by Elizabeth McMillan
Did you know that each drop of colonic fluid contains more than a billion bacteria? In a healthy gut, there are more beneficial bacteria than pathogenic bacteria, and most research says that there is a ratio of 3:1 between nonhuman bacterial cells and human. These bacteria are known collectively as the body’s microbiome.
According to Baylor College of Medicine, the human microbiome is comprised of bacteria, viruses and eukaryotes found in the body. Most of these bacteria in the microbiome are commensal and non-threating. These microbes are essential to life as they aid in digestion, the production of vitamins and help regulate the immune system. Without these microbes, the body would be unable to fight off infections and disease. Yet, problems arise when the pathogenic bacteria outweigh the good bacteria. This imbalance is known as dysbiosis.
Gut dysbiosis is a condition of imbalance in the gut, where the good bacteria are threatened by bad bacteria. It is caused by abnormal shifts in the gut microbiome from antibiotics, illness, stress, aging, diet, poor sleep, among other causes. Ideally there should be at least 85 percent good bacteria to 15 percent bad bacteria in the gut.
Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from gut dysbiosis; however, much like other digestive disorders, it cannot be seen by the naked eye. The most conclusive test to determine the health of your microbiome is a comprehensive stool test with zonulin. A comprehensive stool test will analyze the microbiome, gut inflammation, the ability to digest and detox in the gut and immune function.
Zonulin is a protein that is found in the gut and holds the gut intact. When zonulin is leached out, it is a sign of intestinal permeability or leaky gut. Intestinal permeability is when the lining of the small intestine and its tight junctions allow substances, such as toxins, waste, yeast and undigested food particles, to leak out of the digestive tract and pass into the bloodstream. When intestinal permeability occurs, the immune system is activated and inflammation occurs throughout the body. The liver must work overtime to screen out the substances that the small intestines allowed to pass through and enter the bloodstream. This can cause multiple food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, skin problems, digestive disorders and a weakened immune system. Often, untreated gut dysbiosis will lead to intestinal permeability.
There are several symptoms to suspect gut dysbiosis. Firstly, chronic bad breath is a likely sign of dysbiosis because the harmful bacteria making their way up the digestive tract. Also, pungent flatulence is another sign, as the bacteria travel down the digestive tract. Itchiness in the ears, anus, skin or reproductive area is another sign of yeast overgrowth and dysbiosis. Other symptoms such as bloating, stomach cramps, alternating constipation and diarrhea. Gut dysbiosis is also becoming a popular term to describe irritable bowel syndrome. Trouble losing weight is typically due to poor digestion and microbiome health. Finally, other signs of dysbiosis are fatigue, anxiety, and brain fog due to the many links between gut/brain/hormone connection.
Healing gut dysbiosis and eradicating the symptoms can be done effectively through the “Four R” program. This program Removes foods that causes inflammation, Replaces nutrients necessary for a healthy gut, Repairs the gut inflammation and damage and Re-inoculates the gut with good bacteria. The “Four R” program combined with lifestyle modifications like diet and stress reduction has shown to balance gut dysbiosis and heal the digestive lining.
Elizabeth McMillan, CNS, LDN, is a clinical nutritionist at Rose Wellness specializing in gut health. For more information, visit RoseWellness.com.