Why are you letting your gut control your life?
GUT…are your microbiome happy or in Dysbiosis?
Did you know…
- There are 10x more bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract than there are cells in the body
- The bacteria in our gut weigh approximately 4 lbs (yes- blame that stubborn 4-5lb on your microbiome!)
- Over 80% of your immune system resides in your gut – happy gut = happy immune system
- Your gut flora are exposed to everything in our environment up to 10x/day by all food and beverages we consume
- You make 80% of your neurotransmitters (mood hormones) in your gut
- Its Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) awareness month: UC is more common than Crohn’s disease in the United States. Of the 1.6 million Americans with inflammatory bowel disease, about 907,000 of them have UC. IBS is often concealing these very serious autoimmune bowel diseases.
Over 2000 years ago Hippocrates, often referred to as the “Father of Medicine”, cited that “disease begins in the gut.” 60 million Americans are suffering from IBS, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, heartburn, etc… and most of them have other symptoms such as headaches, joint pain, nail fungus, etc which is 100% connected to their gut symptoms. For these reasons, Functional Medicine goes to the gut first for all patients with or with all symptoms as the first line therapy 4 Better Health.
There are ‘good’ guys and ‘bad’ guys in the world of the gut. When we’re first born, our bodies are quite pristine and the digestive tract is sterile. Immediately we are presented with breast milk (or ‘sterile’ formula) and environmental factors, both of which begin colonizing our digestive tract with bacteria – many of them beneficial and harmless. As we grow older and are introduced to new substances and bacteria species, more species colonize the gut. They are the beginning of our natural defense system.
What is dysbiosis?
Symbiosis translates to ‘living in harmony.’ Dysbiosis is the opposite. The ‘bad’ guys are in charge instead of the ‘good guys’ in control. This can result in one colony becoming dominant and one becoming weaker. It instigates a chronic imbalance, debilitates the good guys and compromises our system as a whole. The good guys are imperative. They control our ability to digest food, absorb proteins, vitamins, and minerals, make hormones, serotonin (happy mood neurotransmitter) and allow us to have energy, happiness and live a life without illness.
The low output of all of these necessary digestive roles leads to many symptoms:
- Digestive issues common in IBS, bloating, belching, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bad breath, abdominal pain, indigestion
- Joint pain
- Yeast infections such as Thrush, nail and vaginal fungi as well as white spots on the skin (this is called Tinea Versicolor and often a sign of candida in the gut)
- Brain fog
- Sugar cravings (including alcohol)
- Weight gain
- Skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, acne or hives
- Hyperactivity; learning and behavioral disorders, autism,
- Mood disorders
So who are the ‘bad’ guys?
There are four major players: fungus/yeast, parasites, viruses, and pathogenic bacteria… or often there are not too many ‘bad’ guys but way too few ‘good’ guys to protect and therefore the gut is out of balance causing the above symptoms.
Parasites are generally found in contaminated food and water and can be obtained during international travel. You can ingest contaminated food and water traveling or at home, as so much produce is brought in internationally. Viruses in the digestive tract are caught in the same way a common cold is, so better sanitation is your best defense, as antibiotics do not cure viruses.
One of the most common causes of dysbiosis is from taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill both ‘bad’ and ‘good’ gut bacteria. Antibiotics have their place in acute infection and may be absolutely necessary to treat infection, however, they kill off the ‘bad’ guys, but they kill off all of the ‘good’ guys too. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. And most people aren’t aware that even if you aren’t being prescribed an antibiotic, you’re likely consuming them in your meat and dairy since 80% of antibiotics made in the U.S. are going into animal agriculture. If you do take antibiotics, make sure you take a powerful probiotic during and after your medication round.
Increased use of OTC (over the counter) pain killers and Antacids
Most people don’t think twice about popping pain killers and antacids. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, ibuprofen, Aleve, etc) and Antacids (Pepcid, Prilosec, Zantac, etc.) inhibits the growth of healthy bacteria and can cause leaky gut, which can cause a bacterial imbalance. This also includes long term prescribed medication such as Protonix and Omeprazole for heartburn and reflux.
Standard American Diet (SAD)
The SAD diet high in processed carbohydrates and sugar added to most packaged, take out and restaurant food (often unknowingly) is like a feeding ground for fungus and yeast. Candida, a type of yeast, is the most common condition caused by a sugary and starchy diet. Candida lives off of sugar (so does Cancer by the way). This means any sugar you eat feeds it. Remember that all starches that get broken down as sugar, including grains, sugary fruit, starchy vegetables and lactose (sugar in milk). The SAD diet is often very low in whole food fiber (vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts allowing more time for bacteria and candida to overgrow.
Elevated Hormone Levels
Pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, use of hormone elevating drugs, including birth control and steroid hormones prescribed for many auto-immune conditions, can all spark an imbalance of gut flora. Chronic stress from our fast-paced lives, toxic work or home environments, abuse, financial burdens, and physical ailments elevates the stress hormone Cortisol which will also wreak havoc on your gut by decreasing a protective lining called Secretory IgA which in turn stresses immunity, making you more susceptible to an imbalance of gut flora.
Daily, cumulative exposure to chemicals in our homes through cleaning and beauty products, cooking pans, BPA’s, fumes, pesticides in food, etc destroy our gut flora allowing the overgrowth of unopposed ‘bad’ guys.
Unfortunately, there is little testing available in traditional medicine to diagnose dysbiosis. Most people who are struggling will have seen at many ‘ologists’ and told ‘nothing is wrong’ and handed a prescription to stop a symptom. A gastroenterologist diagnoses IBS = pill to poop or to stop pooping. Dermatologist diagnoses Skin condition = cortisone cream. A neurologist diagnoses Migraines = pills to stop the pain. Rheumatologist diagnoses fibromyalgia = pills to stop pain (and often antidepressant). And none of the ‘ologists’ talk to each other or discuss the possibility that it just may be your gut causing of all your symptoms.
Thankfully, there is testing that can help you get the answers to your health puzzle. Finding a practitioner who uses functional medicine testing such as the following:
- Comprehensive stool test which has markers for stomach acids, pancreatic enzymes, absorption, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guy microbiome measurement, candida and parasites not found on traditional stool testing.
- Food sensitivity (not allergy) testing (IgG testing)
- SIBO breath (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) testing
- Organic Acids testing (Arabinose can be found on this which is a neurotoxin made from candida overgrowth)
The successful treatment of Dysbiosis is not a quick “take this and you’ll be better” fix. It’s a multi-faceted approach which requires a strict nutritional, herbal, and lifestyle regime. We recommend you find practitioner like myself who has experience treating all the pieces of the puzzle, whether that be a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine provider.