Dysbiosis is a state of imbalance of intestinal bacterial flora. The healthy human intestine has some 3-400 specie of bacteria. These are mostly beneficial in a healthy person and essential for a range of activities. The intestines are also home to a small number of harmful bacteria, usually kept in check by an abundance of the beneficial bacteria. The balance is the important element. While the friendly ones predominate all is well and healthy, but imbalance allows the pathogenic (harmful) organisms to grow out of control. This crowds out the beneficial organisms.
Beneficial bacteria manufacture nutrients and chemicals that are an essential part of the metabolism and play a role in a whole range of the body’s needs, including immune function, hormone regulation and detoxification of harmful chemicals. When bacteria are damaged, not only do we suffer from the deficiencies of these nutrients and chemical reactions but the pathogenic bacteria are able to infect and create toxins which the body cannot detoxify. The beneficial bacteria are essential for this detoxification. These toxins damage body tissues and some of these are even known carcinogens. Other bacteria have been directly implicated in immune disorders that lead to disease (see below for Dysbiosis and Disease)
Beneficial intestinal bacteria
- produce short chain fatty acids which supply energy for cells
- inhibit the activity of coliform putrefactive bacteria, such as bacteroides and clostridia which create harmful toxins, among other complications.
- Synthesise valuable nutrients, Vitamin K and some B complex vitamins
- Denature toxic chemicals, drugs, hormones and carcinogens.
- Maintain healthy intestinal pH. (acid balance)
- Enable a successful immune response to infection. - 70% of immune function occurs in the intestines.
- are essential for the complex chemical reactions in the intestine creating chemicals essential to metabolic processes in all areas of the body, including the brain.
The balance can be fragile and damage or attack is common. While the immune system is strong the balance can be brought back, but a combination of low immune and another factor such as antibiotic use can destabilise the equilibrium.
Causes of damage to this flora
Antibiotics can be useful and are often essential, but as they usually kill both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria their overuse can be damaging.
Parasitic infestations. increasing as International travel is commonplace and much food produce is imported from exotic climes where parasites will be very different to what our evolved immunity has been challenged with historically.
Diet Beneficial bacteria live on fibre. Meat diets are not completely digested before they reach the colon and feed the wrong bacteria (putrefying bacteria) at the expense of the beneficial. Modern diets are also high in Sugars and alcohols , direct foodstuffs for fungal agents such as Candida. Chlorinated water is also implicated in damaging beneficial intestinal bactria.
Food borne bacterial attacks – The classic being E. coli derived. These gastroenterical bugs can overcome a weakened immune system, allowing other pathogenic bacteria to multiply.
Hormones. Most meats are found to have hormone residues. Pesticides and plastics are known to mimic hormones. These and the contraceptive pill have a tendency to allow the delicate balance to be upset . If this coincides with other factors the bacteria can become dysbiotic.
Don't be alarmed. Even a scrupulously clean life will be exposed to Bacteria, which are naturally everywhere. We swallow them with our food, drink them with water, they are in the air we breathe, on our skin, in our mouths, digestive tract, sinuses and other areas of our bodies. In so far as health is concerned, some of them are harmful, some neutral and some are very beneficial (essential to a healthy life), it is only when an imbalance is allowed to go unchecked by the body's immune system that problems can develope. We start life with no bacterial cultures, so we need a certain exposure to them to develope a healthy gut flora capable of making digestive enzymes and the myriad of other crucial tasks that these bacteria have evolved to provide us with.
To aid our immune systems we need to ensure our beneficial intestinal bacteria are supported at times of physical or emotional stress. Supplementary use of Probiotic bacteria , in as many different strains as possible is advisable. Our bodies can do the rest. – usually! Interestingly there have been studies in hospitals for patients undergoing surgery. In a double blind study , those supplemented with probiotics prior to surgery had significantly fewer post operative complications than those who were given a placebo , or no probiotics at all.
Connection between dysbiosis and disease
Dysbiosis allows pathogenic (harmful) bacteria to proliferate over and above controllable levels in the intestines.
There is research to suggest that specific types of intestinal pathogenic bacteria appear to cause or contribute to specific autoimmune diseases ( where the bodies own immune system attacks itself rather than "foreign" invaders , as it has evolved to do). One variety of coli bacteria, for instance, produces a molecule that is very similar to insulin. When the immune system becomes activated against this similar molecule it may then also attack related features at the beta cells of the pancreas.
Another bacteria, Yersinia enterocolitica, induces an auto immune response that attacks the thyroid gland and leads to Grave's disease with a serious overproduction of thyroid hormones.
Ulcerative colitis is linked to an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes, as is Crohn's disease, osteoporosis and ankylosing spondylitis. In ankylosing spondylitis the vertebra of the spine fuse together causing stiffness and pain. Other joints may in time become affected.
Klebsiella, another type of pathogenic bacteria, produces a molecule that is similar to a tissue type found in people with this disease. When Klebsiella numbers in the gut decrease, related antibodies in the blood decrease and the condition improves.
Rheumatoid arthritis is also linked to other bacteria, called Proteus. Proteus is a common cause of urinary tract infections. Women suffer urinary tract infections as well as rheumatoid arthritis twice as often as men, while men usually have higher levels of Klebsiella and three times more ankylosing spondylitis than women.
In addition microbial overgrowth damages the intestinal wall allowing partially digested food particles to pass into the bloodstream, causing an immune response, release of histamine and allergic reaction. In this way autoimmune diseases can be linked to food allergies. This damage is termed a Leaky gut .
A pathogenic yeast makes estradiol, the strongest of the human estrogens. This creates hormonal imbalance, but also estrogen wastes B6, folic acid, B12 and zinc ( leading to deficiancies elsewhere of these nutriets). Estrogen also causes the retention of copper. Estrogen suppresses the thyroid which helps the ovaries make more progesterone. So even less progesterone is made. That intestinal yeast can contribute to the hormonal and nutritional imbalances that give rise to Pre Mentrual Syndrome in women.© all rights reserved