[Article updated on 19/09/2023]
Intestinal dysbiosis is a disorder of the bacterial flora of the digestive tract. The causes of the disease include chronic stress, poor diet, as well as unjustified use of antibiotics and stimulants (alcohol). Symptoms of gut dysbiosis include abdominal pain, bloating, loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation. Probiotics, along with a proper diet are used to treat diseased intestines. Dysbiosis can lead to more serious conditions, such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
Before reading on
I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.
The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.
What is intestinal dysbiosis?
Located in a confined space in the body, the human digestive tract plays a key role in the absorption of nutrients taken in the form of food. But this is not its only role. Most of the lymphatic tissue is found in the digestive system. However, lymphocytes are responsible for our body’s immunity.
The intestinal flora is therefore responsible for protection against pathogens. These microorganisms harmful to humans can also enter our body through food. Substances present in our medicines can also have a negative effect on the intestinal microflora, leading to a reduction in the number of bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus. These bacteria live in the digestive tract and have protective functions.
A shortage of these valuable bacteria leads to dysregulation of the intestinal flora and, consequently, intestinal dysbiosis. Dysbiosis occurs periodically in many people. However, it can be very annoying and difficult to regulate.
Causes of intestinal dysbiosis
Many factors can affect the occurrence of intestinal dysbiosis.
The most common causes of intestinal dysbiosis are long-term antibiotic therapy and poor diet.
Antibiotics help us fight harmful pathogens, but they also destroy beneficial gut bacteria that support immunity. Proton pump inhibitors, i.e. heartburn medications and painkillers, also have a destructive effect on the intestinal flora.
The bacteria present in the intestinal mucosa are valuable because they:
- help in the digestion process;
- facilitate the formation of the necessary vitamins;
- serve as a protective shield for the intestinal epithelium against pathogenic substances;
- neutralize toxins
- support the action of drugs
- improve the functioning of the immune system in the intestinal mucosa.
Most often, the causes of dysbiosis are multiple and long-term antibiotic therapy is the last step leading to intestinal dysbiosis. Intestines without beneficial bacteria are unable to properly perform their immune function. To support their work, probiotic treatment (probiotic therapy) must be applied.
Malnutrition can also contribute to dysbiosis. Low dietary fiber intake, excessive consumption of highly processed products, excessive alcohol consumption, and low water intake can seriously harm the gut microbiota. A stressful lifestyle and environmental pollution also affect the intestinal microflora.
Probiotics help replenish the intestinal microflora destroyed by antibiotics. They provide the body with good bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These help restore the proper functioning of the digestive system.
Symptoms of gut dysbiosis include:
- stomach pain and flatulence;
- diarrhea or constipation;
- changes in stool consistency;
- growth retardation;
- lack of appetite;
- stomach pains.
The symptoms are so bothersome that they cannot be ignored. Untreated dysbiosis can develop into more serious diseases such as infections, gastrointestinal diseases, as well as chronic diseases of the liver, kidneys, skin and respiratory system. If poorly treated, the disease can also lead to immune system disorders such as celiac disease, food intolerances, rheumatoid arthritis and recurrent infections.
After suspecting the possible existence of intestinal dysbiosis, a stool analysis and stool culture should be performed. The groups of microorganisms must be quantified:
- Normal resident flora: E. coli, Enterococcus sp. Lactobacillus sp., Bifidobacterium sp., Bacteroides sp. among others;
- Passenger microorganisms: Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas sp, Staphilococcus sp. Streptococcus sp., lactose negative E. coli…
- Enteropathogenic flora: Salmonella sp, Yersinia sp…
- Yeasts: Candida sp.;
- Molds: Aspergillus sp.;
- Parasites and viruses when we suspect more advanced dysbiosis.
Stools are considered normal if they have optimal concentrations of the following microorganisms:
- Enterococcus sp;
- Lactobacillus sp;
- Bacteroides sp. and Prevotella sp.
After making the definitive diagnosis of intestinal dysbiosis, the treatment will fundamentally aim to rebalance the intestinal flora. This will create the best conditions to normalize intestinal permeability, motility, metabolism and other intestinal functions. A natural way to achieve balance is through the administration of probiotics.
Probiotics are (most commonly) oral agents that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Introduced into the intestines, they help to colonize them again with beneficial microorganisms and therefore protect them from pathogenic invaders. When choosing an oral probiotic, you should check whether it contains live bacterial cultures. Probiotics are completely safe for your health. The advantage of oral probiotic preparations is undoubtedly the fact that they can be used during antibiotic therapy.
How to prevent intestinal dysbiosis?
To prevent intestinal dysbiosis, you should favor foods of plant origin. We must ensure that our diet is mainly composed of fruits and vegetables, legumes, natural dried fruits, whole grains, tubers and seeds. It’s one of the best ways to take care of our microbiota.
On the other hand, we must limit the consumption of proteins of animal origin. You should get all your protein from plant-based foods. However, if you also want to consume proteins of animal origin, this should be done in particular moderation. The best options are small blue fish, and organic eggs. Processed red meat should be avoided or limited as much as possible.
Eat good quality fat. Extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocados and oilseeds (flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower) have an excellent lipid profile. In addition, they are foods rich in polyphenols, which have a beneficial effect on our microbiota. Nuts, for example, especially almonds and pistachios, exert a powerful prebiotic action. In addition, it seems that their consumption increases the presence of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in our intestinal microbiota.
Cook food in a healthy way. Steaming, blanching, sautéing, and stewing over low heat are the best options. This way we will better benefit from the phytochemicals present in vegetables.
Avoid stress, tobacco, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle. The habitual practice of physical exercise has a positive influence on our intestinal microbiota. Which is one more reason to practice physical activity.