The Definition of Dysbiosis
Dysbiosis is a term that is widely used nowadays to explain countless gut issues. This does make me think, is there an actual definition of dysbiosis, or are people online just making up their own terms? And what are we even basing a normal microbiome on? Let’s dive in!
How the gut is ‘supposed’ to be
Not one gut microbiome is the same. Our microbiome is as personal as our fingerprint. And this already makes it harder to say for certain if someone has an altered microbiome.
If your gut microbiome is slightly different from the average, does that necessarily need to be bad?
In our first 1000 days (roughly the first 3 years of our life) our gut microbiome gets shaped in a way that will most likely be the base for our whole life. In these 1000 days, our microbiome gets influenced by our birth (vaginal or cesarean), whether or not we get breastfed or bottle-fed, what we eat, how clean our parents keep us (spoiler: less clean is generally better, and specifically dirt doesn’t hurt!), any medications or antibiotics we get and everything we come into contact with. If everything (or most) goes right, we will most likely have a nice and healthy microbiome.
But if we are exposed to less ideal circumstances, this can change our microbiome and we might get stuck with a less than ideal microbiome. Making us more prone to (among others) allergies, a weakened immune system and some might even say obesity. Unfortunately, those first 1000 days are not something we can influence much, but the diet we eat as adults can definitely cause changes (for better or worse) in our microbiome too!
The Adult Microbiome
As mentioned earlier, everybody’s microbiome is different. Though this does not mean that there are also major similarities between people. Most people have certain strains of bacteria that have the upper hand in their microbiome. This can be either the Ruminococcaceae, Lachnospiraceae, or Bacteroidaceae families. We call this the ‘core microbiota’.
Changes in the core microbiota over life are not likely, but everything that surrounds the ‘core’ can definitely vary. Also, the core microbiota reduces in size with aging. Older people have the same core microbiota, but you could say that it shrunk. Giving more opportunities to other (less beneficial) bacteria that are present.
Diet and the Microbiome
When you start a diet or have a day of different/weird eating changes can happen fast in your microbiome. These changes can be seen within 24 hours, but are usually not lasting. As soon as you go back to your normal eating habits, your microbiome will also fall back into its normal shape.
This changes when you change your diet for a long period of time. Let’s say months, years, or forever. Your microbiome will go through long-lasting changes and these can even stay permanent. These changes can be beneficial (with a healthy diet) or not (with a fast-food diet or even the FODMAP diet in the long term).
So be careful with the diets you choose, you might influence your health in the long run. Not sure what is the right diet for you? Or need some help making it practical? Schedule a free IBS symptom evaluation and we can talk.
Definition of Dysbiosis
According to Sciencedirect dysbiosis is a reduction in the diversity of the microbiome, in combination with a loss of healthy bacteria and a rise in pathogenic bacteria. So not all changes in the microbiome will lead to dysbiosis. It needs to be a change where the pathogenic bacteria are growing or even taking over.
These pathogenic bacteria are generally present in your microbiome, and they should be. In a healthy microbiome, these pathogenic bacteria are suppressed by our healthy bacteria, and this keeps a healthy balance. When our healthy bacteria are diminishing, the pathogenic bacteria grab their chance. Once they grow they can start causing problems.
Symptoms that are likely to occur are (among others): bloating, gassiness, inflammation, and intestinal permeability. Dysbiosis can also be seen as a result of diseases like diabetes and IBD: Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.
What to do if you have dysbiosis?
If you have dysbiosis it is important to start supporting your healthy gut microbiome. The dysbiosis occurred because the pathogenic bacteria were able to take over from the healthy bacteria. If you strengthen your healthy bacteria again, they are likely to start to rise again.
So work on slowly introducing fermentable fiber (the nutrition source of your healthy bacteria) to get yourself towards a healthy diet and be critical to yourself about your lifestyle choices. Are you having enough physical activity? Do you sleep enough? Are you stressed? Do you get enough vitamin D from the sun? Little twitches to these (and many other factors) can help you take back your healthy microbiome. Click here to schedule a free call, and we can discuss your symptoms and how I can help you make an action plan.
Hi there, I’m Manon.
In my daily life I work as a registered dietitian in the Netherlands with a special interest in gut health.
During my workday I get loads of questions about healthy food, recipes and lifestyle to make it a little easier to get healthy. On Positive Gut I collect my best recommendations, tips and recipes to make your healthy lifestyle a little easier!