Gut dysbiosis has become an increasingly recognised factor in many common health conditions, yet it remains largely hidden and under-diagnosed. Gut health is an essential component of overall health, and gut dysbiosis can have far-reaching consequences if left unchecked. In this blog post, we will explore how gut dysbiosis can lead to a host of different health conditions, such as vitamin insufficiency, malabsorption of carbohydrates and fats, IBDs, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, autoimmune conditions, allergies & intolerances, weight gain, and mood disorders.
What is gut dysbiosis?
Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance in the bacteria that normally reside in your digestive tract. The human gut contains trillions of bacteria, with up to 1000 different species, and an ideal balance should include mostly beneficial lactic acid producing bacteria such as Lactobacillius and Bifidobacteria, with fewer of the less desirable types which tend to produce gas and unpleasant odours. When this balance is disturbed and the less desirable bacteria outnumber the beneficial ones, then you have dysbiosis or dysbacteriosis.
What can gut dysbiosis lead to?
Gut dysbiosis can lead to a number of health issues, such as:
- Vitamin, mineral and amino acid insufficiency
- Malabsorption of carbohydrates and fats
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBDs), such as Crohn’s Disease
- Colorectal and breast cancer
- Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Autoimmune conditions
- Allergies and Intolerances
- Weight gain
- Mood disorders
What are some common symptoms of gut dysbiosis?
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain
- Trouble urinating such as frequent urination or an inability to empty the bladder
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Vaginal or rectal infections or itching
- Food intolerance, gas, and bloating
- Inflammation and aching joints
- Acne, skin rashes, and psoriasis
- ADHD or issues with concentration
- Anxiety or depression
How Gut Dysbiosis Leads to Vitamin, Mineral and Amino Acid Insufficiency and Malabsorption
Gut dysbiosis can have a serious impact on your ability to absorb vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. This is because an imbalance in the gut flora can affect both digestion and absorption of essential nutrients. When gut bacteria become imbalanced, the normal breakdown of food and absorption of vitamins, minerals, and other key compounds are disrupted. This can lead to deficiencies in key nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin A.
Additionally, gut bacteria can directly consume certain vitamins and minerals like B12, vitamin K2, and folate. This can further exacerbate deficiencies in these essential compounds.
Gut dysbiosis can also lead to malabsorption of carbohydrates and fats. This can be due to decreased production of digestive enzymes or increased levels of bacterial enzymes that break down dietary carbohydrates or fats. This can further impact the absorption of essential compounds found in high fat or carbohydrate-rich foods like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
The disruption of gut bacteria can also reduce the production of protective mucous layers that help absorb nutrients from food. Additionally, damage to the lining of the gut caused by dysbiosis can impair the absorption of many essential compounds.
Ultimately, dysbiosis has the potential to drastically alter the way your body digests and absorbs vital vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. This can cause a host of health issues due to malnutrition and deficiencies in essential compounds.
How gut dysbiosis leads to mood disorders
Recent studies have suggested that gut dysbiosis can cause a decrease in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA, leading to increased risk for depression and anxiety. The composition of our gut microbiome is determined by both genetic factors and lifestyle choices such as diet, stress levels, and the use of antibiotics. Imbalance in these microbiome populations can lead to an increased risk of developing mood disorders.
For instance, in a 2018 study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that mice with gut dysbiosis had lower levels of serotonin, compared to healthy mice, which led to a higher incidence of anxiety-like behaviour. The mice with gut dysbiosis also had decreased levels of GABA, which has been linked to anxiety.
A 2021 study published in Nature Communications examined the role of the gut microbiome in mood regulation and concluded that a disruption in the gut microbiome could be linked to symptoms of depression. In this study, researchers found that certain gut bacteria were associated with the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in feelings of pleasure and reward. The researchers suggest that changes in the balance of gut bacteria could interfere with dopamine production and potentially lead to changes in mood.
Overall, these findings suggest that gut dysbiosis may play an important role in the development of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for regulating neurotransmitter production and maintaining a healthy mood. As such, it is important to take steps to maintain a balanced microbiome through diet, stress management, and avoiding antibiotics where possible.
How gut dysbiosis leads to colorectal or breast cancer
The effects of gut dysbiosis on the body's health are wide-ranging, and can include an increased risk of developing cancer. Gut dysbiosis is strongly associated with the development of colorectal cancer, as well as breast cancer. A recent study published in Nature Communications has shown that changes in the microbiome are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, suggesting that a disrupted microbiome is an important factor in the development of this cancer.
A further study conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles has also looked at the role of gut dysbiosis in breast cancer, finding that a disrupted microbiome was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The study found that certain bacterial species were more abundant in women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, suggesting a potential role for these bacteria in the development of the disease.
The evidence suggests that gut dysbiosis can have a significant impact on our health, and could be a factor in the development of both colorectal and breast cancer. It is important to recognise the potential links between gut dysbiosis and cancer, and to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome for overall health and wellbeing.
How gut dysbiosis leads to cognitive decline
Recent research has suggested that the link between gut dysbiosis and cognitive decline can be attributed to the gut-brain axis, a communication network between the gut and brain.
The gut-brain axis plays a critical role in maintaining proper brain functioning. This axis is composed of neurons, hormones, immune cells and molecules that communicate between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. The balance of the microbiota in the gut is essential for proper communication within this axis. When there is an imbalance in the microbiota due to gut dysbiosis, it can lead to increased inflammation in the body, which in turn can lead to cognitive decline.
For example, a study published in 2021 investigated the association between gut dysbiosis and Alzheimer's disease. This study found that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a decrease in the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The authors concluded that these changes could lead to increased inflammation in the body and consequently, contribute to cognitive decline.
Similarly, another study published in 2019 examined the relationship between gut dysbiosis and Parkinson’s disease. This study found that certain types of gut bacteria were more abundant in people with Parkinson’s disease compared to healthy individuals. The authors concluded that this shift in the microbiota could lead to increased inflammation and could potentially contribute to cognitive decline associated with Parkinson’s disease.
In conclusion, gut dysbiosis can lead to cognitive decline through its disruption of the gut-brain axis. As seen in both the studies discussed above, an imbalance in the microbiota caused by gut dysbiosis can lead to increased inflammation in the body which can then contribute to cognitive decline. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential connection between gut dysbiosis and cognitive decline.
How gut dysbiosis can lead to autoimmune conditions
Autoimmune conditions are a group of diseases in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Recent studies have suggested that gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of beneficial bacteria, can be a major factor in the development of autoimmune diseases.
Studies have found that individuals with autoimmune conditions often have increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can be triggered by an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome. In addition, studies have shown that individuals with autoimmune conditions have an altered composition of their gut microbiome compared to those without the condition.
Research has demonstrated that certain types of bacteria within the gut microbiome may directly interact with the body’s immune system and cause it to produce autoantibodies, which can contribute to the onset of autoimmune diseases. For example, one study published in Cytokine examined the effect of particular bacterial strains on autoantibody production and found that when certain bacteria were introduced into the body, autoantibody production was increased.
In addition to altering the composition of the gut microbiome, gut dysbiosis can also lead to leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the tight junctions in the small intestine become permeable and allow toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. These substances can then trigger an autoimmune response, leading to the development of autoimmune diseases.
Overall, these studies suggest that gut dysbiosis is a major contributing factor to the development of autoimmune diseases. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut in order to reduce the risk of autoimmune disease.
How gut dysbiosis leads to allergies and intolerances
Gut dysbiosis has been implicated in the development of allergies and intolerances. Dysbiosis in the gut can lead to an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can contribute to the development of allergies. An imbalance of bacteria in the gut can also lead to increased permeability of the intestine and increased absorption of allergens. This means that more allergens are able to pass into the bloodstream, which can trigger an allergic reaction. The presence of certain bacterial species, including Enterobacteriaceae, Bacillus, and Clostridium, has been linked to the development of food allergies.
Research has also shown that those with IBD have a higher risk of developing food intolerances due to altered microbiota composition. Intolerance to certain foods is thought to be caused by an altered response to certain dietary antigens, which are typically broken down by the microbiota. This can be exacerbated by inflammation and/or damage to the intestinal barrier as seen in individuals with IBD.
Additionally, dysbiosis can lead to decreased production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are produced by the microbiome and are important for maintaining a healthy immune system. When there is a decrease in these molecules, it can lead to a hyper-reactive immune response and the development of allergies and intolerances.
It is clear that gut dysbiosis plays an important role in the development of allergies and intolerances. A variety of mechanisms have been identified that link dysbiosis with the development of food allergies, intolerances, and other related conditions. For this reason, it is important to address any underlying dysbiosis when treating individuals with allergies or intolerances.
How gut dysbiosis leads to weight gain
- Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs): Bacteria produce SCFAs when they break down dietary fiber, and they help to regulate our energy balance by controlling energy storage, metabolism, and expenditure. When gut bacteria is imbalanced, you’ll have fewer beneficial microbes which produce less SCFAs. Therefore, this can lead to weight gain as SCFAs are important for regulating energy levels.
- Inflammation: Dysbiosis can lead to a state of chronic inflammation in your gut, which then triggers the release of inflammatory cytokines. This can cause a decrease in your resting metabolic rate, which is how many calories your body burns at rest, leading to a decrease in calorie expenditure and thus, weight gain.
- Gut-Brain Axis Hunger and Satiety Regulation: Our gut microbiome also communicates with our brain via a “gut-brain axis”. When we experience dysbiosis, there is an increased communication between our brain and gut which leads to increased hunger and cravings, making it more difficult to feel satisfied after eating and therefore easier to overeat.
Therefore, it is not surprising that an unhealthy gut microbiome could be one of the contributing factors to weight gain. By restoring the balance of your gut microbiome, you can help your body better regulate its energy balance, reduce inflammation, and support your gut-brain axis function to make it easier to stick to healthy eating habits.
How to test for gut dysbiosis
If you suspect you have gut dysbiosis, one of the best ways to test it is to take an at-home functional lab test, such as Synergised’s Organic Acid Test. This test measures the organic acids produced by the gut bacteria, which can provide information about the type and balance of your gut microbiome. We always recommend running Synergised’s Comprehensive Stool Test as well as this will provide further information about overall gut health including potential parasites, absorption markers, inflammation and more.
With both tests, you'll receive a detailed analysis, by an expert integrative health practitioner, that highlights any areas of imbalance in your gut bacteria and includes recommendations for dietary and lifestyle changes that can help improve your gut health. The test comes with a free health coaching call to help you interpret your results and make a plan for improving your gut health.
By testing your gut microbiome, you can gain valuable insight into your overall health, identify potential sources of inflammation, and take proactive steps to ensure your gut bacteria are balanced. This can lead to improved energy levels, better digestion, and more effective absorption of nutrients.