Dysbiosis ( dis-bye-os’-is) is a terrible sounding word but it is one which we in medicine are seeing more and more. It means that the bacterial mix in the colon is just plain bad. It is very important to know that this bacterial mix in the large bowel is dramatically important to good health. We now know that the colon is an important health organ. There are over 2000 species of bacteria there and the total bacterial count is trillions upon trillions. They are intimately tied into good health providing calcium absorption and strong bones, enhanced immunity, bowel regularity, fewer calories, and many other benefits.
When the bowel pattern shifts to a bad balance of bacteria, it is called dysbiosis. Who has dysbiosis? For starters here are the conditions where dysbiosis is found:
- Diabetes type 2
- Fatty liver disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Crohns Disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Celiac disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- High saturated fat diet
- Frequent antibiotic use
We suspect that this bad bacterial balance makes these conditions worse. It is also possible that it is just the result of the underlying condition. It is likely a bit of both. What we do know is that dysbiosis can be changed back to a beneficial bowel pattern, one that is much healthier for the bowel and the person who carries this particular colon.
So, what to do?
- Prebiotics in the diet. These healthy plant fibers found in many foods stimulate the very best bacteria to grow abundantly in the colon.
- Low saturated fat diet. This means moving away from a high saturated fat and animal meat diet to one that is more plant based.
- Antibiotic avoidance to the extent possible. Antibiotics are enormously destructive to healthy colon bacteria. Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. Use a prebiotic after their use to encourage a return to a healthy colon.
- Avoid animal foods where antibiotics have been used to encourage the animal’s growth. Most stores now sell these healthier foods. Ask for them. Even small doses left in meat can get into your system and have an adverse effect on the gut.
- Avoid bowel or colon cleanses. These can not help and they will get rid of many good bacteria.
- If you have a medical problem, use prebiotics under your physician’s care.
Diet and prebiotics likely can help. Select prebiotic rich foods where possible and consider a supplement where needed. A prebiotic rich dietary program is the key. Learn which foods are rich in them. If you are not getting enough on a regular basis, consider a supplement.
Wishing you the best in digestive health.
Frank W Jackson MD
Jackson GI Medical