When your microbiota misbehave
Have you noticed there has been a lot of press lately about your amazing microbiome? What if it’s not so amazing? How do you even know if your microbes are good or bad? Well as it turns out, there are many symptoms that tell you if your microbes work against you instead of for you.
Some signs are digestive, others are systemic
If you have any of the following symptoms or conditions, then check out your gut flora. Be aware this list is not all-inclusive. For more examples, read Your Amazing Microbiome. Also, more microbiome research comes out literally every week, so we are constantly learning more.
Microbial disharmony symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Autoimmune disease (all)
- Bad breath, bad taste
- Bloating, distention
- Brain fog
- Celiac disease
- Fibromyalgia, muscle pain
- Food Intolerances
- Gas (flatulence)
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Fungal or yeast infections
- High Cholesterol
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Joint or muscle pain
- Tongue is coated, white or yellow
- Thyroid disease
Best to test, not guess
To maximize efficiacy, we Functional Medicine clinicians generally take a “test not guess” approach. If you guess and muck around, you can easily be off-target. You can even make yourself worse.
Even PRObiotics, which you may consider benign and healthy, can wreak havoc if they are the wrong strain for you! They can feed small intestine bacterial overgrowth, or cause immune reactions.
In order to test, you can check your small intestine and/or your large intestine (colon). Two of the most specific and useful tests are:
- A breath test for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- The GI Map™ test for h.pylori, large intestine bacteria, yeast, and parasites. In addition, GI Map includes information about viruses, beneficial bacteria, digestion, absorption, inflammation, and gluten intolerance.
How microbes misbehave
You have about seven pounds of gut bacteria. Ideally, 90% should live in your large intestine, and 10% in your small intestine, throat, and mouth. Because it’s acidic, your stomach is relatively sterile, thus making it hard for bacteria to survive. However, H. pylori can survive in your stomach.
Misbehaved microbiota, also called dysbiosis, falls into at least one of these four scenarios:
- H pylori overgrowth in your stomach.
- Bacteria and/or yeast overgrowth in your small intestine.
- Pathogenic bacteria, yeast, or parasites in your large intestine.
- Lack of beneficial bacteria in your large intestine.
Causes of dysbiosis include:
- Antacid medication
- Antibiotics, even one course can cause irreversible dysbiosis
- Bowel surgery
- Food intolerance
- Low stomach acid
- Low enzyme production
- Gallbladder disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Excess dietary sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Low intake of PREbiotic or PRObiotic foods
What to do?
Work with a clinician skilled at gut testing! Once you have clear information, your clinician can develop a plan that safely alters your microbiota. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Similar to your thumbprint, you have a unique gut microbiome.
Some of your misbehavers may need to go. Others may need to come down a notch. You may need more beneficials (PRObiotics, in specific strains).
Fortunately, you do have some control and choice about what you colonize in your gastrointestinal tract!