Intestinal Dysbiosis

If you are suffering from intestinal dysbiosis, a simple blood draw will give us the data we need to assess the level of permeability in your digestive track. A numerical value will be assigned to represent the level of dysbiosis, and this number can be re-evaluated as you work on repairing your GI tract.

Intestinal dysbiosis is an emerging medical term for imbalances in the intestinal flora, a concept pioneered by holistic and naturopathic physicians. But this is not to say that the concept is new; herbalists have used this idea since ancient times – Hippocrates discussed the issue of bowel toxins as early as 400 B.C. Think of the membranes lining your small and large intestines as your backyard. In this analogy, the membranes of your intestines are represented by the soil, and the “good guy” bacteria that inhabit your intestinal tract are the grass. The “bad guys,” or inappropriate bacteria, yeasts, worms or parasites, are like crabgrass which can invade and take over parts of your intestinal lawn. All in all, scientists have identified more than 400 species of gut microflora, which number in the billions in the average intestinal environment and can be weighed by the pound. The good guys produce beneficial substances, including important natural antibiotic and immune-stimulating chemicals, and the bad guys can produce carcinogens, organic amines, and high levels of endotoxin (toxins released into the body when bacteria die). Poor digestion, poor food choices, inflammation, dampness, stress, etc. can lead to intestinal flora imbalances. Depending on the nature of the infection, problems can range from mild to extremely debilitating.

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Dysbiosis problems are extremely common, especially among women, and failure to properly diagnose and treat them can lead to a great deal of misery and frustration. Overuse of antibiotics is a common cause, but the stronger strains of “superbugs” that now exist can enter the body in many ways – low stomach acid, contaminated foods, overuse of sugar, etc. The primary symptoms are usually sugar, carbote and bread craving, gas and bloating (less so or absent if the problem is bacterial, as opposed to yeast or fungal), and a number of frustrating long-lasting problems, especially fatigue, sore muscles and “brain fog.” However, depending on the organism, any of these common symptoms may appear to a greater or lesser degree. This variability, depending on the offending “critters,” is often the reason for missed diagnoses. Depression and chronic fatigue can also occur, leading to incorrect diagnosis and treatment. Often the tongue is pale or blue, due to oxygen deprivation caused by the dysbiosis. Some of the organisms in question become more active at night, in which case the symptoms are much worse upon awakening.

In my experience, untreated dysbiosis can be a causative factor in a multiplicity of difficult disease conditions, one which needs to be treated and eliminated first in order to achieve good results in treating the primary condition. These include but are not limited to thyroid problems, eye inflammation, chronic mouth and sinus problems (sometimes with red burning tongue), acid reflux, chronic vaginal yeast, urinary tract or prostate infections, chronic fatigue, various forms of hormonal depletion, sleep disturbance, weight gain (due to strong sugar cravings), food allergies, autoimmune diseases, chronic digestive problems such as colitis, IBS, constipation and/or diarrhea, fibromyalgia, skin diseases such as eczema, acne, itchy skin and hives, liver problems, headaches (including chronic), progesterone and estrogen imbalances and related hormone problems, asthma issues, blood pressure changes, burping, bad breath and mouth infections, toenail fungus, joint pain, lowered sex drive, fatigue after eating, and many others.

How the Bad Guys Infest Your Intestinal Lawn

Some of the more common bad guys include yeast (Candida albicans), Klebsiella, Proteus, H. pylori, Giardia, Pseudomonas, Citrobacter and Cryptosporidia, among others. Dysbiosis often occurs after long periods of weak or compromised digestion. When digestion is compromised, hydrochloric acid, pepsin, or pancreatic digestive enzymes are low and they fail to sterilize food when it enters the system. As often occurs in elderly patients, this allows the bad guy crabgrass to begin to seeding your intestines.

Other causes of intestinal dysbiosis include weakened immunity, alterations in intestinal pH, infections and exposure to chemicals. The small intestine is normally relatively free of bacterial overgrowth, but bad guys can also colonize this area. As abnormal fermentation increases, symptoms such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea begin to emerge. Over time, as the mucosal barrier erodes, toxins enter the bloodstream and there may be allergy symptoms, loss of mental clarity, moderate to severe fatigue, inflammation and muscle pain. This is a very real and frustrating problem for patients, one which conventional physicians often overlook. In severe cases, it can even be debilitating. For example, as I mentioned, it is one of the hidden causes of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Overuse of antibiotics can kill off the good guy bacterial population, resulting in a favorable environment for bad guy crabgrass growth. Yeast and similar intestinal infections are often easy to diagnose when patients produce an unusually high level of gas, whichoften distends the stomach dramatically. These infections can also cause patients to wake up during the night feeling extremely hot, almost as if they are experiencing extended hot flashes. The heat produced by the bad guy organisms can also inflame and dry the intestines, causing constipation.

The Good Guys Fight Back

Good guy bacteria, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacteria and Escherichia coli, typically inhabit the large intestine. These bacterial species have been used as medicines (in pill form) since the discovery of their beneficial properties in 1908. They are traditionally found in fermented foods such as yogurt and miso soup, and they have been historically lauded for their many health benefits.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria adhere to the cells of the intestinal epithelium and contribute to the equilibrium of gut flora. Because they are positive in action, they are called probiotics (pro-life), as opposed to antibiotics (anti-life). They help to conjugate bile acids and antagonize other bacteria, especially the harmful ones that can lead to bowel toxemia, a precursor to skin conditions, cancers, fatigue and various forms of inflammation. They also reduce incidence of intestinal infections, diarrhea and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

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