Is Your Gut Bacteria Making You Sick?
Gut bacteria also referred to as gut flora or gut microbiota refers to the trillions of microbes that call your digestive tract home. In healthy individuals, beneficial strains far out number any troublesome neighbours, leading to longevity, protection against chronic diseases and a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately in today’s world of overuse in antibiotics, refined carbohydrate diets and a kitchen far far away from the farm in which food are grown, our inner bacteria is at risk of being overtaken by some less than ideal inhabitants. These harmful bacteria have been linked to so many different conditions including obesity, stomach ulcers, particular cancers, diabetes, eczema, impaired immune systems, ADHD, anxiety and depression.
Since we discovered the wonderful inner world of gut bacteria, we have been studying them intensely to see what bacteria is found in healthy people and which tend to be seen in people with a range of illnesses and diseases. This data has gone on to create a list of beneficial and harmful bacteria. This can be tested easily with a stool sample sent to the laboratory.
So how can we tell what bacteria we are housing?
An overgrowth of harmful bacteria leads to a range of changes and symptoms, but let’s go through some of the most obvious ones.
1. Digestive Changes
When harmful bacteria take over, one of the most obvious signs is a change in your normal digestive symptoms:
- Constipation or diarrhoea
Perhaps you are running to the toilet more often, or going days before you need to. Reflux, heartburn and burping can begin due to the bacteria activity as well as gas from the other end. One of the most common is bloating, and that can be above the belly button in the small intestines or lower in the large intestines as the bacteria’s presence leads to rotting of dietary fibres and lots of stinky gas can be produced
2. Mental Health and Energy
That constant activity in your intestines leads to overly activated nerves that live along the intestinal wall. Add to this new research showing that the microbes in our gut contribute to our serotonin levels , and abnormal bacteria levels in those with mental health conditions and you are starting to see how these little critters can have such an impact on your mental health and energy levels. Gut bacteria over-growths have been linked to:
- Brain fog
If you are experiencing these conditions, an investigation into your bacteria levels is wise
3. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Whilst digestive symptoms, mental health conditions and energy levels are hard to document, most vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. But what often happens is that the person presents with a lack of a particular vitamin or mineral, regardless of what they are eating. We often think that the food we eat, is now inside of us, but if it comes into contact with a battle ground of bacteria at the intestinal wall, it may not be absorbed. Alternatively, the bacteria that exists in the intestines can also eat the broke down vitamins and minerals before it gets a chance to cross over the intestinal wall into the blood stream. Common gut bacteria related deficiencies include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B12
If you’ve been told you are low on the above vitamin and minerals, maybe it is time to look at what’s happening in the gut
4. Antibiotic and Certain Medications
Many advances in medicine have saved millions of lives, and antibiotics is one of these. However, they are not designed to be used as a prevention of infections, nor are they suitable for viral infections such as a common cold. In fact the over use of antibiotics has been the suggested reason as to the rise in auto-immune diseases. As a general rule, keep antibiotics for use inside of hospitals
Whilst antibiotics are effective against nasty infections, they also wipe out the colonies of beneficial bacteria that live happily in our gut. Even just one round of antibiotics can leave you exposed to have other harmful bacteria take over, that’s why you should see your health practitioner or naturopath if you are taking antibiotics, so together we can replenish the happy populations.
5. Chronic Stress
Just as bacteria in the digestive system can negatively affect the nervous system, it can also go the other way, with stress causing changes in the gut that promotes harmful bacteria. There are many pathways that link your gut with your brain and vice versa, so they are in constant communication. But when the workload of the brain is high, communication because lost, leading to constipation and other gut issues. Stress reactions raise cortisol and adrenaline, both of which are pro-inflammation and encourage digestive issues.
6. Skin Issues
Our liver is our number #1 go to when it comes to detoxifying our bodies, working to breakdown by products from normal cellular function and eliminating these via the large intestines. What most don’t know, if this pathway is compromised by a bacterial overgrowth, the skin takes over the detox job, pushing toxins out via the skin. Skin conditions that are linked to gut bacteria include acne, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. Your skin acts like a window, showing the effects of the external world as well as irritants on the other side of the glass – your gut. If your struggling with your skin, perhaps it’s time to look inside
7. Autoimmune Diseases
Your cells have little markers on their wall, letting our immune cells (white blood cells) know that we are part of the team. In auto-immune conditions, their is a communication meltdown, and white blood cells start attacking our own cells, thinking they are invading cells. Conditions that have this occurring are known as auto immune and include:
- Thyroid problems
- Some types of arthritis
- Coeliac disease
- Hair loss – alopecia
- Diabetes – type 1
- Multiple sclerosis
Changes in bacteria has been linked to abnormal digestion, perhaps because 70% of your immune system lives along the wall of the intestines, regulating what is coming in and out of the intestines and blood stream. Harmful bacteria over-growths in the intestines changes the function of the immune system and can lead to auto immune conditions and treatment should include gut bacteria
Think you may have a problem with your gut bacteria?
Book an appointment with Carly, the Naturopath Melbourne CBD to start a fixing your gut bacteria.