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Your Gut Health, and Why It’s Important

But what exactly is the microbiome, and what does it mean for your health? (LOTS of science and gut education ahead!)

The gut microbiome constitutes bacteria, viruses, yeast, and parasites that reside in the gut. There are an estimated 100 trillion organisms that live in the gut, and more than 1,000 subspecies have been identified to date. Most bacteria in the gut reside in the large intestine and are involved in every aspect of gut function, performing many tasks that are essential to life. The functions of the microbiome are expansive and include assisting with digestion and absorption of foods and nutrients, protecting against pathogenic organisms, regulating and training the immune system, and synthesizing essential vitamins that we are not able to produce.

The major functions of the microbiome can be divided into three major parts:

Microbes in the gut fall into three major categories:

  1. Symbionts represent different organisms that live together. Microbes are sub-divided into mutualistic (both organisms benefit), commensals (one benefits, the other is unaffected), and parasitic (one benefits, the other is harmed). Most of the gut microbiome is composed of commensal or ‘friendly’ organisms that provide balance in gut ecology.

  2. Pathobionts represent organisms that have the capability to cause harm to the host under the right environmental circumstances in which they are allowed to overgrow. An example of a pathobiont is dificile overgrowth and infection in the setting of antibiotic wipeout of commensals. Pathobionts may also be associated with chronic inflammatory conditions.

  3. Pathogens cause harm to the host and produce disease. These are classical organisms that cause acute infection.

There are four major classifications that constitute the majority of microbes in the gut: bacteroidetes, firmicutes, actinobacteria, and proteobacteria. Ecological shifts in the relative proportion of bacteria in these four categories may be one factor that leads to the initiation of disease. “Dysbiosis” is the scientific term used to describe alterations in the gut microbiome that lead to the start of the disease. Dysbiosis represents an imbalance in the microbial ecosystem that leaves it vulnerable to overgrowth of pathobionts and pathogens, compromise of gut barrier function, inflammation, and changes in metabolic functions.

There are multiple types of dysbiosis:

What can cause/trigger dysbiosis?

There is a great focus on the role of our poor lifestyle choices as a trigger for gut dysbiosis, which also affects how we develop immune and metabolic diseases.

Clinically, symptoms of gut dysbiosis vary tremendously from person to person and may include:

Joe uses a functional medicine approach to diagnose dysbiosis with our patients who come in for Nutrition Response Testing, one of the protocols we use to determine your risk for gut dysbiosis. There is no “gold standard” test, and multiple testing styles may be used to establish the health of the gut microbiome.

If you would like to learn more or schedule a visit with Joe to discuss your health needs and care, click here to schedule online, or text us at (203) 257-7550!



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