Good gut health is more important than you know. Keeping your microbiome healthy has implications for your entire body. Dysbiosis in your gut can lead to uncomfortable conditions such as a leaky gut, IBS, SIBO/BOSI, as well as food sensitivities and allergies. Keeping an eye out for the common symptoms of gut problems will help you identify a problem quickly so you can get help returning to good health!
Good Gut Health
What Is the Gut, Exactly?
The area that we are referring to when we talk about the gut and gastrointestinal tract is a complex system made up of our intestines, colon, stomach, esophagus, and billions of bacteria that live mainly in the colon. We call this bacterial home the ‘microbiome’ because it is its own incredibly diverse and symbiotic ecosystem.
What Does the Gut Do?
A healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract manages the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients from the foods we eat. It also plays an important part in ridding our bodies of toxins and keeping our immune system healthy. As we discover more about the ways in which our gut interacts with the rest of our body, we will likely find that our microbiome influences a wide range of our bodily functions and defenses.
We are learning more every day about the microbiome and all of the diverse ways in which it affects our health. You will probably be unsurprised to find that good gut health is important to prevent problems such as leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, colon cancer, constipation, and diarrhea. However, we are also finding that the gut may greatly impact other areas of health, such as food sensitivities and allergies, asthma, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, mental health, and Type 2 Diabetes.
What Is Gut Dysbiosis?
Gut dysbiosis refers to a microbial imbalance in the GI tract, where the microbiota become unbalanced. When there a diverse range of bacteria all in balance with each other, and none gaining the upper hand, you have a healthy gut. When certain bacteria start to take over, perhaps because of the extinction or weakening of another bacteria, an imbalance occurs. This can happen for any number of reasons, including diet and lifestyle factors and anti-biotic usage.
This condition is usually fairly easy to treat and often does not cause severe discomfort. If left untreated, however, this condition can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, food sensitivities and allergies, and many more serious gut diseases. It is important to see your doctor if something doesn’t feel right.
Symptoms of gut dysbiosis include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Bad breath
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty urinating
Usually, your doctor will ask for a urine or stool sample. These samples will be sent to the lab to get an idea of what bacteria are currently thriving in your gut. Another newer option is to take a hydrogen breath test. This works by breathing into a special balloon which can test for gases produced by certain bacterias.
What Is a Leaky Gut?
If you have a leaky gut, your intestines are actually leaking material into parts of your body where they shouldn’t go. the walls have become loosened and permeable, allowing the leakage of material. If intestinal bacteria, toxins, or food particles enter your bloodstream, many health problems can follow.
Symptoms may include:
- Chronic constipation, diarrhea, and bloating
- Skin problems
- Joint pain
- Nutritional deficiencies
What Is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS occurs when the colon/large intestine is contracting more or less often than it should. This is a chronic condition that causes discomfort for patients who suffer from it and needs to be managed over the long term. It may be necessary to make changes in your diet and lifestyle in order to manage the condition. Some patients will also benefit from taking medications.
Symptoms may include:
- Adominal pain
- Excess gas
- Fluctuating between constipation and diarrhea
- Change in bowel habits
Irritable bowel syndrome is a little harder to diagnose with certainty than some other conditions. Your doctor may conduct a variety of tests, as well as work to eliminate other possible causes of the symptoms you are experiencing.
What Is SIBO/BOSI?
When we talk about SIBO/BOSI, we are talking about Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth or Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine. They mean the same thing, and your doctor may use either term. It really just means that some bacteria have overgrown their healthy habitat and are encroaching into an area that they shouldn’t. This can cause some discomfort and inhibits your ability to absorb nutrients normally.
While having a healthy colony of bacteria is normal, and beneficial, in your large intestine (colon), the same is not true for the small intestine. Usually, this area is kept fairly free of bacterial habitation due to gastric acid secretions which sterilize the area periodically. If the body decreases the acidity of these secretions, the area may become habitable for bacteria from the large intestine, and you may develop this condition.
It Can Be Hard to Detect
Over half of patients who are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome are also diagnosed with SIBO/BOSI. The two often go hand in hand. Unlike IBS, however, the symptoms may be less obvious. Though it can cause similar symptoms to IBS, it also may not cause such a noticeable level of discomfort. Even if you only have mild symptoms, if they persist over many months, you should consider being tested.
Symptoms of a less obvious SIBO/BOSI may include:
- nutrient deficiency
Though it can be harder to notice that there is a problem, this disorder is actually very easy to test for. A modern, convenient, and fast method is the non-invasive hydrogen breath test. Because your gastrointestinal tract connects all the way up through your esophagus to your mouth, with cutting-edge technology we are able to get a glimpse of what is happening in your gut with this simple method. If only all medical tests were this easy!
Where Do Food Sensitivities and Allergies Fit In?
Dysbiosis has been shown to occur prior to the onset of new food sensitivities and allergies. This has caused scientists to theorize that a healthy microbiome protects us from allergies or conversely that an unhealthy microbiome can cause allergies to occur. Either way, the microbiome of a person with food allergies is strikingly different from that of a healthy person without allergies.
Healthy Guts Make Happy Patients
We know that a healthy GI tract isn’t always the first thing people think about concerning their health. That doesn’t mean that good gut health isn’t important. Influencing everything from your daily movements to adult-onset food allergies, a healthy gut makes for a happy patient.