We have over 500 species (strains) of beneficial bacteria in our body. We actually have more bacteria cells in our body than human cells! Most of these bacteria help us digest food and fight off pathogens. They also protect parts of our body from our own secretions (for example the intestinal membrane from caustic bile). Probiotics and prebiotics are substances which stimulate the growth of these microorganisms.
Dysbiosis, or disbacteriosis, refers to an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in (or on) the body, particularly in the digestive tract.
If, due to dysbiosis, we digest some foods incompletely, digestive distress and inflammation will result. Left untreated, the problem can develop into serious digestive distress and a generally compromised immune system.
Common causes of dysbiosis
Common causes of bacterial imbalance include antibiotics (even ingested many years previously or indirectly consumed through meat and dairy), insecticides, excess sugar or caffeine intake, nutritional deficiencies, parasites, an absence of fermented foods in the diet, alcohol misuse, and over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofin, and antacids.
Possible effects of dysbiosis
Dysbiosis can cause food sensitivities. The resulting inflamed intestinal membrane allows incompletely digested protein strands to leak into the bloodstream. The body perceives these strands as foreign substances and attacks them. This repeated effort of the immune system over time can weaken the general immune response. Dysbiosis also leads to yeast overgrowth, toxic overload and nutritional depletion. These problems can result in many health complaints including abdominal pain and bloating, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), diarrhea, frequent flus and colds, sinus infections, and chronic fatigue.
How to heal
Complete recovery might take 9–12 months. I design individual programs best suited to each person’s needs and life style. In addition to acupuncture, this might include:
- Eliminating foods you are sensitive to. (You will be able to slowly reincorporate them.)
- Incorporating fermented foods into your diet.
- Taking food supplements such as prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes.
- Using soothing herbs such as okra, marshmallow and slippery elm to heal the gut lining.
- Minimizing sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, anti-inflammatories.
- Eating smaller meals, chewing thoroughly, and not combining caffeine with meals.
- I also offer an easy to do, high quality 3-week cleanse, which is highly recommended to clear the liver and digestive tract of toxins. This helps jump start the healing process.
As a society, we have moved away from including fermented foods in our diet. Fermented food provide essential probiotics and digestive enzymes. Here are many fermented foods which contain viable (live) bacteria. Including them in your diet will help maintain optimum intestinal flora.
- craft beer (“bottle conditioned” and unpasteurized)
- pickles (brine-cured, without vinegar)
- soy sauce (Look for “fermented” or “traditional brewed” on the label)