First of all, what the heck is “dysbiosis?” If you’ve been following along with my Gut Health posts, you’ve probably heard that word a time or two! Today, we break it down so that you can understand a few way to detect dysbiosis, and also ways to avoid it!
Before we begin, it’s important to know that if you have any diagnoses of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Leaky Gut, Candida or H. Pylori, it goes without saying that you have dysbiosis. Dysbiosis basically refers to an imbalance in the gut bacteria. At any given point in your life, you have good bacteria, bad bacteria (read: harmful) and even yeast cultures. As humans, our bodies are designed to have unique levels of a variety of good bacterias working together at unique levels harmoniously to fight off the bad guys, keep our immune system strong and our digestive system running. If at any point there’s a disruption – from antibiotics, stress, food sensitivities, etc. – you’ll experience a dysbiosis. And it can self-correct over time, and/or with good healthy foods, and sometimes very quickly. You may not even know you have dysbiosis sometimes! However, what we want to bring awareness to today are the signs and symptoms you don’t want to miss, things that could point out dysbiosis in your gut. Should you catch the dysbiosis, you can prevent things from escalating to SIBO, Leaky Gut or Candida.
Without further adieu, here are the signs and symptoms of dysbiosis:
Ever feel like you can’t remember what you did five minutes ago? Ever find yourself walking into another room only to forget why? Having vision trouble? Brain fog? Trouble focusing? All of these things are symptoms of dysbiosis! A really simple example is this: imagine eating a carb-heavy meal and immediately after feeling sleepy; if you have dysbiosis, you might feel weak, tired, foggy or confused after eating a meal. If the proper levels of your gut bacteria are out of whack, you won’t feel amazing after a meal. Pay attention to your focus, memory, and energy throughout the day, especially near meal times.
NOTE: There’s no perfect set of bacteria that everyone should have– there are simply average ranges of the most common bacteria types in the body. For instance, what your ideal level of lactobacillus might be slightly lower or higher than someone else’s.
This one goes right along with #1, but it’s really crucial to the list. If you cannot make it through the day without that afternoon coffee, you might be facing some chronic fatigue. Or, do you ever wake up tired? Need caffeine all day and wine at night to settle down? Even if you don’t start having gut issues in the short term, chugging caffeine can mess with the lining of your gut, put stress on the adrenals and hormonal levels will fall victim, henceforth affecting the gut health.
You see there is an axis we call the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, that is the vagus nerve, running from the gut to the brain. If the brain or hormones are off-balance, they will send negative signals to the tummy. Example: you are depressed at a funeral and lose your appetite, or your metabolism and bowel movements slow. Another example: you eat a lot of fatty, carby foods and drink alcohol and then feel depressed the next day!
Pay attention to your energy levels because the bacteria in your gut have a lot of say over the energy you feel in your own body– if they aren’t happy and healthy, you will feel like you’re draggin’.
Bloating after meals
I used to dread going out to eat. Wait, no, I’d dread wearing a tight, pretty dress when I went out to a restaurant because whether it was 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or an hour after eating, my tummy would look about six-months pregnant. Not only would I look bloated and feel embarrassed, I’d feel bloating and gas pain. This was no way to live, but I couldn’t remember what it was like to not experience it, so I just tried to “deal.”
To see if you can heal the bloating yourself first, make sure you’re spacing out meals at least four hours. Then, if you can pinpoint which meal you feel bloated after, start by eliminating one of your “regular” foods, and see if you feel better. If not, try to perhaps omit all gluten or dairy or both for a month! If this doesn’t help, you can try eliminating FODMAP’s, or like in my experience, it was time to take tests to see what was going on (see the end of this post for what tests I’m describing).
Moral of the story? Frequent bloating is not normal
Can’t lose weight?
When certain “good gut” bacterias are missing, the body suffers. Digestion suffers. You need bacteria to keep things moving through you and to thoroughly process and absorb nutrients in your food. You’d think that dysbiosis would lead to weight loss– which it can! But, more commonly with H Pylori, Leaky Gut or Candida, the bacteria are overgrown, and they make you bloated after meals and cause inflammation in your gut. Not only will your scale weight increase, but so will your fat percentage, because the body will sometimes end up absorbing more calories from the food! Scary thought! So if you’ve noticed little change in your eating habits, but also bloating (see above #3) and a higher scale weight, there’s a good chance you have some type of dysbiosis.
I’d never experienced any skin issues besides a little dryness in the winter, however, when my gut health hit its lowest low, I had these skin colored, tiny bumps on the backs of my legs, arms and upper back. Sometimes itchy, sometimes dry or slightly red, these annoying bumps had nothing to do with my lack of skin care, lack of hydration, or even lack of a good diet. By the time this rash showed up, I was eating a colorful diet and drinking plenty of water. But the state of my gut was in such dysbiosis, no amount of foods could heal my gut or my skin quickly.
What should you do if you suspect you have dysbiosis symptoms?
If you’ve experienced 1 or more of the aforementioned symptoms, go through this checklist:
- Are you drinking water?
- Are you sleeping 8 hours?
- Are you eating a colorful diet and healthy fats?
- Are you spacing meals four hours apart
- Is your diet moderate with sugar?
If all of the following are in check, it’s probably time to reach out to a functional nutritionist. I personally did a stool test first, to see my bacteria levels. From my test, I learned that I had H Pylori, Clostridium difficile and lower levels of the good bacterias. It’s important to know that not only is your stool sample a unique thumbprint of your gut microbiome, but your microbiome itself is like a thumbprint. When you get results, your levels will be compared to human averages, as there is no perfect level of “x” bacteria.
Another beneficial test is an organic acids test (read: a simple pee test). In this test, you’ll be able to identify which nutrients you’re lacking, as well as see what pathogens are inside you. A functional nutritionist can administer this as well; please email me for a referral (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Finally, in our very own DareToEat Full Experience Program, we begin the Gut Health-Fat Loss program with a Food Sensitivities test. Read more about it here. This way, while working to naturally heal your gut, you can find out what is exacerbating the underlying issues by identifying foods causing harm. Then we recommend that you eliminate these foods! Once you take out the bad foods, your tummy may feel a little better, and if not, you can proceed to stool or organic acids test.