The “Microbiome” is a hot topic these days! Once thought to only play a minor role in gut health, we now know that our microbiome is critically important f
We’ve known for awhile that diet plays a role in the initial colonization of an infant’s gut; breastfed babies have higher amount of bifidobacteria, while formula-fed infants have higher populations of bacterioides and lactobacillus bacteria. And, the relationship with food doesn’t end in infancy. Several studies link different diets to changes in our microbiota. For example, complex carbohydrates also increase levels of beneficial Bifidobacteria bacteria such as B. longum subspecies longum, B. breve and B. thetaiotaomicron, whereas diets high in refined sugars support the growth of opportunistic bacteria like C. difficile and C. perfringens .
One diet in particular, called the FODMAP diet, aims to reduce the the quantity of fermentable carbohydrates in the diet and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Dysbiosis may also play a role in managing allergic conditions, eczema, and even depression and anxiety. We’re really only just recently started to take a close look at how different diets may change our bacterial “friends” and what role that may play in managing our health.
Risk Factors for Dysbiosis
- Antibiotic use, especially prolonged use.
- Use of Proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole or rabeprazole.
- Diets high in refined sugar and low in complex carbohydrates
Comprehensive stool tests offered through private labs can be useful, but most often symptoms can provide a clear indication that dysbiosis is present. If Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth is suspected, a breath test can provide confirmation (read more about SIBO here). Common symptoms of dysbiosis include:
- Fatigue or “brain fog”
Treatments often involve using herbal antimicrobials and probiotics. The exact type and amount depend on the patient’s symptom picture. Once established, a healthy microbiota can often be maintainted with a healthy diet rich in fermented foods.
While we’re not able to predict the long-term consequences of dysbiosis, it’s becoming increasingly clear that maintaining a healthy population of bacteria is important. So, if you’ve been suffering from IBS, IBD or have newly developed gas and bloating, I would suggest working with an ND who can help to restore a healthy microbial balance.