What is dysbiosis? Dysbiosis is when harmful bacteria have overpowered your good bacteria, which can trigger bloating, depression, IBS, and eventually even cancer.
Dysbiosis can occur on your skin — that’s right, you have good bacteria living on your skin — in your mouth, in your vagina or rectum, or in your gut. Let’s focus on gut dysbiosis for now.
You can correct dysbiosis with the diet we reveal below. Your doctor may also recommend supplements or medication to help heal your gut dysbiosis.
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Dysbiosis: Definition & Common Symptoms
Dysbiosis refers to a bacterial (sometimes fungal) imbalance on or inside your body, such as in your gut flora.
This imbalance in your gut microbiota composition can result in various symptoms and complications.
The human body is estimated to host up to ten times more bacteria than it has human cells! These bacteria are necessary for digestion, immune function, disease prevention, and tissue repair, among many other roles
But if these gut microbes are damaged or thrown out of whack, harmful bacteria or yeast begins to colonize. This can cause chronic inflammation, depression, or even immune system dysfunction.
How long does it take to heal gut dysbiosis? At least a couple weeks of healthy diet changes are needed before gut dysbiosis will be healed. In some, two weeks and — snap — they’re healed. In others, it can take months of dietary correction, supplements, and/or medications to reverse gut dysbiosis permanently.
Can dysbiosis cause weight loss? No, dysbiosis typically causes weight gain. Dysbiosis messes up your metabolism and digestion, and both may lead to weight gain.
What are the common symptoms of dysbiosis?
- Upset stomach
- Increased body weight
- Bad breath
- Difficulty urinating
- Rectal or vaginal bleeding
- Metabolic dysfunction
- Autoimmune disease
Foods to Eat to Heal Dysbiosis
There are several diets that can correct gut issues, including the low-FODMAPs diet and the microbiome diet. Typical Western diets rely on sugars and processed foods, which can lead to gastrointestinal tract disorders such as dysbiosis. Join our online 6-week Elimination Diet to find the diet that works well for your body.
Whatever the diet, your functional doctor will ensure it gets your gut back into shape.
Low FODMAP Food
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These short-chain fatty acids and sugar alcohols can lead to dysbiosis.
- All non-processed meats, especially fish
- Fruits that are low in fructose (lemons, limes, strawberries, grapes, pineapple)
- Green beans
- Collard greens
- Green tea
- Almond milk
Prebiotics & Probiotics
We’ve got to be careful with dietary probiotics and prebiotics. Because they contain beneficial bacteria (probiotics) or are a precursor to the growth of beneficial bacteria (prebiotics), they tend to be fermentable carbs (FODMAPs).
But probiotics (such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) and prebiotics are known to improve gut health and restore that balance of good bacteria.
Here are the probiotics and prebiotics that you may be able to add to your diet without upsetting your gut dysbiosis:
- Goat’s yogurt or coconut yogurt (avoid cow’s milk)
- Soft cheeses (not ricotta)
- Miso (only organic)
- Flax seeds
- Unripe bananas or plantains
- Cocoa powder
- Inulin (a FODMAP, so consume with caution)
- Kefir (a FODMAP, so consume with caution)
- Kombucha (a FODMAP, so consume with caution)
Foods to Avoid to Heal Dysbiosis
Let’s break up the foods to avoid just like the foods to eat.
Avoid processed foods, fermentable carbs, and sugars. The list below will specify what sorts of foods to avoid.
- Most dairy products
- Fruits high in fructose (especially apples)
- Lima beans
- Baked beans
- Oolong tea, fennel tea, chamomile tea
- Microwave meals
- Deli meats
- Ice cream
- Potato chips
- French fries
- Breakfast cereal
- Canola oil
- Sugary drinks
- Candy bars
- Many condiments (like ketchup)
- Agave nectar
- Dried fruits
- Peanut Butter
- Salad dressings
6 Dysbiosis Supplements to Boost Nutrition
There are several health benefits to the following dietary supplements, but restoring gut bacteria and healing gut dysbiosis is a shared theme, and backed by research.
Always consult your doctor before taking up a new dietary supplement.
How Your Doctor Diagnoses Gut Dysbiosis
A dysbiosis diagnosis should not take long. Your doctor will talk to you about medical history and any symptoms of dysbiosis you have exhibited.
Your doctor will also ask if any of the risk factors for gut dysbiosis apply to you. Skip ahead two sections to learn more about the risk factors.
A functional doctor will probably ask about your family medical history as well. Your family history tells you a lot about what to expect in your own life, and how to prepare for it.
Here are four common dysbiosis tests:
- Urine test (measures your organic acids)
- Hydrogen breath test (tests for SIBO)
- Comprehensive digestive stool analysis
- Intestinal permeability test
Unlike conventional doctors, your functional doctor will emphasize your diet as a treatment for gut dysbiosis. Most conventional doctors unfortunately receive almost no nutrition training, which means they’re not always educated on the use of food as medicine to heal gut dysbiosis.
Medications & Other Treatments to Restore Gut Balance
Conventional doctors rely on pharmaceuticals to treat diseases.
Although PrimeHealth is a functional medicine practice, we do not discount the efficacy of certain medications. We simply do not rely on it — since diet and lifestyle changes do the trick without man-made chemicals and side effects.
Here are some antibiotic medications a doctor may prescribe you for gut dysbiosis:
- Metronidazole or Tinidazole
Really, these antibiotics treat the symptoms of dysbiosis while possibly killing beneficial bacteria in the process. But in extreme cases, a balance must be struck.
Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is another possible treatment for gut dysbiosis. Sounds gross, doesn’t it? But studies show that FMT can prevent dysbiosis in your digestive tract.
FMT is an experimental treatment right now, and it’s been surrounded by some controversy. However, it seems that this treatment may become more widespread as positive results are seen in human clinical trials.
Risk Factors for Gut Dysbiosis
Who is at risk of gut dysbiosis? The main risk factors are:
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), when excessive bacteria colonizes in your small intestine
- Antibiotic overuse, which can kill good bacteria with the bad
- New medication
- New diet, such as increased intake of sugar or processed foods
- Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage a day
- Poor dental hygiene
- Food poisoning
Complications of Gut Dysbiosis
Gut dysbiosis is connected by research to a surprising number of medical conditions. The following disorders are complications of gut dysbiosis if left untreated.
- Newformed allergies
- Celiac disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Candida (a type of yeast infection in the gut)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Leaky gut syndrome
Looking to the Future
Gut dysbiosis is very treatable. A dysbiosis diet should correct your gut issues for good, as long as you stick to those dietary changes.
— Medically reviewed by Soyona Rafatjah, MD. on May 26, 2020
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