Dysbiosis is a medical word that we throw around quite a lot.
But what does it mean?
Dybsiosis means abnormal gut flora.
So let’s back up a second.
We have a HUGE amount of bacteria and fungi living in our digestive tract.
Some estimates say 100 trillion (with a T) bacteria, some say less but still a colossal amount. About 7lbs of us is bacteria and fungi (so be sure to subtract that the next time you get on the scale!). We have more bacteria and fungi living in our intestines than cells in our body. So put one way, we are more bacteria and fungi than human.
We used to think these bacteria and fungi didn’t do anything.
Then we got a little smarter and thought that at least they kept out really bad bacteria. Then we figured out they make vitamins and other important nutrients for us.
But relatively recently we’ve learned they do FAR, FAR more than that. They interact with our immune system to keep it normal and under control (not too high = autoimmunity, not too low = infections).
And new research suggests they may even control our mood and behavior, as gut bacteria have been shown to release neurotransmitters. In fact we think probiotics may be an incredibly helpful tool in the treatment of major depression. The question has changed from “what do these bacteria actually do?” to more of a “what DON’T these bacteria do?”
These bacteria and fungi together are called your gut flora (like flora (plants) and fauna (animals) from biology and while they probably should really be called your gut fauna, for whatever reason they were called flora and it stuck). And it’s critically important that this gut flora be in good shape, or else you’re not.
We think you have about 300 different species of bacteria and fungi living in your guts from a possible 500 or so (though I’m sure we’ll discover more in the future). We’re only barely beginning to learn about the vast majority of these, and the Human Biome project (like the Human Genome project from a few years back only set up to decode the genetics of the bacteria and fungi living in your guts) will undoubtedly shed a lot more light on this in the coming years.
But while we wait, here’s what we do know.
Bottom line: Having good gut bacteria in the right amounts and ratios is really important to good health.
Here’s my analogy:
We know that the forest requires a certain balance of plants and animals to stay healthy. That balance of plants and animals can be disturbed in two ways:
Either of these situations is dybsiosis, and for why it can be a problem, read about the Gut Centered Theory of Disease.
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Photo attribution – https://bit.ly/2sUcFZH
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