The premise of Ayurveda is based on the prevention of disease through gut health. Research has only begun to catch up on the importance of diet to prevent disease. We often hear of “leaky gut”, “digestive issues”, “Bali Belly”, but what is actually going on when we say this? A term to understand an unbalanced gut is dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis or dysbacteriosis is an imbalance of bacteria and microbes in our bodies. This can happen from a bug, an improper diet, stress, or food allergies. Our bodies contain close to one hundred trillion bacteria and microbes – which reside mainly in our gut and make up what is known as the human microbiome. Most of these bacteria are ‘commensal’ meaning they are good for us and co-exist in harmony with our bodies, supporting our digestion, our metabolism and our immune system and protecting us from infections and pathogens (harmful invasive bacteria).
Our microbiome is made up of a large number of different strains and species of bacteria. When the quantity and proportion of these friendly bacteria are reduced, the harmful strains and pathogens are allowed to grow unchecked causing an imbalance, which can lead to dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis & Causes
Gut dysbiosis normally occurs in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract – often resulting in inflation of the gut lining, which can lead to our gut lining becoming permeable or ‘leaky’.
Dysbiosis in our gut is often due to one or a combination of the following:
- Antibiotics and antibacterial medications
- Changes in our diet such as the increased consumption of sugars, refined starch and processed foods and food additives such as preservatives, emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners
- Traces of harmful chemicals and toxins in our foods, such as pesticides on unwashed fruit, vegetables and cereals.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High levels of stress, anxiety or depression, which affects the immune system
- Foreign bug or compromised immunity
Chronic conditions resulting from Dysbiosis
Gut dysbiosis is often the precursor to more serious chronic conditions and ill-health including:
- IBS and leaky gut
- Gut diseases, such as colitis
- Celiac disease
- Skin conditions, such as acne and eczema
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Auto immune diseases such as Parkinson’s and MS
- Cancer of the colon or rectum
Prevention of Gut Dysbiosis
Gut dysbiosis can be prevented through a few important changes to diet and lifestyle, which need to be maintained for the long term
Foods to eat more of:
• Increase the amount of natural plant fiber in your diet; such as fruits, leafy greens and resistant starches
• Fermented foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics; including sauerkraut, kimchi, cheeses, kefir, and natural yogurts
• Foods high in healthy fats; such as avocado, oily fish, olive oil, and nuts
• Changes to your lifestyle – including regular exercise and treatments for stress such as meditation
Foods to reduce or stop eating altogether include:
• Processed meats, such as deli meat and salted or canned meat
• Refined carbohydrate heavy foods such as pasta, white rice, noodles, white bread and dough
• Foods high in sugar
• Processed foods, containing preservatives and emulsifiers
As this can be very serious and can lead to chronic illness, talk to your health advisor for more information if you suspect you might be suffering from gut dysbiosis.
Always remember that with our health prevention is key! Eat a lot of leafy greens, reduce your stress levels, and focus on lifestyle changes.