Did You Know?
The gut is home to 80% of our immune system and produces approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin – a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining mood balance, appetite, sleep, and memory.
Healthy Gut Microbiome Is Essential for Health
DYSBIOSIS – it’s a word we all need to learn. It’s the term used to describe an imbalance in gut bacteria, which contributes to a variety of unhealthy and disease-producing conditions. Anything that alters the balance of the gut microbiota – antibiotics, oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, acid-suppressing medications, and corticosteroids, can harm the intestinal flora we rely on for not just digestion, but overall health. Other factors that can diminish the quality of gut flora include: gastrointestinal infections, surgery, chronic constipation, a diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates, and stress, which often leads to inflammation.
Gut inflammation can cause something commonly referred to as “leaky gut” which allows toxic particles to enter the bloodstream and these foreign invaders put more stress on the immune system as well.
Gut Health & Hormone Balance
The gut microbiome also has direct influence on hormone balance. Approximately 50% of the estrogen “couples” formed in the liver are excreted via the bile into the intestines. The successful journey of these couples through the intestine depends on healthy microflora. Specific gut bacteria produce an enzyme that helps metabolize estrogen and eliminate it from the body. If the microbiome is not functioning properly, estrogen metabolites are not carried out of the body efficiently and this can lead to symptoms and conditions associated with estrogen dominance.
Some of the common hormone disorders associated with estrogen imbalance include infertility, fibroids, endometriosis, PMS, and hypothyroidism.
The Gut-Brain Connection
In recent years the gut microbiota has become a major topic of research, and what scientists have learned has been astounding. The gut bacteria, often viewed as lowly little creatures, are actually quite sophisticated in their social interactions. In fact, they communicate with one another through electrical signaling and other mechanisms that very much resemble how neurons communicate in the head brain.
Studies show that the role of the gut brain is to monitor and integrate gut functions, but that’s not all. It also forms a link between the emotional and cognitive centers of our brain. Through a two-way communication network linking the brain and the gut, alterations in the makeup of gut microbiota can have significant effects on our health and wellbeing – causing a broad range of diseases such as autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation-based illnesses, and mood or cognitive disorders including depression, memory problems, and learning disabilities.
Just as dysbiosis, gut imbalance has many causes. It also manifests in a variety of ways. The questionnaire on the right, adapted from the work of Dr. William Crook, MD, will help you determine what degree of dysbiosis you may have. For each “yes,” add the number of points to your total.
|10||Have you taken tetracyclines (e.g., Minocin) for acne for one month or longer?|
|10||Have you taken, or do you take, antibiotics for infections more than four times per year?|
|10||Have you taken birth control pills for more than two years?|
|5||Have you taken birth control pills for six months to two years?|
|10||Have you taken prednisone or other cortisone-like drugs (e.g., asthma medication)?|
|10||Does the smell of perfume, tobacco, or other odors or chemicals make you feel sick?|
|5||Do you crave sugars and breads?|
______ Total Score
|___||Vaginal discharge or irritation|
|___||Frequent bladder infections or incontinence|
|___||Premenstrual syndrome or fluid retention|
|___||Diffculty getting pregnant|
|___||Frequent infections (sinus, lung, colds, etc.)|
|___||Allergic to foods or environmental substances|
|___||Feel worse on rainy and snowy days, around molds or musty basements|
|___||Feelings of anxiety and/or irritability|
|___||Gas and bloating|
|___||Constipation or diarrhea|
|___||Diffculty concentrating (feel “spacey”)|
|___||Muscle weakness or painful joints|
|___||Irritation of, or pressure behind, the eyes|
|___||“Don’t feel well” without an explanation or diagnosis|
|___||Muscle aches or weakness|
______ Total Score From All Sections
If you scored:
|Under 50||You are considered to have mild dysbiosis.|
|50–90||You are considered to have moderate dysbiosis.|
|90–120||You are considered to have severe dysbiosis.|
Diet and lifestyle Tips
There are three components to the treatment of rebalancing intestinal microflora:
- Restore beneficial microflora
- Make dietary changes to starve out harmful microbes that feed on sugars
- Take a supplement that kills the harmful bacteria
Dietary Approaches to Dysbiosis
The objective of the moderate dysbiosis diet is to reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars, as these encourage the growth of harmful yeast and bacteria. Carefully follow this diet for an eight- to ten-week period.
Foods to Avoid
- Sugars of all types, and foods that contain refined or simple sugars
- Dried fruit
(e.g., raisins, prunes, dates)
- Fruit juices,
both fresh and frozen
- Yeasted breads, pastries, and other baked goods (alternatives include corn tortillas and burritos, crackers (no yeast) or rice cakes, sprouted breads, as well as yeast-free and sugar-free breads)
- Alcoholic beverages, especially beer
- Cow’s milk (use in moderation on cereal or in coffee; alternatives include almond milk and goat’s milk)
I usually allow my patients one “cheat day” a week, during which they can indulge in dessert or a few ounces of an alcoholic beverage.
Support for Restoring Beneficial Microflora
Berberine, with its antimicrobial properties, is a very effective supplement for dysbiosis. Garlic supplements, grapefruit seed extract, peppermint, oregano oil, and olive leaf extract all kill off unfriendly microbes (take for six weeks).
The two most important friendly bacteria in our bodies are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.. These bacteria are found in the fermented foods such as yogurt, miso, tempeh, kefir, sauerkraut, and fermented juices.
A high-quality lactobacilli and bifidobacteria supplement provides greater colonization of the friendly bacteria. Daily use of probiotics is recommended during and after adapting to a dysbiosis diet.
The dysbiosis cleanse program should be considered as part of your general health program to maintain a healthy balance of hormones for mental/ emotional health.