Update: If you are suffering from gut dysbiosis, I recommend a good probiotic enzyme that contains DDS-1, I have been taking Canxida Restore by Eric Bakker and for past 3 months I have been feeling great. Give it a try.
The concept of gut dysbiosis, at least to contemporary medicine, is actually something extremely new. Despite the fact that over a century ago scientists recognized a condition that was then termed autointoxication which was based on the invasion of pathogenic microflora and the permeability of the intestine, today many doctors and researchers are still unaware that gut dysbiosis even exists. For example in the UK there is still no guidance relating to the diagnosis and treatment of either gut dysbiosis or leaky gut syndrome. Taking into consideration that this is the attitude of only one national health authority and despite all the validated research which is currently available, is it any wonder that people are turning to alternative, natural and complementary treatments in an effort to get not only their condition treated, but also in many cases, acknowledged.
Yet despite the majority of the contemporary medical community denying the condition even exists, more recently and particularly in the last 5 years, science is emerging which has stimulated the research community into action not only in respect of treating the condition but also establishing causation – and it would appear the causes are myriad.
One of the more recent studies actually returned results which strongly indicated that our environment, in respect of whether we are urbanized or live in a rural community surrounded by diverse nature, will actually influence the levels of good microflora in our digestive system 1. However currently in the West gut dysbiosis is more commonly attributed to the way we live our lives rather than where we live it.
Gut Dysbiosis and Stress
When we think of stress normally we immediately associate it with the emotional kind. But our bodies too can be subjected to extremes of physical stress and, it would seem our gut microflora and just as susceptible to this kind of stress as they are to psychological stressors.
One of the more recent studies strongly suggests that even short-term dietary changes can induce microbial changes within the gut at a species specific level. The same study also claimed that psychological stress can produce the same result 2. Which should come as no surprise to most people because we are all aware that psychological upset can lead almost instantly to a grumbling stomach and, quite possibly, an urgent trip to the loo! But stress is a two-way street. Not only can stress cause an imbalance within the gut, but gut dysbiosis can also result in stress. It seems there’s no winning in this case! The end result however is that you get a cyclical process of digestive distress which can result in chronic health complaints for the patient.
As surprising as it might seem those who are subject to extremes of physical stress, such as athletes and military personnel, also have a strong tendency to gut dysbiosis. Although the research is in its infancy the hypotheses suggests that because blood is directed away from the intestinal system as it is needed in other parts of the body, combined with the rise in core temperature on not only extreme exertion but sometimes also the climate, the intestinal lining becomes damaged. Once this damage occurs then toxic contents leak through the intestinal lining (leaky gut syndrome) and result in endotoxemia causing both intestinal and immune problems.
Although little is known about the subject there is no doubt that the effects are apparent in athletes who are renown for their digestive problems and autoimmune conditions. The study below found that Zonulin, which is a protein modulating what are known as the tight junctions in the intestinal wall and which is also a marker to indicate the level of bioflora in feces, decreased when probiotics were given to athletes. In short when athletes take probiotics it would appear that their intestinal wall becomes less permeable 3.
Although there has been much interest in the nutritional value, or lack of it, in the modern western diet, it is only very recently that it has been investigated as being a cause of gut dysbiosis. There can be no doubt that processed foods, of the kind you bung in the microwave and wait for the ping, are nutritionally deficient and a ‘balanced diet’ is a much better option. Yet many people are on a reasonable, if not perfect diet and they are still suffering symptoms associated with dysbiosis. The truth of the matter is that there are so many influencing factors at the moment that diet is only one aspect which may contribute toward a much larger problem. Eating well, reducing alcohol intake and cutting out the fast foods will certainly do no harm. Yet the indications are that improving your diet, although it may be part of the cause of your problems, is just that, ‘a part.’ Changing the way you eat is only the start to reducing symptoms and getting back on the road to health.
Antibiotics are in the front line when it comes to destroying bacteria in the gut indiscriminately. Their job is to destroy the pathogenic bacteria which are making you ill. Unfortunately they cannot distinguish between bad bacteria and the friendly bacteria which we need. This issue is now being identified as having far reaching effects.
Most people are now aware that when they are prescribed antibiotics they are, at best, going to have ‘increased frequency of bowel movements.’ Many doctors are also aware and advise patients to eat yoghurt or take a probiotic at the same time as taking antibiotics. For those who need a little more detail about which antibiotics are likely to affect particular bacteria, this link here provides some interesting detail.
For those of you who can’t be bothered to look, the link contains a chart showing the effects of some selected antibiotics on gut microflora. Where changes occur the general trend is obvious: levels of pathogenic microflora such as candida and clostridia go up and that of the good guys, lactobacilli and bifidus go down. Taking antibiotics? Then go get a probiotic.
There are also now strong indications that even small amounts of antibiotics may affect gut microflora for a long period of time 4. Which ties in very nicely with the previously mentioned study in the stress section which claims that only short term dietary changes can adversely affect microflora. It would seem that once the balanced of microflora is disturbed, no matter what the cause, then the effects can stretch far into the future.
There are lots of articles on the internet at the moment providing information on how gut dysbiosis can be caused by oral contraceptives. However although the symptoms might be clearly seen the research is somewhat thin on the ground. This is not to say oral contraceptives do not cause dysbiosis, it simply means that few scientists are researching the issue. Considering that contemporary awareness of gut dysbiosis has only recently emerged in the world of science, this may not be surprising, however also considering how many women take oral contraceptives and correspondingly suffer the symptoms of dysbiosis then perhaps it is?
One thing is for certain, not all women start taking oral contraceptives purely as a means of contraception. Many women suffer heavy periods, severe mood changes and intense period pain and approach their clinicians for ways in which to limit these symptoms which, it has to be said, reduce the quality of life not only for them but also the people around them. It might be worth considering that such women already have significant indicators of gut dysbiosis and treatments to restore gut function may actually mitigate the symptoms without resorting to synthetic hormones – hormones which may well relieve some symptoms but in the future may be proven to cause substantial chronic health problems.
Most of the research currently available is investigating the links between alcohol dependency and gut dysbiosis. Currently science hasn’t actually established if it is a cause or effect. What science has proven though is that there is a link between those who are dependent on alcohol and gut dysbiosis because the majority of alcoholics, at some point, develop leaky gut syndrome 5. What we also know is that increasing gut microflora helps restore the integrity of the gut and ameliorates liver damage induced by alcohol 6.
If you find the above information somewhat confusing or even overwhelming, take heart, because one thing we can take from it is this: never before in the history of man has the human body been subjected to such an invasion of synthetics, chemicals and toxins. The human digestive system has all this, and much, much more to cope with and it would seem, going by the list of diseases we are experiencing that it is now becoming completely overwhelmed.
Many of the factors that are negatively influencing our digestive system, are, like it or not, out of our control, but the one thing we can do is learn how to give our microflora all the help we can!
(2) Biological Psychology 2008 Feb;77(2):132-7 Investigating the Role of Perceived Stress on Bacterial Flora Activity and Salivary Cortisol Secretion, SR Knowles, EA nelson, EA Palombo