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Intestinal Dysbiosis

Dr. Elena Moore, ND Naturopathic Doctor

Intestinal dysbiosis - Are SIBO, candida, and IBS science or just hype?

By Dr. Elena Moore, ND

You may have heard of the microbiome, and what to do to keep your microbiome healthy (check out this blog post), but what happens when our microbiome isn’t happy?

What is intestinal dysbiosis?

“Intestinal dysbiosis” is a general term used to describe an imbalance of gut microbiota. This imbalance most often involves a loss of beneficial microbes and an expansion of harmful microbes, but it can also involve beneficial microbes migrating to the wrong places in our digestive tract. Intestinal dysbiosis can cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.

Is intestinal dysbiosis a diagnosis?

Intestinal dysbiosis is an umbrella term that describes the state of the microbiome, but not the pathology (the disease process) that surrounds it. Research on the microbiome is relatively new, and a lot about the gang in our gut is still unknown (one reason for this being that a lot of the microbes in our gut can only survive in environments devoid of oxygen and light (such as our intestines) so studying them in labs is almost impossible- pretty cool right?). So far, the medical field has discovered a few conditions that fall under the “dysbiosis category”. Along with those diagnoses, there have also been a few more theories that have popped up in the wellness community. Keep reading to see which diagnoses and theories are supported by science, which ones have been debunked.

SIBO - Science

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO as it’s commonly referred to, is an established diagnosis under the intestinal dysbiosis category. It occurs when there are too many bacteria in the wrong place (the small intestine). Typically the bacteria in our small intestine are kept in check by higher acid levels (from descending stomach acid), bile secretions, peristalsis (the muscular contractions produced by our intestinal muscles), our immune system, and the ileocecal valve (a one-way valve between the small and large intestine). Issues with any of these biological processes can lead to SIBO.

Candida - Hype

Candida overgrowth is a common buzzword in the wellness community to describe general symptoms of digestive upset, fatigue and brain fog. While fungal overgrowth is a real condition, it is a very different condition from the one commonly described by wellness gurus. The most common form of candida overgrowth that occurs is referred to as thrush, and describes fungal overgrowth in the mouth and/or vagina. Small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) can occur as well, but it is rare, and generally affects immunocompromised individuals (PMID30881247) or in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (PMID21802979).

IBS – Science

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a diagnosis supported by science. That being said, it’s not a single disease, but a cluster of symptoms that are connected to a diverse range of pathologies including intestinal dysbiosis, altered intestinal permeability, gut immune function, gut motility, and gut-brain-stress interactions (PMID25734736).

Other possible explanations for symptoms

While it can be tempting to try and diagnose yourself via doctor google, it’s important to get serious or bothersome symptoms checked out by a professional, as symptoms like bloating, bowel changes, and abdominal pain can be signs of more serious conditions.

The naturopathic approach

The first step in the naturopathic approach is always a broad investigation. We take a thorough health history, and run any labs needed to diagnose your condition. This includes doing the appropriate testing to rule out any serious or life-threatening conditions that could cause you symptoms. It also includes looking into lifestyle factors, medications, and supplements that could be contributing to your condition.

Once we arrive at a diagnosis of SIBO or IBS, we can start a comprehensive treatment strategy. This includes therapies that will treat your symptoms, as well as therapies and strategies that will prevent your symptoms from happening in the first place. In the case of SIBO, which requires antibiotics to be eradicated, we can work with your family doctor to create an appropriate integrative plan.

Dr. Elena Moore, ND

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