What is gut dysbiosis?
The human body contains colonies of bacteria, as well as viruses, and fungi called the microbiota (1). When an imbalance between “good” and “bad” bacteria takes place in the gut microbiome, gut dysbiosis can occur as these bacterial colonies are reduced or proliferate to the point of disturbing the normal balance of the microbiome (2).
The “gut” typically refers to any part of the digestive tract (which is a long tube from the mouth to the anus) but is often used to describe the stomach and intestines (3).
A balanced gut microbiome is important because it provides energy and nutrients (vitamins) the human body needs, and protection against pathogens, while it strengthens the gut maintaining the integrity of the mucosal barrier, shapes intestinal cells, and regulates host immunity (1).
Signs and symptoms of a dysbiotic gut
Some signs and symptoms that can occur with a dysbiotic gut include
· upset stomach
· abdominal pain
· bad breath
· brain fog
· joint pain
· chest pain
· vaginal/rectal itching
What causes dysbiosis of the gut?
Many factors can lead to a dysbiotic gut, for example, diet, stress, medication (antibiotics, antacids, steroids), alcohol, poor dental hygiene, and disease can increase or decrease the relative abundance and diversity of bacterial species that colonize the gut and lead to dysbiosis (4).
The food we eat can either feed a healthy gut microbiome or lead to a dysbiotic gut.
For example, The Standard American Diet (SAD) which is high in refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, and unhealthy fats, destroys the intestinal microbiota which leads to dysbiosis and the production of harmful substances like endotoxins (5). Conversely, a diet rich in whole vegetables, fruits, and legumes that are high in fiber prevents the growth of potentially harmful bacteria (like E. coli) and supports a healthy gut microbiome (5).
How to heal a dysbiotic gut
The holistic approach is typically best as there are many causes (diet, medication, alcohol, stress) of a dysbiotic gut.
Here are some common ways to address and begin healing a dysbiotic gut:
Modify the Diet
If you are consuming The Standard American Diet you can begin modifying your diet by adding more whole vegetables and fruits (kale, berries), wild-caught fish (salmon, mackerel), and grass-fed meat (chicken, beef), while you reduce or avoid consuming highly-processed products like refined grains and sugars, processed meat (deli meat), and high-glycemic foods (bread, rice, potatoes).
Stress harms the gut microbiota (6). Learning to manage life's stressors is an important step in healing a dysbiotic gut. Incorporating stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing and prayer/meditation can help to reduce stress (7).
Exercise can modulate the gut microbiota as it increases butyrate-producing bacteria which then can increase butyrate (food for cells that line the gut) production and a healthier gut (6). Exercise also reduces the Firmicutes: Bacteriodetes ratio in the intestinal microbiota which is a biomarker for dysbiosis (8) (9).
Poor dental hygiene can affect both the oral microbiota and gut microbiota which can lead to dysbiosis and disease states in the body (10). Practicing good oral hygiene like brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing while avoiding harmful substances like tobacco, sugary foods and beverages, and alcohol can help improve the health of these microbiomes.
Finally, sleep plays a role in gut dysbiosis, and research shows that better quality sleep and sleeping enough hours each day leads to a healthier gut microbiome (11).