The Causes Of Dysbiosis

While there are many causes of dysbiosis, we generally bring it on ourselves. Constant high levels of stress, exposure to manufactured chemicals, poor food choices, oral contraceptives, surgery, and use of antibiotics and painkillers all change the healthy balance of the digestive tract.

The most common cause of dysbiosis is the use of antibiotics, which change the balance of intestinal microbes. Not terribly specific, antibiotics simultaneously kill both harmful and helpful bacteria throughout our digestive system, mouth, vagina, and skin, leaving the territory to bacteria, parasites, viruses, and yeasts that are resistant to the antibiotic that was used.

In a healthy gut, parasites may be present in small numbers and not cause symptoms, but if allowed to flourish they can cause diarrhea, illness, and weight loss. Most people can recover fairly easily from a single round of antibiotics, but even those with strong constitutions have trouble regaining balance from repeated use of antibiotic drugs.

These microbes produce toxins that cause symptoms. The bacteria form chemicals that are poisonous to the cells around them and to the person they live in. A wide variety of substances are produced, including amines, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, indoles, phenols, and secondary bile acids.

These substances may hurt the intestinal lining directly by damaging the brush border and become absorbed into the bloodstream, causing system-wide effects. Initially, our body rushes white blood cells to the injured tissue to eat up the bacteria and carry away the debris via the lymphatic system.

Inflammation, pain, and swelling are nature’s message to stop and let your body heal. But we often ignore this basic instinct and reach for pain medication so we can continue our lives. If the pain and inflammation were initially caused by microbes and you never dealt with the cause, more endotoxins will be produced, causing chronic pain and inflammation, and setting up a continuing cycle.

Often, the pain medications we take become a factor in the continuation and severity of the problem. It becomes a vicious circle: The drug causes damage to the intestinal lining, causing more inflammation, irritation, and pain; so we take more pain medication, which causes further damage.

The most common pain medications fall into three groups: steroidal drugs, such as cortisone and prednisone; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and indomethacin; and cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) inhibitors, such as Celebrex and Vioxx.

Let’s look at the long-term effects of these medications on the digestive system and their consequences on health. Corticosteroids are naturally produced by the adrenal glands.

Synthetic corticosteroids, such as cortisone and prednisone, are two of the most effective emergency drugs and used for a multitude of problems, including allergies, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, eczema, lupus, poison ivy, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis.

They are generally prescription medications, but weaker over-thecounter remedies can be purchased everywhere. Because cortisone and prednisone have such powerful antiinflammatory effects, they are used long term by people with chronic illness.

But long-term use of cortisone and prednisone depresses the immune system, causing side effects such as lowered resistance to infection and parasites, stomach and duodenal ulcers, thinning of bones, and dozens of other problems. Steroids are contraindicated for anyone who has a fungal infection because they provide excellent nourishment for fungi.

Yet, many people with candida infections go undiagnosed. In turn, candida damages the intestinal lining, causing a wide variety of symptoms, including bloating, chronic fatigue, constipation, depression, diarrhea, fatigue, hypoglycemia, and premenstrual syndrome, to name but a few.

Because corticosteroids are so strong, they suppress your body’s ability to work through an illness on its own. They are best suited for an emergency, not daily use. NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandins, which are small protein messengers that circulate throughout the body.

Some prostaglandins cause pain and inflammation; others cause healing and repair. NSAIDs block all prostaglandins. The pain is gone, but the healing process is blocked. Because the intestinal lining repairs and replaces itself every three to five days, prolonged use of NSAIDs blocks its repair.

The GI side effects are well known: the lining becomes weak, inflamed, and “leaky,” causing leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability. NSAID use also increases the risk of ulcers of the stomach and duodenum. These drugs also cause bleeding, damage to the mucous membranes of the intestines, and GI inflammation.

Because aspirin is hard on the stomach lining, doctors and advertisers have advised us to switch to anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. But we are not told that all NSAIDs cause irritation and inflammation of the intestinal tract, leading to colitis and relapse of ulcerative colitis.

NSAIDs can cause bleeding and ulceration of the large intestine and may contribute to complications of diverticular disease. Even with moderate use, NSAIDs increase gut permeability. In fact, use of NSAIDs, steroids, antacids, and antibiotics are probably the greatest contributors to leaky gut syndrome.

These days, physicians are increasingly using a new class of drugs, COX2 inhibitors, for pain management. COX2 inhibitors block leukotrienes and do not appear to have the damaging effects to the stomach and mucous membranes of the digestive system. Poor diet also contributes to dysbiosis.

A diet high in fat, sugar, and processed foods may not have enough nutrients to optimally nourish the body or repair and maintain the digestive organs. The nutrients most likely to be lacking are the antioxidants—vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q10, glutathione, selenium, the sulfur amino acids, and zinc—the B-complex vitamins, calcium, essential fatty acids, and magnesium.

Poor ileocecal valve function can contribute to dysbiosis. The valve’s job is to keep waste matter in the colon from mixing with the useful material that is still being digested and absorbed in the small intestine. When this valve is stuck, either open or closed, dysbiotic problems can occur.

Chiropractors can adjust the ileocecal valve to alleviate this problem. Many other factors contribute to dysbiosis. Low levels of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach encourage bacterial overgrowth.

Poor transit time in the intestinal tract also encourages proliferation of bacteria. For example, in twenty-four hours one E. coli bacterium produces nearly five thousand identical bacteria. The longer they sit inside us, the greater their potential to colonize.