Written by Dr. Nicole McCulloch, ND
Our digestive system harbours many different bacteria in order to help with digestion and to aid the immune system. It is important that we have the right amount and the right type of bacteria present in the digestive tract in order to maintain health. However it is very common for a ‘dysbiosis’ to occur, meaning that there is an imbalance between the amount of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ bacteria present. This condition is becoming exceedingly more common due to the Standard North American diet which emphasizes processed foods, excess sugar and refined carbohydrates. As well, the use of antibiotics can also alter the balance in the digestive tract leaving one more likely to develop a dysbiosis. The symptoms of dysbiosis often include:
- Gas, bloating, belching
- Constipation, diarrhea
- Indigestion, heartburn
- Undigested food in the stool
- Fatigue, lack of energy
Many people disregard the symptoms of dysbiosis as mild and do not address them, but if left untreated it can progress to a more serious condition known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This condition occurs when there is an increase in inflammation in the lining of the gut which can lead to the development of the ‘leaky gut’. In healthy individuals the lining of the gut serves as a barrier that allows only nutrients, proteins, fats and carbohydrates to enter the bloodstream, leaving the toxins, bacteria and larger molecules to be excreted in the stool. However, when the gut is leaky, these larger molecules are able to seep into the bloodstream and can cause significant irritation and inflammation in the body. In addition to dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome may develop secondary to other conditions such as food allergies, stress, low stomach acid, candida overgrowth, celiac’s disease just to name a few. Several different health conditions have been associated with leaky gut syndrome including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- Skin conditions: eczema, hives, psoriasis, acne, dermatitis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Insomnia, or mood swings
- Food allergies
Many individuals suffering with the symptoms of dybiosis or leaky gut syndrome can benefit from healing the inflammation in the digestive tract. This is done by re-establishing the proper balance of bacteria in the digestive tract through the use of various strains of probiotic supplementation as well as by avoiding any food that may be contributing to the inflammation. Identifying the foods that are contributing to inflammation can be achieved by laboratory testing (Food Allergy Testing- IgG) used to identify your unique food intolerances. Once identified, following a unique dietary plan designed around your intolerances aimed at decreasing the inflammation in the gut is a very important part of treatment. In addition to food avoidance, the gut can be healed by using many different herbs, nutrients or other natural agents to help soothe the lining and promote healing, thereby reversing the symptoms.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms or conditions above or feel that you may benefit from seeing a Naturopathic Doctor, call the clinic to set up your appointment today (905)239-3900.