The microbiome, dysbiosis, "leaky" gut and what it means for you. A lot of people suffer from issues that are caused from issues in their digestive systems but rarely find what is actually causing their problems.
A lot of people suffer from issues that are obviously caused from issues in their digestive systems like:
✔️ Bloating and gas
✔️ Stomach pain
✔️ Acid reflux
✔️ IBS, IBD, Diarrhea and Constipation
✔️ Crohn's, Colitis and Celiac Disease
Unfortunately, most people who are experiencing any of these issues are given medications that just cover up their symptoms, instead of getting help finding out the ROOT CAUSES of their health problems. And that’s a shame, because research is showing us how issues that are often undetected and secretly lurking in the GI system can cause not only digestive problems but hundreds of other seemingly unrelated health problems like:
✔️ Chronic Inflammation (headaches/migraines, achy joints, swollen and puffy hands, face and feet)
✔️ Chronic fatigue
✔️ Weakened immune system, allergies and worsening food sensitivities
✔️ Thyroid disease
✔️ Autoimmune disease
✔️ Weight gain and diabetes
✔️ Heart disease
✔️ PCOS, Endometriosis and other hormonal issues
✔️ Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, Brain Fog
✔️ Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
It’s quite an extensive list, right? You may be wondering how exactly our guts canbe the cause of all these different types of problems? Well, let me explain.
Every single tissue, gland, organ, hormone and brain cell in your body is made from the food you eat, and your body is constantly reforming, rebuilding and replenishing itself. Your stomach lining replenishes it self every six hours. Your hormones can last in your body anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of months. Your skin rejuvenates every 27 days. Your bones transform every two years. These regenerative cycles depend on amino acids (the building blocks for your cells) and other nutrients from the foods you eat to provide your body with the necessary vitamins, minerals, fats and glucose it needs to rejuvenate.
To repair your tissues, organs and glands, your liver and immune and digestive systems have to work together. Think of it like an orchestra playing a symphony. Each instrument has to be in tune with the other instruments or the music will be off key. In the same way, your liver and immune and digestive systems must work in harmony for your body to regenerate properly.
The “conductor” in this whole process is your digestive system. Within that digestive system is the all-important microbiome. Just as a musical conductor is vital to the pieces of an orchestra coming together to make beautiful music, the tissues, glands, organs and hormones in your body rely on a healthy microbiome and digestive system to assist them in performing at their best. If your body has an insufficient or imbalanced microbiome, an overgrowth of bad bacteria called “dysbiosis,” or a condition called “leaky gut” then the rest of the body will become dysfunctional and out of sync, much like an orchestra playing out of tune.
What is the microbiome?
Your body contains trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi commonly known as “microbes,” most of which are located inside your intestinal tract. Their collective processes make up your microbiome. While there area bout 30 trillion human cells in your body, there are about 40 trillion bacterial cells. These microbes include about a thousand species, each assigned a different role in the body.
The microbiome does some amazing things! It contributes to the production of antibodies, which help your immune system fight infections. New research has shown that the gut microbiome plays a major role in brain health and that the bacteria in the microbiome help make neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA and acetylcholine, all critical to normal brain function. These bacteria are so important to our mood that researchers have coined the term “psychobiotics” to explain the importance of the microbiome to mental health. The microbiome also assists in regulating hormones including estrogen. Researchers have named the part of the microbiome responsible for regulating estrogen the “estrobolome.”
To have a healthy body and immune system, you need a healthy, diverse microbiome. The microbiome contains many types of healthy bacteria, but when the “good” bacteria is deficient or missing or when “bad” bacteria have taken over, we can experience a long list of health issues including the development of autoimmune diseases, leaky gut, IBS or IBD, metabolic disease and weight gain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, autism and even chronic pain. Research has also shown that an unbalanced microbiome contributes to infectious diseases, liver diseases, gastrointestinal cancers, metabolic diseases, respiratory diseases, mental or psychological diseases, hormonal issues and autoimmune diseases. And an imbalanced estrobolome leads to faulty metabolism of estrogen and the risk of developing estrogen-related diseases such as endometriosis, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Dysbiosis: When things get ugly!
You see above where I mentioned “good” and “bad” bacteria. In general, bad bacteria, viruses and fungi aren’t a problem. In fact, they workhand in hand with the rest of the body’s bacteria to digest food and produce vitamins. If these bad bacteria didn't exist, we couldn't exist. We need both good and bad bacteria to thrive. The problem happens when the good bacteria become outnumbered by the bad bacteria, a condition known as “dysbiosis.” When the bad bacteria start to outnumber the good bacteria or grow in numbers beyond what is considered normal, it creates an unhealthy environment not only in the gut, but in the entire body, which can lead to a wide array of illnesses.
Dysbiosis can lead to intestinal inflammation that damages the gut lining resulting in bothersome symptoms such as indigestion, diarrhea, gas, constipation and bloating. Dysbiosis can also lead to more serious problems such as leaky gut syndrome (I’ll explain that later), gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even colon cancer.
Because dysbiosis adversely affects digestion, it can also lead to nutritional deficiencies which in turn affect energy levels and lead to fatigue, poor skin and nail health, and hair loss. Dysbiosis has also been linked to asthma and allergy issues and heart disease. And since about 80% of immune system cells are located in the gut, dysbiosis can weaken the body’s immune defense against disease and illness, and is believed to be a major contributor to autoimmune disease and frequent recurring infections.
How does dysbiosis occur in the first place? There are many ways but some of the most common include excessive use of antibiotics, high alcohol intake, exposure to pesticides, poor dental hygiene, stress and poor diets that include a high amount of sugar, protein or food additives. If you fall into any of these categories and are experiencing health issues, dysbiosis needs to be explored as a possible cause.
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We can’t talk about the microbiome without talking about a condition known as “leaky gut.” Although leaky gut can cause an array of symptoms, many of which take place outside of the digestive system, most mainstream medical practitioners still aren’t familiar with this condition.
So, what is leaky gut? In scientific terms it's referred to as “increased intestinal permeability” and if you do a PubMed search there are over 8,870 articles written to date on the topic. The term itself is actually a pretty accurate description of what occurs in the body. Your digestive system is masterfully designed to keep harmful substances such as undigested food, toxins, allergens, microbes, viruses, parasites, bacteria and metabolic wastes confined to the digestive tract. However, when the digestive system develops gaps between the cells of its membrane lining – hence the term “leaky gut” – the substances which should be confined to your digestive tract can escape from your intestines and enter your bloodstream.
What happens then? Because these harmful substances aren’t normally in your blood, your immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders and begins to attack them by releasing antibodies, much like an army of soldiers trying to clear out the enemy. Because these foreign substances are continually leaking into the bloodstream, where they don’t belong, the antibodies become confused, go rogue and literally attack your own body as if it were the enemy. When these antibodies start attacking the body, it is called “autoimmune disease.” The continued release of antibodies causes inflammation (swelling), which accumulates over time, causing the digestive system to not work properly and leading to an array of unpleasant symptoms that occur throughout the body.
Here are SOME of the most common signs and conditions associated with leaky gut:
10.Hormonal issues such as hypothyroid, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis and low testosterone
It’s important to note that individuals with leaky gut may have no digestive symptoms at all. Many of our patients who suffer from leaky gut or autoimmune disease report a chronic feeling of unwellness, almost like they have a low-grade infection every day of their lives because of this overactivation of their immune systems. These foreign substances also become toxic in nature once they leave the intestines and can interfere with normal hormone production, trigger allergies and asthma, and disrupt normal brain function leading to anxiety, depression, headaches and brain fog. Leaky gut must be explored in patients without digestive symptoms if they are experiencing unexplained hormonal issues, acne, hair loss, autoimmune disease, chronic illness and infections, depression, anxiety, allergies or other gut-related issues mentioned above.
What causes leaky gut?
The list of causes of leaky gut is about as extensive as the list of symptoms and includes dysbiosis, use of medications such as antibiotics and NSAIDS, toxins, alcohol, stress, excessive weight, pregnancy, food sensitivities, lack of vitamin D and lack of movement or exercise. Another cause of leaky gut is a poor diet full of processed foods. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet, also known as SAD, really lives up to its initials. It’s the naturally occurring bacteria present in “real” food that keeps our guts healthy. Foods that have been pressed, pulverized, processed, preserved and packaged before being frozen or put in a box or bag are going to lead to an imbalanced ecology in the gut. A growing body of research also indicates grains such as wheat might be culprits in the development of leaky gut because they contain substances that have been shown to damage the intestinal walls.
How do you know if you have leaky gut, dysbiosis or a healthy microbiome?
If you think you might have any of the many health issues that have been mentioned, it is extremely important to find a practitioner who doesn’t just look at basic lab work and use conventional therapies, but instead someone who looks to find and correct the underlying causes. At our practice, we offer various types of testing, such as food sensitivity and stool tests, to assist in determining if a patient’s problems could be stemming from the digestive system.
A food sensitivity test can tell us if you are reacting to foods you commonly eat. If you have leaky gut, undigested food can pass through the bloodstream, causing your immune system to release antibodies and “attack” these foods. This test gives us a good window into whether your immune system is in overdrive. If you react to certain foods, it doesn’t mean you’re allergic to them; it means the foods are where they aren’t supposed to be. Once your leaky gut is healed, you might be able to start eating these foods again.
We can also use a Comprehensive Stool Analysis to see if you have proper level of normal bacteria, dysbiosis, leaky gut, inflammation, viruses, parasites, worms and more. This test is much more sophisticated than the stool tests most gastroenterologists order – in fact, the results are four pages long! This stool test uses DNA analysis to detect pathogens and imbalances in the digestive system. Traditional testing, ordered by most gastroenterologists or primary care physicians, uses a microscopic and cultural evaluation to look and test for pathogens and imbalances, but can miss many of them simply because there aren’t any pathogens in the sample that was collected.
It's like calling the police to your house after a robbery. When they arrive, they look around, don't see anyone, and say, "Nothing is here, so I guess there was no robbery." The testing we use is comparable to the police coming in and dusting all the surfaces to look for DNA that was left behind by the thieves. The Comprehensive Stool Analysis has been shown to be much more sensitive than the older types of stool tests. I can personally tell you that I’ve had amazing results with patients after using these tests, even those who had multiple health conditions. I’ve seen patients not only improve their health, but lose weight, increase their energy and feel better than they have in years!
Correcting the cause
Lab testing can illuminate what it is you are truly dealing with. All too often patients come in after years of getting colonoscopies, endoscopies and basic stool tests, along with being prescribed antacids, antibiotics and other medications, with little to no answers or relief from their symptoms. As these conditions go untreated, people continue to suffer from chronic conditions such as frequent coughs, allergies, sinus infections, acne, hormonal issues, weight gain, headaches and migraines, anxiety, depression, autoimmune disease and much more – all stemming from their gut issues! However, when patients finally get the proper testing, they are able to at last see what is causing their health issues and determine the best course of treatment to help them get their lives back. (See the testimonials below!)
Our clinic is here to help end your suffering and put you on the road to wellness. So many of us turn to conventional medicine which just covers the problem and often doesn’t offer any real relief. Because medications fail to address the true causes of health issues, many people continue to suffer and in many cases their conditions worsen, leading to more serious problems.
So, where do I begin?
I recommend you consider an approach that tests for and looks to correct the underlying causes of your health problems. To get started, our clinic offers complimentary consultations. Call us today at 734-779-1650, or click below to request an appointment or take our online health evaluation to discover the causes of your health issues. We look forward to helping you be well again!
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Lauren was suffering from multiple digestive issues like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea that was so debilitating she was not able to travel or work to the degree she wanted to. She knew there was something deeper going on.
Fatigue, Sinus's, Digestive Issues and Brain fog were holding her back even though she thought she was doing everything right! Once she found the missing puzzle pieces she was able to get her health back.
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