Dysbiosis ( diss-bee-OH-sis) means something is out of balance, or not in harmony. When the gut is troubled by dysbiosis, internal organ systems don’t work at peak performance. Fame, fortune, good looks and sweet disposition be damned; if your digestive system AKA your gut isn’t happy, nothing’s gonna work right, including your brain. Imagine the gut as the body’s maternal guiding light. When you disappoint your gut through disrespect and neglect, you’re gonna feel it – maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day soon, and ooh, it might get ugly. See, the gut is the body’s equivalent of Big Momma: big (the size of a tennis court, I’m not kidding), unpredictable (when unhappy, has been known to pistol whip its victim into submission), and hard to please.
Hard to Please? You decided to give up white bread and go for the whole wheat, or eat a big bowl of steel cut oatmeal for breakfast instead of biscuits and gravy – and now you feel like crap! Your joints hurt, and you have chronic fatigue, alternating diarrhea and constipation, and mood swings. Well, you might be gluten-intolerant, meaning you’re sensitive to wheat, rye, and barley. Don’t get excited - switching back to biscuits and gravy isn’t the answer. Make an appointment with a holistic nutrition counselor, or a naturopathic doctor, for advice and support. Unfortunately, your regular medical doctor took only three hours of nutrition in medical school, and isn’t hip to the science of nutrition. Not to worry, the traditional medical community will catch up in a few years, but most aren’t there yet. How much longer are you willing to wait for answers? Go here www.celiaccentral.org to learn more about Celiac disease, and here www.gluten.net to learn more about gluten intolerance.
What about fruit? You’re proud of yourself for switching from your favorite Little Debbie snack cake to a bowl of fresh fruit for your after-dinner dessert, but now you suffer from bloating, intestinal gas, and cramps. Shoot, you felt better when you ate cake and ice cream. Do you go back? No. (Stop whining; of course you can eat cake – best quality, homemade, occasionally.) This one’s kind of easy to figure out. See, fruit is impatient; it wants to get on with the show, play out in the first act, and make a quick exit. When fruit sits on top of a heavy meal, it’s gonna complain because somebody messed with its script. Look at it this way: if fruit is your dessert, definitely eat dessert first!
Are you SAD? For those of us who follow a Standard American Diet AKA SAD, these aforementioned symptoms are nothing new. If your diet has been nutritionally void for years (nabs and diet drinks for breakfast, fast food lunches, and micro-waved something for dinner), then joint pain, gas, bloat, constipation, etc. are likely your most constant companions - just another part of daily life, just another sign we’re getting old. That’s why God made Prilosec and Ibuprofen, right? Unfortunately, dysbiosis isn’t cured, or managed very well, through the miracle of modern medicine. Dysbiosis turns to symbiosis (harmony) through personal effort and lifestyle modification – and the treatment is free and available to everyone, regardless of age, sex, and race. Read a more detailed explanation of SAD here: http://www.naturalnews.com/022331_food_American_diet_standard_american_diet.html
Fermentation Dysbiosis If you suffer from fermentation dysbiosis, carbohydrates are the enemy because your body can’t digest them properly. Main culprits include sugars, fruit, beer, wine, grains, and fiber; these carbs create the perfect environment for a Candida fungi take-over. There’s a war going on - not only in your gut, but also in your nervous system, sex organs, toenails, and eyeballs. Candida in small amounts is normal, but an overgrowth is harder to kill than a yard full of crabgrass; the good news is, Candida can be put in its place. But, you have to make peace with Big Momma to balance, to make it right.
Probiotics A person suffering from fermentation dysbiosis (actually, all dysbiosis) must make several dietary changes if they want to be well. Increasing healthy gut flora through the use of daily probiotics is essential; supplementing with at least five to ten billion live organisms daily is a good place to start. To learn more about probiotics, go here www.womentowomen.com/digestionandgihealth/probiotics.aspx - great info, and you don't have to be a woman to visit. To insure the success of probiotics, it is helpful - and necessary - to completely eliminate all sugar, fruit, alcohol, and grain from the diet for at least three weeks. Three weeks without Mountain Dew might be akin to asking you to sleep on a bed of nails or self-flagellate. Good news: it’s up to you! You get to choose, you’re in control; how well do you want to be? You can manage your health on a good, better, best scale, kinda like buying a garden hose from Lowe’s. If suffering through some gut distress occasionally is no big deal for you, good. But if dysbiosis is getting you down, and you’re tired of dinking around with your health, you’ll want the best.
Shake it, baby! Increasing protein in the diet may help stave off cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods. A great way for fermentation dysbiosis sufferers to start the day is to drink a fruitless whey protein shake (for recipe, see "don't feel like eating breakfast?" post.)
Case Study A client of mine (let’s call her Sophia), was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of eighteen and is now 54 years old. She’s taken many prescription medications throughout the years to no avail; not one doctor ever recommended probiotics, or advised dietary changes to support increased gut vitality. Sophia added probiotics to her diet in March 2009, decreased her junk food intake, added 5 servings of fresh vegetables to her daily diet, and dropped over twenty pounds in four months. Despite the positive results from making a few key lifestyle adjustments, Sophia’s still resistant because "all this nutrition stuff is weird; probiotics must not be important," she says, "if my doctor hasn’t recommended them." She also drinks pasteurized orange juice for breakfast almost every morning on an empty stomach, and refuses it give it up. Sophia has a chronic fungal infection under her toenails, and sometimes emits a yeasty, moldy odor. This is what good’s gotten Sophia; she might want to step up her game to better, then to best.
Dr. Liz Lipski, Digestive Wellness
Dr. Michael Murray, Total Body Tune Up
Lipski, E: Digestive Wellness, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005)
Murray, M: Total Body Tune Up (New York: Bantam, 2000)