Through a root cause approach, naturopathic physicians have been treating disharmony within the digestive tract for centuries. With the mapping of the human microbiome we now have specialized tests that demonstrate the diversity within the gut microbiota. Many conditions that were poorly understood in the past, have now been linked back to the same root cause, that being an imbalance between beneficial and pathogenic microbial species in the digestive tract.
Dysbiosis which is the medical name for this imbalance, is one of the most common causes of digestive problems. The hallmark of dysbiosis is a shift away from a healthy microbial diversity towards an increase in pro-inflammatory species.
Dysbiosis can be categorized into three different types:
- Digestive Dysfunction Dysbiosis; Compromised digestive function
- Inflammatory Dysbiosis; Excessive growth of potentially harmful organism
- Insufficiency Dysbiosis; Loss of overall microbial diversity or beneficial organisms
Dysbiosis has now been implicated in a wide range of diseases including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis
- Allergic disorders
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus
- Colorectal cancer
- Atopic dermatitis
- Interstitial cystitis
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Intestinal permeability; “leaky gut”
Given the digestive tract's significant role in the human body, along with the intimate relationship it has with other organs, the symptoms of dysbiosis can range from local to systemic.
Local & Regional Symptoms:
- Abdominal cramping
- Loose stools
- Brain fog
- Joint Pain
- Autoimmune disorders
- Mood changes
By now you may be wondering how does this state of dysbiosis arise in the gut?Well there are numerous risk factors that can predispose someone to dysbiosis including:
- Gastroenteritis; Gastrointestinal infection
- Food poisoning
- Medications ie. Antibiotics, PPIs, NSAIDs, Oral contraceptives
- Poor diet - high in simple sugars/carbohydrates & processed food etc.
- Immune dysfunction
- Poor oral health
- Stress; both physical & mental
- Traumatic brain injury; Concussion
- Abdominal Surgery
- Alcohol misuse
- Gallbladder removal
So how do we go about determining if in fact you have dysbiosis or not? The best method is by having both a comprehensive case workup and stool analysis. Our favorite is the GI-Map Test through Diagnostic Solutions.
Once testing has determined which form of dysbiosis you have, treatment will often involve:
- Eradication of the harmful microbial species
- Repopulation of the beneficial microbial species
- Healing the lining of the gut
- Improving overall digestive function
- Addressing the underlying risk factor or predisposition
- Giving the gut the support it need to maintain optimal function
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