Intestinal dysbiosis: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

Intestinal dysbiosis is an imbalance in the growth of microorganisms that are naturally found in the intestine, and can cause symptoms such as nausea, excess gas, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea or constipation in some cases.

Imbalances in the intestinal flora, also called intestinal microbiota, are mainly caused by a diet rich in protein and fat and low in fiber, but can also be a consequence of the use of certain medications or stress, for example.

If you suspect you have intestinal dysbiosis, it is recommended to consult a gastroenterologist . Treatment may involve dietary changes, improved health care, and the use of dietary supplements containing probiotics or vitamins.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of intestinal dysbiosis are:

  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Excessive gas and burping;
  • Discomfort or swelling in the abdomen;
  • Diarrhea or constipation;
  • Tiredness;

In most cases, intestinal dysbiosis is temporary and symptoms tend to improve as the intestinal flora recovers naturally. However, in some cases, the person may develop persistent symptoms.

In addition, intestinal dysbiosis appears to be associated with diseases such as food intolerances,  irritable bowel syndrome,  diabetes and colorectal cancer. However, its involvement in the development or severity of these diseases is not known for sure.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of intestinal dysbiosis is usually made by a gastroenterologist or nutritionist based on the symptoms presented, the person’s health history and the results of tests performed to identify changes in the intestinal microbiota.

Some tests that your doctor may recommend to check the health of your intestinal microbiota include:

  • Urinary indican test: this is a test performed on urine to assess the amount of indican, which is a substance produced in the body in response to food. In cases of an imbalance in the intestinal flora, the elimination of indican in the urine may be increased;
  • Intestinal microbiome: is a genetic test performed on a stool sample to identify the bacteria present in the intestinal flora;
  • Hydrogen breath test: This involves identifying the presence of gases produced by bacteria in the intestine in a sample collected by asking the person to breathe through a plastic bag. This sample is analyzed by special equipment and the types and quantities of gases present can indicate changes in the intestinal microbiota.

However, it is important that the results of these tests are interpreted by a specialist, because especially in people who do not have other health problems, the composition of the intestinal flora tends to vary greatly without this being considered a problem.

Possible causes

The most common causes of intestinal dysbiosis include:

1. Type of diet

Diet is one of the main causes of dysbiosis and small changes, excesses or restrictions in diet can alter the quality and quantity of bacteria in the intestine.

Excessive intake of animal protein, such as meat, fish or eggs, can increase the production of compounds that are toxic to the beneficial bacteria in the intestine, which can cause dysbiosis.

Furthermore, excessive consumption of foods rich in sugar or fat, such as fatty cheeses, ice cream and sweets, contributes to inflammation in the intestine and the emergence of imbalances in its microbiota.

2. Use of medication

Frequent and/or prolonged use of some medications, such as laxatives, antibiotics, corticosteroids or antacids, can cause imbalances in the intestinal microbiota, resulting in the elimination of bacteria that are beneficial to intestinal health or in excessive bacterial growth, for example.

3. Other factors

In addition, other factors that increase the risk of intestinal dysbiosis are excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, age, stress and some existing intestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

How is the treatment done?

In most cases, dysbiosis is treated by changing eating habits. However, sometimes the use of probiotic supplements may be indicated and, depending on the severity, fecal transplantation.

The main treatment options for intestinal dysbiosis are:

1. Dietary changes

In addition to medical monitoring, for the treatment of intestinal dysbiosis it is important to receive guidance from a nutritionist because changing eating habits is the best way to restore the health of the intestinal flora.

The most important changes in eating habits include:

  • Prioritize foods rich in unsaturated fat, such as olive oil, avocado and almonds, as they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine;
  • Have a diet rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber present in some foods such as oats, garlic, green banana biomass, honey and yacon potato, as they are essential nutrients for the good bacteria in the intestine;
  • Eat foods rich in fibersuch as beans, fruits with skin and fresh vegetables daily, because they help to increase the variety of beneficial bacteria in the intestine;
  • Consume foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir and kombucha, which contain live microorganisms that are beneficial to intestinal health and promote the balance of intestinal flora. See the 6 probiotic foods that are good for your health.

Furthermore, it is also important to avoid excessive consumption of sugars, which stimulate fermentation and increase the production of gases in the intestine, which can aggravate symptoms.

2. Food supplements

Probiotic supplements also contain microorganisms that promote the balance of intestinal flora, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, and may also be indicated in the treatment of dysbiosis.

Although not always necessary, taking supplements with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, especially when deficient, can also be beneficial for the development of healthy intestinal flora.

3. Improve healthcare

For the treatment of intestinal dysbiosis, it is essential that health problems that can harm the balance of the intestinal microbiota, such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are treated appropriately, according to the doctor’s guidance.

Furthermore, adopting healthy habits, such as practicing physical activities regularly and quitting smoking, also contribute to restoring the balance of intestinal flora, stimulating conditions in the body that are suitable for the growth of good bacteria.

4. Fecal transplant

Fecal transplantation involves transferring intestinal flora from a healthy person to someone with dysbiosis and appears to help restore the balance of intestinal bacteria in some cases.

This procedure is usually only indicated in some cases of recurrent intestinal infections.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of Foodstrend.com, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on Foodstrend.com's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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