“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates, Greek physician 370 BC.
What happens when the microbiome becomes disturbed?
On the most part we live happily with our microbes, they perform roles such as regulating your digestive and immune systems,1-2 protecting you against germs,3-4 breaking down food to release energy and produce vitamins,5 as well as regulating your behaviour and emotional well-being6 through hormone secretion and regulation.7-9 But this balance can sometimes be upset due various factors such as:
- diet lacking in nutrients and fibre
- lack of exercise/activity
- poor sleep
- heightened stress or anxiety
- use of some medications and/or antibiotics
- prolonged time periods spent indoors, in contact with man-made materials and surfaces
- recent infection from pathogenic microbes
- genetic factors (hereditary conditions, compromised immune systems, etc)
- over exposure to household cleaning products, agricultural chemicals, some cosmetic products, etc
This imbalance is commonly known as ‘microbiome dysbiosis’ or ‘microbial dysbiosis’. When the microbiome becomes disturbed the beneficial bacteria that help keep you healthy can die-off and become replaced with less beneficial bacteria, or worse, with pathogenic or detrimental bacteria.
Research has shown that people experiencing a state of dysbiosis tend to have an overall reduction in the number of health-promoting bacteria (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) and an increase in disease-promoting bacteria (such as Enterococcus and certain Clostridium)10. Effectively, the microbiome shifts from an optimal, highly functional microbial community to a less optimal (or even detrimental) community.
Microbiome dysbiosis can have negative impacts on a persons’ health and wellbeing. Because everyone has their own unique microbiome and life history, microbiome dysbiosis can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Some people may experience just one or two mild symptoms, whereas other people may experience a more severe disease condition or a multitude of various symptoms.
Some diseases and conditions associated with microbiome dysbiosis include:
- poor immune functioning (increased prevalence of colds, coughs, flu),
- gastrointestinal issues (constipation, bloating, gas, IBS, gastritis, etc),
- inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis)
- Coeliac disease, intolerance to other specific food groups.
- skin conditions (Acne, Eczema, and Psoriasis)
- Allergies, Hayfever, Asthma
- chronic fatigue, insomnia, shortened attention spans, inability to concentrate
- Vitamin deficiencies
Scientists are continually finding new correlations between the microbiome and different diseases as research in this area becomes more popular and more in depth.
Your microbiome plays such a crucial role in your health and wellbeing. It is now considered as a supporting organ because it plays such a key role in the daily operations and functions of your body. By taking the time to better understand how your microbiome influences the different aspects of your health, you will be better equipped to take control of your health.