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It’s not unusual to have a day when your stomach “feels funny.”
You’re nervous over an upcoming meeting at work…or overindulge in rich or spicy foods… or drink too much alcohol or caffeine…
And bam! The digestive issues begin.
But these are all short-term symptoms that go away quickly, either when your digestive system breaks down the food/drinks or when a stressful event is over.
So, what does it mean when those symptoms remain, stretching into days, weeks, and months?
It’s possible that you have a condition called gut dysbiosis.
Let’s look more closely at your digestive issues, whether they could be pointing to dysbiosis, and what you can do to heal your symptoms.
What is Gut Dysbiosis?
Gut dysbiosis starts off similarly to the “funny tummy” feeling, but it’s not necessarily caused by an outside factor. Instead, it’s caused by what’s inside your body.
Your body is teeming with trillions of organisms. The vast majority of them make their home in your digestive tract, also known as your gut microbiome.
Luckily, not all of them are harmful. In fact, good bacteria are crucial to your digestive health, immune response, and overall well being.
The “good” (or beneficial) bacteria and the “bad” (or pathogenic) bacteria have to coexist in the same space in your gut. When one is more present, either in strength or in numbers, the other one is reduced in its effect.
Ideally, the good bacteria will have larger, stronger colonies than the bad bacteria. When this is the case, your gut is happy, healthy, and balanced.
Unfortunately, the opposite is far more common. The colonies of bad bacteria thrive and grow. Since there’s only so much “real estate” in your gut, this crowds out the good bacteria. This imbalance is what’s known as gut dysbiosis.
What Causes Gut Dysbiosis
There are three things that could be happening for you to experience dysbiosis.
- Reduced number of good bacteria in your gut.
- Increased number of bad bacteria in your gut.
- Loss of bacterial diversity, with lower levels of both good and bad bacteria.
There are several ways that this can occur.
- A poor diet: can starve good bacteria while feeding pathogenic bacteria
- Use of antibiotics: kills off both types of bacteria, giving bad bacteria room to flourish
- Stress: can alter the gut microbiota
- Not enough sleep: can throw off your gut balance
- Poor dental hygiene: can create bacteria in your mouth, which can make their way to your stomach
Is Dysbiosis the Same As Leaky Gut Syndrome?
No, but dysbiosis can cause a leaky gut.
Your gut is lined with a wall with small holes, resembling a net. These holes are filters that allow certain substances, such as nutrients, through, but hold back toxins, undigested food particles, and bad bacteria. However, if your gut lining is damaged, the holes become bigger and those harmful substances can pass through.
When you have dysbiosis, the high level of bad bacteria releases an increased number of toxins, which can damage the walls of your gut lining. This damage can eventually lead to holes in the walls of your digestive tract, causing leaky gut syndrome.
Signs of Gut Dysbiosis
Not sure if you have gut dysbiosis? Here’s a clue: you probably do! In fact, most people are living with an imbalance in their gut… they just haven’t realized it yet.
Once the imbalance gets to a certain level, though, the symptoms will start showing up.
Here are some of the most common physical signs of gut dysbiosis.
- Aching joints
- Acid reflux
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues, including constipation and diarrhea
- Food intolerances
- Skin issues, including acne, skin rashes, and psoriasis
- Stomach cramps
- Trouble urinating
- Vaginal or rectal infections or itching
Gut dysbiosis can also affect your emotional/mental health, leading to issues such as:
If you experience any of these symptoms for several days, they could be a sign of dysbiosis and you should see your physician.
When left untreated, gut dysbiosis can evolve into more serious health conditions, such as:
- Cardiovascular issues
- Central nervous system disorders
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Healing Gut Dysbiosis
After reading all of its harmful effects, you’re probably wondering whether gut dysbiosis can be healed.
The answer is yes!
Gut dysbiosis is a condition that you can overcome, and you can do it without invasive medical procedures. Through lifestyle and diet changes, you can restore the correct balance to your gut microbiome.
Depending on the current state of your gut and how quickly your body reacts to the actions you take, healing your gut can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.
Let’s go over some of the best strategies for rebalancing your gut microbiome and healing dysbiosis.
Eat a Healthy Diet
The foods you eat have an enormous effect on your gut microbiome. Whether that’s a positive or negative effect depends on the choices you make.
- Decrease your sugar intake. Sugar can reduce the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This leaves room for the bad bacteria to grow and strengthen. Consuming less sugar is probably the number one thing you can do to protect your gut health.
- Choose the right carbohydrates. Refined carbs, such as white rice or white flour, have a high glycemic index and are quickly broken down into sugar by the body, causing the same detrimental effect. Fill your plate with complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, and brown rice.
- Eat more fiber. Fiber isn’t easily digested by your body. Instead, it’s broken down by the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which feeds on it. This gives them the fuel they need for their colonies to flourish and crowd out bad bacteria.
Add Probiotics and Prebiotics to Your Diet
Probiotics and prebiotics can both play an important role in promoting the growth of good bacteria and healing gut dysbiosis.
Probiotic bacteria, found in certain food, drinks, and supplements, are similar to the good bacteria that already live in your gut. When consumed, they join forces with the colonies of beneficial bacteria, boosting their quality and quantity.
Luckily, most of these foods are found right in your local grocery store.
Some common probiotic-rich foods and drinks are:
- Some soft cheeses
- Sourdough bread products
Prebiotics, on the other hand, aren’t bacteria. Instead, they provide food for good bacteria. The beneficial bacteria in your gut—as well as any probiotics you may have added—use them as fuel to strengthen and multiply.
Prebiotics occur naturally in most fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Foods high in prebiotics include:
- Chicory root
- Dandelion greens
- Whole oats
Take a Probiotic Supplement
As you may have noticed from our list above, most probiotic foods are produced through fermentation. This makes the food rich in probiotic bacteria but also creates a unique taste and smell that not everyone enjoys.
If this is the case for you, you can get your probiotics through supplements. They’ll give you all of the same benefits but without the sour, tangy taste that your taste buds dislike.
But not all probiotics are created equal. It’s important that you choose the right strain of probiotics to get the maximum gut health benefits.
Research consistently shows that spore bacteria is the ideal choice. This is the rich, soil-based microorganism that occurs naturally in dirt and vegetation. And it’s packed with all of the benefits that Mother Nature intended!
This one from Just Thrive is our favorite. Its spore-based strains are clinically proven to improve your gut microbiome balance and address dysbiosis for optimal gut health.
Believe it or not, your gut microbiome isn’t only affected by what you eat. Your lifestyle can also play an important role in healing gut dysbiosis.
Your gut and your brain “talk” to each other via the gut-brain axis. What happens to one affects the other. For example, feeling nervous about an upcoming event can cause digestive issues. And, a digestive disorder such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can lead to anxiety and depression.
So it’s no surprise that chronic stress can cause a gut bacteria imbalance that leads to dysbiosis.
And while stress may, at times, be unavoidable, it can be managed.
Some techniques to help you reduce stress include:
- Deep breathing
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting social media
- Listening to relaxing music
- Practicing positive self-talk
- Setting boundaries; saying “no” when necessary
- Spending time with loved ones
- Talking with a therapist
Get Enough Sleep
Are you getting the right amount of shut-eye?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night for optimal health, including gut health.
Lack of sleep can lead to several factors that can cause dysbiosis.
For one, lack of quality sleep disrupts your circadian rhythm, your internal body clock. Research shows that circadian rhythm disorders can lead to the gut imbalance that causes dysbiosis.
Also, when you’re overtired, you’re less likely to make healthy food choices. You might pick sugary or over-processed treats, especially if you’re too tired to cook or prepare a healthy snack.
And, being overtired makes it more difficult to deal with stress. A stressful life is one of the biggest contributing factors to gut dysbiosis.
For optimum sleep health, try going to bed at around the same time each night. Create a sleep-positive environment, one that’s cool, dark, and quiet. And avoid blue light from electronic devices while you sleep.
The Ultimate Gut Dysbiosis Grocery List
Are you ready to take the first step toward healing your gut? The next time you go food shopping, choose foods that are anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, and rich in probiotics or prebiotics.
In addition to the probiotic- and prebiotic-friendly foods above, some food to add to your refrigerator or pantry include:
- Bone broth
- Chia and flax seeds
- Fruits low in sugar, such as strawberries, grapes, and pineapples
- Leafy greens
- Olive and avocado oil
- Root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes
These foods can help heal dysbiosis, and boost your overall gut health.
Gut dysbiosis occurs when the pathogenic bacteria in your gut microbiome outweigh and outnumber the beneficial bacteria. This can lead to a number of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Eventually, dysbiosis can lead to more serious health issues.
And while most people have gut dysbiosis, you don’t have to be one of them.
Maintaining the proper diet while making some lifestyle changes can help heal your gut dysbiosis and lead to a happier, healthier you!
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