptoms of dysbiosis.
These changes can be linked to excessive use of antibiotics, excessive alcohol intake, a dietary change that increases the intake of sugar, protein, or food additives, exposure to pesticides, poor dental hygiene, or stress.
When there is an imbalance, bad bacteria may take over good bacteria, leading to intestinal inflammation that can damage the gut lining. As a result, digestive disturbance symptoms may emerge.
Additionally, chronic inflammation may lead to digestive conditions such as leaky gut syndrome, candida, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Since about 80 percent of immune system cells are in the gut, dysbiosis has been linked to a weakened immune defense against disease and illness.
This can lead to various infections that can further take a toll on the patient’s health.
Dysbiosis can be treated with prebiotics and probiotics. Most importantly, lifestyle modification and dietary changes can help heal the intestines and restore the balance in the gut’s normal flora. Long-term treatment is needed to prevent recurrence and to maintain the overall gut health.