Bad Gut Bacteria
In a healthy colon, there are billions of beneficial bacteria. Usually they multiply at a fast enough rate to keep up with the numbers that are lost during elimination. They help to keep the proper pH of the colon and therefore prevent any ‘bad’ bacteria from over growing. These ‘friendly’ bacteria are also important because, not only do they help to keep the immune system healthy, but they also synthesize many important vitamins in the digestive tract including Vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.
The ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria should be 80% good to 20% bad, however it is believed that in most people this is ratio is actually reversed.
More than a third of people who suffer with IBS have bacterial overgrowth, known as ‘bacterial dysbiosis’. This can alter the metabolic and immune responses of the body, causing the immune system to turn against the normal gut flora and is an early complication of a ‘leaky gut’.
A dysbiosis is caused by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and antibiotics. Just one single dose of Ibuprofen can increase the permeability in the gut wall by stopping the synthesis of the protective fatty-acid prostaglandin, and leaving the gut very inflamed and highly permeable. It is also caused by stress and anxiety altering the acid/alkaline balance, food allergies, poor imbalanced diets, low fibre diets, lack of nutrients, too much sugar and alcohol.
When the balance of bacteria is disturbed the bacterial colonies fail to check each other’s growth and they go on to disrupt other beneficial bacteria making the imbalance even more pronounced. Bacterial colonies excrete many different types of waste byproducts and under normal circumstances the body manages these byproducts with little or no trouble. However as the bacteria increase in numbers, the byproducts increase, overburdening the body’s waste removal mechanisms and therefore creating even more health problems.
Bowel problems are common with dysbiosis and it may be diarrhoea or constipation or even a combination of both, also wind and bloating. However dysbiosis does not just affect the bowel but goes on to cause other problems such as chronic fatigue, colitis, obesity, acne, cancer and many inflammatory diseases.
How can you diagnose this?
There is a breath test for Hydrogen and Methane, which involves swallowing a carbohydrate and measuring bacterial fermentation of the carbohydrate through breath samples of hydrogen and methane.
What to do next?
- It is important to replace the good bacteria but this is not necessarily as easy as it sounds. Many bacteria taken by mouth do not even reach the bowel as they are killed by the stomach acid, so it is essential that there is sufficient numbers of bacteria to survive the transportation, and that they are micro-encapsulated to cope with the acid. Probiotics are supplements containing beneficial bacteria found in the human digestive tract that promote good gut health. The strains must be specific to the human and they help by normalising digestion and boosting the absorption of nutrients from the diet. They also help the body make the B vitamins which are known as nature’s own stress busters, and so help the symptoms even when stress levels are high. The most common strains are lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus sporogenes, bifidobacterium bifidum, bifidobacterium longum and the yeast saccharomyces boulardii. Of the beneficial strains, the lactobacillus species is most prominent in the small intestine, whereas bifidobacteria tends to reside in the large intestine. I use one here at The Wyndham Centre that has 12 different good bacteria to really flood the gut, and there are many others that I recommend which are good for maintaining a good flora.
- Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates and are important because they help to promote the growth and/or the activity of the probiotics. The most common are fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), inulin and galacto-oligosaccharides and they are found in various vegetables and fruit such as tomatoes, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus and bananas. They are relatively stable and arrive in the gut unchanged. However most of the probiotic supplements contain prebiotics as well.
- Vitamin D is an important supplement because most people suffering from gut problems are deficient in this vitamin.
- Fish oils are a really good thing to take with digestive problems because they are anti-inflammatory and so will help reduce the inflammation there.
- Zinc, copper, folic acid and vitamin B12 all help to repair the gut.
- Bentonite has the ability to get bacteria to stick to it and because it is not absorbed it passes through the colon taking toxins with it.