Your digestive tract is full of bacteria that help break down the foods you eat. When your gut tract works well, you live in healthy symbiosis with these bacteria. But when bacteria flourish in your intestines that don’t work for your benefit, this is gut dysbiosis.
You And Your Gut Flora
Before birth your digestive system was virgin territory. But gut flora can begin to colonize you even as your mother was giving birth to you. Breast milk adds more bacteria to your digestive system. Within a short time after birth, the number of bacterial cells in your gut outnumber the cells that make up your body.
Your gut flora form a finely honed relationship with you, based on the environment they live in. It’s important to understand that the foods you eat have a direct impact on this environment. A diet high in protein supports bacteria that easily break down proteins, while a diet high in sugar causes the protein-favoring bacteria to die back while the bacteria with a sweet tooth can thrive.
“Gut microbes have also been shown to influence diet and behavior as well as anxiety, depression, hypertension and a variety of other conditions.”
– Scientfic American
What Causes Gut Dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis in the intestines has a range of causes, including dietary changes, an increase in sugar, use of antibiotics that damage the good bacteria in your gut and let the detrimental bacteria get a foothold.
Here are some common triggers of gut dysbiosis:
Stress has a profound impact on human physiology. According to Dr. Gerard Mullin, author of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health and The Gut Balance Revolution, stress through reduced oxygen intake and nutrient absorption can dramatically affect the production of beneficial bacteria.
Antibiotics by their very definition are intended to kill bacteria. We don’t yet have the technology to granularly target only bad bacteria. So if you need to take antibiotics to deal with a bacterial infection, these same drugs that are working to cure you of the infection can also be harming the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Diets high in sulfates (such as eggs, cruciferous vegetables, and processed foods) encourages bacteria that love sulfates, and these produce a toxic byproduct called hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide produces a rotten-egg odor, and damages healthy bacteria in the digestion — particularly the colon. So a diet high in sulfates carries a double whammy: it encourages bad bacteria, and the bad bacteria create an environment toxic to good bacteria.
Sulfates are not the only issue regarding diet. A high-sugar diet promotes bacteria that love sugar, and may cause you to have even greater sugar cravings.
Toxins In The Environment
Any kind of toxin can affect the flora in your intestinal tract. Research has linked gut issues with heavy-metal toxins with gut dysbiosis. Grilling meat until it’s charred products heterocyclic amines or HCAs which are toxic in spite of tasting great.
Viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections can all impact the digestive system. These do so typically by producing toxins in the gut tract.
Getting Your Gut Under Control
Unless you live in a bubble, it can be extremely difficult to prevent gut dysbiosis entirely. However, maintaining a healthy and varied diet gives you a head start on defeating potential causes of dysbiosis. Daily probiotics are also recommended. In addition, there are effective naturopathic treatments when gut health gets out of balance.
If you found this content on gut dysbiosis interesting, I’d suggest you read next about how your gut flora can impact your mental health.