London Clinic of Nutrition
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What is Gut Dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis—meaning imbalanced intestinal bacteria—is a contributing factor in many gastrointestinal and autoimmune conditions.

gut dysbiosis Leaf

 

In a healthy gut, parasites may be present in small numbers and not cause problems. However, if they’re given opportunity to flourish, they can cause diarrhoea, illness and weight loss.

How do we know about gut dysbiosis?

Early in the 20th century, Russian zoologist Élie Metchnikoff popularised the theory that disease begins in the digestive tract due to an imbalance of intestinal bacteria. He called this state dysbiosis, which comes from “symbiosis”, meaning living together in mutual harmony, and “dis”, which means not!

When it comes to out gut bugs, Dr Metchnikoff was way ahead of his time. He was the first scientist to discover the useful properties of probiotics, winning the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work on lactobacilli and humoral immunity. He was also a colleague of Louis Pasteur, succeeding him as the director of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Dr Metchnikoff found that the bacteria in yoghurt prevented and even reversed bacterial infection. His research proved that the lactobacilli could displace many disease-producing organisms and reduce the toxins they generated.

He believed these endotoxins (toxins produced from substances inside the body) shortened lifespan, and he advocated the use of lactobacillus in the 1940s for all manner of infections.

What causes gut dysbiosis?

Whilst there are many causes of dysbiosis, we generally bring it on ourselves. The following change the healthy balance of the digestive tract:

  • Constant high levels of stress
  • Exposure to manufactured chemicals
  • Poor food choices
  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Surgery
  • Use of antibiotics and painkillers

Of all the above, the most significant cause of dysbiosis is the use of antibiotics, as these dramatically change the balance of intestinal microbes.

The problem is that antibiotics generally aren’t specific, which means they kill both harmful and helpful bacteria throughout our digestive system, mouth, vagina and skin. This leaves the territory open to bacteria, parasites, viruses and yeast that are resistant to the antibiotic that was used.

In a healthy gut, parasites may be present in small numbers and not cause problems. However, if they’re given opportunity to flourish, they can cause diarrhoea, illness and weight loss. Most people can recover fairly easily from a single round of antibiotics—but even those with strong constitutions have struggled regaining balance from repeated use of antibiotic drugs.

How does gut dysbiosis affect me?

These unfavourable bacteria form chemicals that are poisonous to the cells around them—and to the person they live in. The wide variety of substances produced can hurt the intestinal lining directly by damaging the brush border, and they’re also absorbed into the bloodstream, causing system-wide effects.

Initially, our body rushes white blood cells to the injured tissue to eat up the bacteria, producing an inflammatory reaction. Inflammation, pain and swelling are nature’s message to stop and let your body heal, but we often ignore this basic instinct and reach for pain medication so we can continue our lives.

If the pain and inflammation were initially caused by microbes and you never dealt with the cause, more endotoxins will be produced, causing even more pain and inflammation. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

Can painkillers help gut dysbiosis?

Often the pain medications we take become a factor in the continuation and severity of the problem. It becomes a vicious circle: the drug causes damage to the intestinal lining, causing more inflammation, irritation and pain; so we take more pain medication, which causes further damage.

Some of the most common pain medications are corticosteroids and—because cortisone and prednisone have such powerful inflammatory effects—they’re often used long-term by people with chronic illness.

The problem is that long-term use of cortisone and prednisone depresses the immune system, causing side effects such as lowered resistance to infection, parasites, stomach and duodenal ulcers, thinning of bones and dozens of other problems. Steroids are contraindicated for anyone who has a fungal infection because they provide excellent nourishment for fungi.

It’s essential to know that because corticosteroids are so strong, they suppress your body’s ability to work through an illness on its own. They are best suited for an emergency, not daily use.

What else contributes to gut dysbiosis?

Many other factors contribute to dysbiosis. Low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach encourage bacterial overgrowth. Poor transit time in the intestinal tract also encourages proliferation of bacteria. For example, in 24 hours, one E. coli bacterium produces nearly 5,000 identical bacteria. The longer they sit inside us, the greater their potential to colonise.

We find that for the majority of email and phone calls we receive, dysbiosis and leaky gut are at the root, whether it’s an autoimmune condition or simply gastrointestinal discomfort.

General recommendations for a healthy gut

1) Eat a fibre-rich diet
Eating a diet that is fibre-rich is a fundamental start. This means ensuring you have adequate amounts of legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.

2) Eat the colours of rainbow
Your gut loves getting a cocktail of different coloured fruits and vegetables.

3) Say no to sugar and processed foods
Most processed foods lack fibre and nutrients and are high in calories – an unfriendly combination for your gut.

4) Use natural products
The gut microbiome is easily disrupted by environmental toxins so try and opt for natural home and skin products.

5) Get good quality sleep
Lack of sleep may increase inflammation and impair functionality in the gut.

6) Stress-reduction techniques
Stress triggers a fight-or-flight response that releases hormones which in turn affects your microbiome.

How do we support gut dysbiosis?

In order to get to the root cause of your gut dysbiosis, our gut health specialists look closely at the myriad of interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence your gut issues.

Due to the complexity of gut dysbiosis, it’s important to approach it with a holistic, in-depth and comprehensive support. When working with our gut health specialists you will receive a personalised plan with diet, lifestyle and supplement recommendations that can bring your gut back into balance.

 

To find out how we can help, please feel free to get in touch.

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