Digestive issues can be a real challenge to everyday life. Diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps make every moment uncomfortable. At the heart of these symptoms is gut dysbiosis.
What you may be surprised to discover, is that gut dysbiosis is also a root cause of symptoms like acne, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and a poor immune system.
Gut dysbiosis is essentially an imbalance in the numerous bacteria, protists, fungi, and other microorganisms that reside in your gastrointestinal tract.
If your gut is out of balance, your entire body will also be out of balance. Gut health affects the rest of your health. Let’s look at the various symptoms of gut dysbiosis and what that means for your health.
What is Gut Dysbiosis?
Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms in what is known as the gut microbiome. While many different types of microbes exist in your body, the most studied of them are bacteria. Actually, there are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. What’s more, there are nearly 1,000 different species of bacteria in the gut microbial community. They all play a role in your body, and while most are important for your health, others can cause disease.
Gut dysbiosis occurs when there are more of these bad bacteria in your gut microbiome than good bacteria. The upset balance of bacteria in your gut can lead to a whole host of other health complications.
Symptoms of Gut Dysbiosis
A healthy, functioning gut microbiome controls gut health by communicating with the intestinal cells, digesting certain foods, and preventing disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the intestinal walls. Gut health has implications for your brain, heart, digestive system, immune system, blood sugar levels, and weight.
Unfortunately, the food you eat and the lifestyle choices you make can adversely impact the bacteria in your gut. Symptoms of gut dysbiosis are varied because of all the different bodily systems it can impact. Some of the symptoms may present themselves in the gastrointestinal tract, while others may appear in unrelated areas of the body.
Here’s an overview of the symptoms of gut dysbiosis that will present in the digestive system:
- Acid reflux
- A feeling of general malaise
- Blood or mucus in stool
- Intestinal pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Meanwhile, symptoms of gut dysbiosis that appear elsewhere throughout the body can look like everything from mood disorders to skin rashes. Here are some of the other symptoms of gut dysbiosis:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Behavioral changes
- Brain fog
- Candida Overgrowth
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic sinus congestion
- Food cravings
- Food allergies
- Menstrual problems/PMS
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Weight gain or weight loss
Gut Dysbiosis Related Diseases
There are a few diseases that find their root cause in gut dysbiosis like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (which is essentially another name for gut dysbiosis).
Dysbiosis sets up a sequence of events leading to inflammation, followed by a multitude of vague symptoms. Moreover, growing evidence suggests that dysbiosis of the gut microbiota is associated with the pathogenesis of both intestinal and extra-intestinal disorders.
Some of the non-digestive disorders that are caused in part by dysbiosis include allergies, asthma, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
Not surprisingly, because so much of your health starts in the gut a multitude of other diseases have been linked to gut dysbiosis. Here is a list of the health conditions that are linked to gut dysbiosis:
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
What Causes Gut Dysbiosis?
If gut dysbiosis is the cause of so many other health conditions, what leads to this bacterial imbalance in the first place?
Certain types of medication can wreak havoc on your gut microbiome. This includes antibiotics, acid-reducing medications, over-the-counter pain relievers, steroids, and oral contraceptive pills. These types of medication adversely impact the composition of your gut microbiome. While each drug has its own unique implication, things like an increase in the production of harmful bacteria and fatty acids lead to dysbiosis and other health conditions.
Perhaps one of the most important factors, the food you eat has a huge impact on your gut microbiome. The standard American diet tends to be high in bad fats and low in vegetables. This means you aren’t getting enough fiber to allow good bacteria to grow. It also contains a lot of carbohydrates which crowd out the good bacteria and allows bad bacteria to flourish. Unfortunately, this can cause you to crave sugar, and the more sugar you eat the higher your chances of developing blood sugar issues like pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Stress negatively impacts the gut microbiome and causes gut dysbiosis. According to research, social stressors led to less diverse bacterial communities in the intestine and a higher number of potentially harmful bacteria.
Testing for Gut Dysbiosis
Getting tested for gut dysbiosis will give you a better understanding of the bacterial makeup of your gut. It will also answer questions related to other health conditions you may be suffering from since gut dysbiosis is the gateway to many of those health conditions.
These are the tests you can have done that will help identify gut dysbiosis.
- Stool Test – The stool test measures the amount of good and bad bacteria in your stool. Not only does this test check for dysbiosis, but it also checks for any parasites, pathogens, yeast, and fungus that can be in the digestive system. It looks at the health of your liver, gallbladder, and pancreas as well as the level of inflammation in your gut.
- Organic Acid Test – This measures the number of organic acids in your urine. Your gut bacteria produce organic acids as by-products of metabolism. When you have too much organic acid in your urine, it may mean that certain bacteria are overtaking your gut.
- Hydrogen Breath Test – This measures the amount of hydrogen you exhale after drinking a sugar solution and breathing into a test tube. This test is used to check for SIBO, intolerance to fructose, and other problems with your gut.
How to Treat Gut Dysbiosis
Once you’ve been diagnosed with gut dysbiosis, treatment should be personalized and holistic. The goal is to restore complete gut function and overall health. You may start with an elimination diet and then slowly add things like fermented foods, whole grains, probiotics, and prebiotics. Most likely, you will be put on the 5 R’s protocol to address the root cause of your gut dysbiosis.
Ultimately, treating gut dysbiosis will improve all other aspects of your health. Our functional medicine practitioners specialize in gastrointestinal health and can help you rebalance your gut with a personalized approach