Within our body dwells a vast garden of microorganisms. Billions of bacteria live in the mucous membranes of our gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria species have evolved with us and play an essential role in our wellbeing.
Research is rapidly expanding in the area of gut bacteria (also called the microbiome). Microbiologists, neurologists, immunologists and nutritionists are learning more about the benefits and the varieties of gut bacteria. It is now believed that a healthy microbiome is important for nearly all aspects of our health.
Gut bacteria directly interact with the food we've eaten by fermenting and breaking down the fibres that we find indigestible. It's during process that bacteria make additional nutrients to benefit our metabolism and our wellbeing. Researchers believe that our microbiome should be viewed as a vital organ in our body.
The types and numbers of bacteria in our gut can affect our mood, our energy, weight, our ability to think clearly, our immune system, skin and joints, and our feeling of wellbeing. When the balance of bacterial species in our gut is disrupted, we refer to it as dysbiosis.
How does dysbiosis occur?
Imbalances in gut bacteria most often occur over a long period of time due to a limited diet. A diet low in fruit and vegetables will result in a reduced number and variety of bacterial species. Our gut bacteria thrive on a diet of fibrous beans, fruits, vegetables and grains.
If you've ever cleared plants out of your garden you will know that a thick carpet of weeds will quickly take over. This same thing happens in the gut, where unfriendly bacteria will quickly colonise and multiply if healthy bacteria vacate the area.
Antibiotics, some medications, laxatives, sweeteners and other additives in processed food, gut infections, stress, restrictive diets, constipation or diarrhoea can all be harmful to our microbiome.
What impact can dysbiosis have on my health?
The most common way for people to experience gut dysbiosis is via digestive problems. Gut symptoms such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence may be linked to dysbiosis. These symptoms could be caused by a variety of other conditions too, so it's always advisable to seek the advice of an experienced health practitioner.
Dysbiosis can be responsible for a range of conditions throughout the body. We rely on bacteria to make important vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids and neurotransmitters for our physical and mental wellbeing.
The type of bacterial species we have in our gut can affect our insulin sensitivity, the way we metabolise fats, inflammatory conditions, skin conditions and our immune response.
Re-establishing a healthy microbiome
Herbal medicine, food choices and probiotics all have a role to play in healing from dysbiosis.
Every meal you consume is an opportunity to improve the health of your gut bacteria, by feeding them with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, beans and grains, herbs and spices.
The great news is that changes to gut bacteria are measurable within days of dietary changes. You can literally improve your microbiome with every meal.
A naturopath or herbalist can recommend a herbal remedy specific to you and your particular health concerns. This plant based medicine can help to heal the gut, improve digestive function, reduce inflammation and balance gut species.
Probiotics have also been shown to be of some benefit and this should also be prescribed for you to make sure you're taking the probiotic with the best mix of bacteria for your gut.
Taking care of the bacteria in your gut is a fantastic way to improve your health. I have put together a Digestive Health Reset to help you make the changes that will benefit your microbiome and improve your overall feeling of wellbeing.
I am a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and certified wellness coach with clinics in Gladesville and Surry Hills, Sydney.
This blog contains information from my Bachelor of Health Science degree, continuing research, and from experience gained from working with men and women in my clinics.
The blog is not intended as individual health advice and you should seek assistance for medical conditions.