What Is Dysbiosis?

variety of gut bacteria
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Dysbiosis is a state in which there is an imbalance of microorganisms on or within our bodies. When in balance, these colonies of microorganisms tend to have a favorable effect on our bodies. When there is an imbalance, we may experience unwanted symptoms.

Gut Microbiota Dysbiosis

Gut microbiota dysbiosis, also known as intestinal or gastrointestinal dysbiosis, refers to a condition in which there is an imbalance of the microorganisms within our intestines.

These microorganisms, collectively known as gut flora, consist predominantly of various strains of bacteria, and to a lesser extent include fungi and protozoa. The gut flora are essential for digestion and immune functioning. A state of dysbiosis therefore will result in digestive and other systemic symptoms.

Health Problems Stemming from Gut Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis has been identified as playing a possilbe role with a variety of health problems. What this role might be is not always clear. It is theorized that the balance of gut bacteria can affect the immune system and the health of the lining of the gut (increased intestinal permeability). As you can see, health conditions in which dybiosis might play a part are not all digestive in nature:

    Causes of Dysbiosis

    Dysbiosis reflects a change in the population of the various microbes, in that unhelpful microbes overpower those that are more beneficial. Unfortunately, this tends to have a snowball effect, as the lesser amounts of helpful microbes become less and less able to keep the "unfriendly" microbes from multiplying.

    Dysbiosis may also be the result of a change in the location of the various types of microorganisms throughout the intestines or a change in how they are operating.

    Some factors that appear contribute to a state of dysbiosis include:

    • Alcohol abuse
    • Antibiotic use (from medications or from the consumption of antibiotic-treated animal products)
    • Unhealthy diet (lacking in nutrients and fiber or containing harmful substances)
    • High life stress levels
    • Secondary to medical illness, such as chemotherapy for cancer

    Improving Gut Health

    Dysbiosis can theoretically be improved through improved dietary and lifestyle habits, such as eating a balanced, nutritious diet and engaging in mind/body techniques for stress management. Some alternative health practitioners recommend the use of bone broth, but there is no clinical research to back up this recommendation.

    The research on the relationship between gut dysbiosis and our health is still in preliminary stages, although it is rapidly expanding. As of now, there are several treatment options that have received some research support for improving a state of dysbiosis:

    For people who have irritable bowel syndrome, there is a specific antibiotic named Xifaxan that targets dysbiosis in the intestines.

    As of now, this area of medicine is still in its preliminary stages. Clear information about improving dysbiosis and what effect that will have on health disorders is not yet available. However, this area of inquiry appears to be a promising one.

    Sources:

    Bull, M. & Plummer, N. "Part 2: Treatments for Chronic Gastrointestinal Disease and Gut Dysbiosis" Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal 2015 14:25–33.

    Francino. M. "Antibiotics and the Human Gut Microbiome: Dysbioses and Accumulation of Resistances" Frontiers in Microbiology 2015; 6:1543.

    Galland, L. & Barrie, S. "Intestinal Dysbiosis and the Causes of Disease" The Environmental Illness Resource Website Accessed August 24, 2013.

    Hawrelak, J.A. & Myers, S.P. "The Causes of Intestinal Dysbiosis: A Review" Alternative Medical Review 2004 9:180-197.

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