Bacteria are everywhere. There are millions of bacteria on your body that are collectively called microbiota. You may not know this but these bacteria have a highly positive role in your health. They are even a part of your natural defense system.
The problem only arises when this bacterial load goes out of the hands. When these bacterial colonies grow enormously, it leads to a health condition called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis shows up when your gastrointestinal (GI) tract including stomach and intestine are affected by bacterial growths.
You may feel that your stomach is upset. It could be temporary and mild at the start but has a tendency to go worse. At earliest stages, you can even treat dysbiosis with correcting the natural balance of bacteria. But if your symptoms become serious, you need to see the doctor as soon as possible.
Read the article below to know what can cause dysbiosis, how to identify the symptoms, and what to do for treating and preventing this condition.
What causes dysbiosis?
As already mentioned, any imbalance of natural microbiota of the body can cause dysbiosis. It happens inside your GI tract, so any of the following can be a reason of dysbiosis.
- A sudden dietary change that has a high amount of protein, sugar, or food additives.
- An accidental chemical consumption i.e. pesticides on unwashed fruit or vegetable.
- Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
- Trying any new medicine, for example, any antibiotic that typically affects your gut microbiota.
- A case of poor dental hygiene, which causes abnormal growth of bacteria in your mouth, making its way to your gut.
- Suffering from extreme levels of stress or anxiety, it typically weakens the immunity and affects the whole body.
- Following unprotected sex making your body exposed to harmful bacteria.
Dysbiosis is not always a problem of the gut. It is also common to have it on your skin. This way it has abnormally growing harmful bacteria on your skin, causing dysbiosis. One of the leading bacteria causing dysbiosis of skin is called Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Sometimes its growth can go beyond normal and causes an infection. Another example is Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria that may overtake healthy bacteria in the vagina of women. It causes vaginal burning, itching, and sometimes discharge.
What are the common symptoms of dysbiosis?
The symptoms of dysbiosis depend on which area of your body is affected by it. The symptoms also vary on the basis of bacteria that are causing dysbiosis. Not all bacteria show up in the same way when you are infected.
Some of the most common symptoms of dysbiosis are as follows.
- Having a bad breath (medically called halitosis)
- An upset stomach
- Feeling nausea or vomiting
- Having constipation
- feeling difficulty while urinating
- feeling itching in vagina or anus
- bloated feeling
- pain in chest
- rash or redness of the skin
- stress and fatigue
- feeling difficulty in concentration
How to diagnose dysbiosis?
You may not be able to self-diagnose dysbiosis. It is impossible to see or guess an abnormal growth of bacteria on or inside your body. The only way to diagnose dysbiosis is by focusing on symptoms.
If you happen to consult a medical professional, he will ask you about your medical history. After analyzing the history, lifestyle, habits, and symptoms, he may be able to diagnose if you have dysbiosis or not.
Following are some of the tests which confirm dysbiosis.
- Organic acids test
This is a urine test for which you will give a sample of your urine to a laboratory. The lab technologists will asses it for certain acids that are normally produced by the bacteria. If these acids show up in your urine sample with abnormal levels, it indicates that bacterial growth is out of the hands. Hence you are suffering from dysbiosis.
- Comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA)
The doctor may also recommend you to take a poop test. He will make you take home special equipment for obtaining a sample of your poop. You will bring this sample to the doctor or technician for the test.
The technician will check it for the growth of harmful bacteria, yeasts, or fungi. The final results will indicate if there are abnormal levels of any microbe in your body or not.
- Hydrogen breath test
This is a simple test in which your doctor will make you drink a sugar solution. You will be asked to breathe into a special balloon. This air in the balloon will be further used for the gases that bacteria normally produce. Too much or too little quantity of specific gases will tell that there is a bacterial imbalance in your body. This test is common for checking intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
In case of skin, the doctor may also recommend going for a biopsy. The sample for biopsy will be taken from the area that is suspected of the bacterial growth causing infection.
Is there a treatment for dysbiosis?
There are a number of options that may help you to restore the natural balance of bacterial strains. However, it is not recommended to try these medicines by you. Your doctor will prescribe the most suitable medicines for you. These medicines could by from any of the following.
- Ciprofloxacin (commercially called Cipro) it is an antibiotic that helps to overcome the gut infections caused by dysbiosis.
- Rifaximin (commonly called Xifaxan) it is also an antibiotic that is used to treat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It is a condition that typically correlates with dysbiosis.
- Co-trimoxazole (commonly called Septrin) it is antibiotic that treats gut and urinary tract infections. Most of these infections result from dysbiosis
Do you need to change your diet to treat dysbiosis?
Diet is only one cause out of many causes of dysbiosis. If it is only the diet that is causing this bacterial imbalance, your doctor may also ask you to follow a particular nutritional plan.
This plan will be based on foods that provide you sufficient nutrients to keep bacteria in balance. Some of these nutrients are as follows.
- B-complex vitamins (Vitamin B6 and B12)
Not just this, you will be also asked to leave a few things that have a high quantity of certain nutrients that are not suitable for you.
The good foods that you must include in your diet can be anything from the following list.
- Thick leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
- All types of fish, including salmon and mackerel
- Only fresh meats
- Avoid processed meat and its products
Foods that your doctor may ask you to leave could be anything such as.
- Processed meats and its products
- Carbohydrates i.e. in corn, oats, bread etc
- A few types of fruits, i.e. bananas, apples, and grapes
- Dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese
- Foods with high sugar content i.e. corn syrup, maple syrup, and raw cane sugar
The doctor may also recommend you to take pre-biotics and probiotics. They will help to make your gut healthy and balance in bacterial load. These are in forms of supplements that have certain bacterial cultures in them. When you ingest these supplements, they will promote the growth of healthy bacteria.
You can talk to your doctor about taking these supplements. Certain practices such as exercise, meditation and yoga can also help your body to absorb the nutrients. These practices also improve the blood circulation to the brain and body. It is also helpful in reducing stress. All these collectively help to reduce the symptoms of dysbiosis.
What are the future complications of it?
If you get a treatment for dysbiosis on time, there are fewer chances to develop any complications for future. If you left it untreated and unattended, it may lead to any of the following.
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Candida infection
- Celiac disease
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Weight gain and obesity
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Liver problems
- Heart failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Colon cancer
Tips on how to prevent dysbiosis
You can always follow the preventive measures for reducing the risk of dysbiosis. There are certain lifestyle changes that may help you to maintain the bacterial balance and in this way prevents all types of bacterial overgrowth.
On the safe side, you should do the following.
- Do not take unnecessary medication especially antibiotics.
- Always ask your doctor before using pre-biotics or probiotics.
- Control your alcohol consumption.
- Take care of your dental hygiene.
- Practice safe sex.