Gut Health Can Improve
Understand Dysbiosis vs Symbiosis
Lining the inside of the gut is a biofilm full of countless trillions of bacteria, yeast cells, and colonies (“flora”). These microbes influence and control much of the digestive and immune systems.
A healthy gut is a partnership between microbes and the body as a whole.
When this relationship goes wrong — when the wrong microbes become dominant and “friendly flora” become weak — gut health stops serving the needs of the body. This is called dysbiosis and, while correctable, it creates a heavy burden on the body.
The goal is to move away from the trap of dysbiosis and progress toward symbiosis — where the gut microbes fully support the body’s health.
The solution is often not as simple as throwing supplements at the problem. That may help in less-intense situations, but gut health — and the microbes that affect it — is an intricate fabric, affected by nearly every aspect of our body and environment.
Therefore, overcoming poor gut health requires a long-term approach that includes supplements, sleep cycles, therapeutic light, movement, and environmental factors.
Explore this article:
1 — Symbiosis
2 — Dysbiosis
3 — The Gut: Four Functions
4 — Causes Of Dysbiosis
5 — A Healthy Gut: How It Works
6 — The Effects Of Constipation
7 — The Effects Of Diarrhea
8 — Microbes Can Grow Fast
9 — 70% Of The Immune System
10 — Microbes Fight Other Species
11 — The Symptoms Of Dysbiosis
12 — The Risk Of Restrictive Diets
13 — Bad Flora Poison You
14 — Reducing Endotoxin
15 — What Is Leaky Gut?
Explore the Gut section
Understand Gut Health
Microbes — bacteria & yeast — live in colonies, or biofilms.
These biofilms are essentially a slime, or sludge that provides protection from potential threats.
Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments by excreting a slimy, glue-like substance.https://www.biofilm.montana.edu/biofilm-basics/what_are_biofilms.html
The Biofilm Lifecycle
A biofilm can contain one species, but usually is a mixture of many — often hundreds — of microbial species.
Symbiosis happens when gut microbes work together with the body.
Healthy, Balanced Flora
Symbiosis is when gut microbes are beneficial, working in concert with the body to 1) maintain immunity from pathogens, 2) digest food and supply nutrients, and 3) break down toxins in the gut.
Symbiosis defined: When greater than 80% of microbes are “good.”
SIGNS OF SYMBIOSIS
In symbiosis, people are able to:
Dysbiosis is when the gut microbes begin to work against the body.
Unhealthy, Imbalanced Flora
Dysbiosis is when too many unhealthy microbes live in the gut. These bad “flora” release toxins (instead of helpful nutrients) when they digest our food and they don’t help our immunity. They can even release hormones that adversely affect our brains.
Dysbiosis defined: When less than 80% of microbes are “good.”
SIGNS OF DYSBIOSIS
The Gut: Four Functions
Nutrients / Detoxification / Immunity / Brain Chemicals
The intestines absorb nutrients from food.
Then, the microbes in the gut create extra nutrients as byproducts of fermentation (which is how they digest food).
Nutrients created by healthy gut flora include copious amounts of B-Vitamins, Vitamin K, butyric acid, acetic acid, and propionic acid. All of these nutrients are essential for bodily health and resilience.
The liver dumps its bile (with toxins) into the intestines.
These toxins need to stay trapped in the intestines — not leak back into the bloodstream. With proper bowel movements and stool formation, these toxins will never stay too long and leave the body quickly.
Fiber is critical for absorbing and trapping liver toxins, so they can be excreted in the next bowel movement.
Healthy microbes also break down toxins in the gut, protecting the body further from toxicity.
Inside the intestines is outside the body.
When food is in the intestine, it has not entered the bloodstream yet.
On average, humans swallow over a trillion microbes per day (bacteria, fungus, or virus), the gut’s job is to keep it out of your bloodstream, and keep it from getting too comfortable.
How does the gut remain hostile to microbes — and prevent them from growing too much? Enzymes, acids, and a healthy mucosal barrier. The mucosal barrier is quite literally — in scientific terminology — a slime.
Good Microbes Improve Hostility
Good bacteria release their own enzymes and acids, too. This helps fend off invading species in addition to the body’s defenses.
The Gut Lining Is Semi-Permeable
The gut lets good things into the bloodstream (food) and stops the bad things from entering (microbes).
Therefore, your gut lining is “semi-permeable.”
Microbes swimming in the bloodstream is, generally, a very, very bad thing. It’s an infection, and will cause lots of inflammation.
This is why about 70% of the body’s immune cells are located in the gut — designed to keep microbes out of the bloodstream, and inside the gut.
Good Microbes Improve Immunity
“Good” microbes that reside in the gut help keep potential invaders at bay by boosting the host’s immunity. They also help keep the gut lining intact and tight, and not leaky.
When the gut is healthy, it is a formidable immune system against foreign microbes and pathogens. When it’s sick, it is a weak defense.
Research is showing that gut flora create chemicals and neurotransmitters that affect the brain: serotonin, butyrate, GABA, glutamate, and more.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Good and bad microbes directly produce or consume GABA and glutamate, affecting this delicate balance in the body’s neurotransmitters.
Good flora tend to create beneficial brain chemicals and stimulate the vagus nerve to communicate with the brain.
Bad flora tend to release chemicals that interfere with the communication between the gut and brain, increasing the likelihood of anxiety-like behavior.
The four gut functions are working well.
The four gut functions working poorly.
Causes of Dysbiosis
→ External and internally sourced.
→ Artificial ingredients, junk foods, over-processed foods.
→ Especially when accompanied by excessive exercise or stress.
→ Especially when accompanied by lack of exercise, poor diet, or constipation.
→ Low carb, low fat, low calorie, vegan, fruitarian, etc.
Exposure to Toxicity
→ Chemicals, mold, sick buildings.
→ Injury, abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, etc.
→ Daily movement is essential for regularity and bile flow.
→ Excessive radiation from wireless pulses, fields from electronics.
→ Located anywhere in the body, can migrate to the gut.
→ Antibiotics can wipe out all good flora.
How A Healthy Gut Works
A healthy gut handles nutrients, toxins, & water properly.
A healthy stool means that healthy microbes are releasing beneficial nutrients:
- B-vitamins, Vitamin K, butyric acid, propionic acid.
- Hormones and neurotransmitters are also released by good microbes, improving bodily resilience.
Dietary fiber is necessary because it traps toxins inside the healthy stool — for excretion at the next bowel movement.
- Without dietary fiber and daily bowel movements, toxins don’t leave the body and are likely to be reabsorbed into the bloodstream (causing inflammation and overwhelming detox organs).
The lower colon reabsorbs water and minerals from stool, keeping the body hydrated.
- This function is critical for fluid balance & hydration.
- Nutrients are well-absorbed into body.
- Toxins stay trapped in stool → then exit body.
- Immunity stays high.
- Brain Chemicals are balanced, healthy.
Low Toxicity, High Immunity = Low Inflammation
Adequate nutrient absorption = Good metabolism, strong immunity, solid detoxification.
The “Goldilocks Speed” Keeps Flora Healthy
A good motto for the gut: “not too fast, not too slow.”
One daily, well-formed stool is about right.
When food digests extremely well (and when coupled with a great circadian rhythm), bowel movements tend to even happen at the same time daily.
A river or stream needs moving water to stay fresh.
Regular, daily bowel movements allow healthy flora to thrive and prevent pathogens from becoming too comfortable.
The Effects Of
A constipated gut handles nutrients, toxins, & water poorly.
Stool is unhealthy and compacted.
- Good microbes aren’t present.
Bad microbes release toxins when they are fed.
- Bad microbes release unhealthy hormones and neurotransmitters.
Toxins don’t leave the gut and are reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
- Nutrients poorly absorbed into bloodstream..
- Toxins can’t leave → re-enter bloodstream.
- Immunity is weakened.
- Brain Chemicals are unhealthy, unbalanced.
High Toxicity = High Inflammation
Low nutrients = Low metabolism, low immunity
The Effects Of
A gut with chronic diarrhea handles nutrients, toxins, & water poorly.
Stool has no chance to form.
- Good microbes can’t thrive.
Food is not properly digested and broken down.
- Nutrients aren’t absorbed
- Water and minerals are lost.
A weak microbiome allows for bad microbes to become strong.
- Bad microbes release endotoxins when fed.
- Bad microbes release unhealthy hormones and neurotransmitters.
- Nutrients – no chance to absorb into body.
- Toxins – not trapped by healthy stool → will re-enter bloodstream.
- Immunity — is extremely weak.
- Brain Chemicals are unhealthy, unbalanced.
High Toxicity = High Inflammation
Low nutrients = Low metabolism, low immunity
All Microbes Can Grow Fast
Any microbe — bacteria, yeast, fungus — can rapidly grow and reproduce.
Speed Demons –>
Microbes only need food and water (and a surface) to grow. The gut is perfect for this: we constantly eat and drink.
When food feeds the flora that lines your intestine, the flora can double in numbers in well under an hour. A microbe’s environment greatly determines its rate of growth.
Consider that up to 60% of your stool is this flora, which grows as it eats the food you eat.
60% of the stool is microbial life: bacteria and yeasts.
Visualize how healthy stool is formed:
- Good flora eats your food,
- Flora grows (doubles) rapidly,
- You now have fresh bulk to slide easily through the GI tract.
This new bulk is largely colonies of microbes — especially fermenting fibrous and starchy foods, and releasing nutrients (like Vitamin K1+2, butyric acid, & B-Vitamins) or endotoxins (from bad flora).
Unfortunately, bad microbes, when they are present, can double and grow just as fast.
This is often what’s happening when someone feels poorly after eating: Bad microbes grow and metabolize the meal, releasing endotoxins and causing an immune response.
The Immune System
& The Gut
The lining of the intestines is the most important interface with the outside world.
The gut lining must decide what gets into the body and what stays outside. Only one thing should get into the body: Nutrients.
Around 70% of the immune system is located in the gut — and for good reason.
Incredible Surface Area
Designed to maximize the absorption of nutrients, the gut lining has 150X more surface area than the skin. That’s as much surface area as a tennis court.
This presents a challenge, though. The high surface area creates lots of potential entry points for pathogens — and nearly endless gates to guard.
Each of the body’s surfaces are designed to keep the outer world exclusively on the outside.
Yet, the gut lining is teeming with microbial life — a thick biofilm of microscopic bugs. Imagine a tennis court covered in microbial biofilm.
In good health (symbiosis), this slime helps digest food and protect against invading pathogens.
In dysbiosis, the slime is actively poisoning the body, causing poor digestion of food, and preventing nutrient absorption. It causes ongoing inflammation.
The digestive tract is a warm, moist place where fermentable foodstuffs constantly enter — and then reside.
The body’s immune system must be strong to keep the hostile microbes at bay.
The Immune System Resides In The Gut
The immune system is so heavily concentrated in the gut: A premier threat to all animals is that the gut becomes inhabited with bad actors — bad microbes.
Infants Borrow Mother’s Immunity
Baby’s are born with virtually zero gut microbiome.
However, nature has a strategy to meet this challenge: A mother’s first milk (colostrum) lets a baby benefit from the mother’s immunity as the infant’s own immunity and microbiome develop.
When gut health and immunity is weak, the human digestive system makes for an excellent breeding ground for pathogens.
Inside the intestines is still “outside” the body.
The intestines decide what to allow into your bloodstream.
It takes a strong immune system to keep the gut clear of pathogens.
All Microbes “Fight” Other Species
Any microbe tends to go dormant 1) when in small numbers and 2) when challenged by species with larger numbers.
Small Numbers vs Big Numbers
When species numbers grow, the species will become more aggressive– attacking other species for territory in the gut.
When their numbers dwindle, species begin to become dormant, and less hostile to their neighbors and their human host.
Microbes “fight” other microbes by releasing harmful chemicals, enzymes, and sometimes by outright consuming other species.
“Bad” microbes will fight good microbes, to gain dominance and vice versa. Pathogens release endotoxins when they eat your food.
Good microbes — already present in a healthy gut — will also “fight back” against bad flora, to maintain dominance.
When food enters the digestive tract, healthy microbes release nutrients.
The Symptoms Of Dysbiosis
It’s likely that dysbiosis is involved in most disease states, and even in the aging process.
All Gut Functions Can Become Compromised
The Risks Of Restrictive Diets
A restrictive diet can relieve symptoms.
However, restrictive diets often cause their own issues over time as a result of avoiding foods.
Imbalances occur in vitamin and mineral intake. Food avoidance can lead to intolerance of the absent foods. Too much or too little of any food can result in negative changes to the microbiome.
This results in diets bouncing back and forth — perpetually looking for what will give them relief of symptoms or an improvement in energy.
The Long Term
Restrictive diets are rarely a long-term solution.
They are, instead, a band-aid — sometimes giving the body a break from the constant tidal wave of endotoxin, constipation, maldigestion, or other symptoms.
Unfortunately, the root causes that cause digestive and health issues almost certainly continue to exist, and the symptoms can only be avoided by maintaining the diet.
More And More Restriction
Diets frequently become increasingly restrictive over time.
As a first restrictive diet seems to ‘wear off,’ more and more foods are removed to try and achieve the same relief. It can even be difficult to ever reintroduce a food once removed, if only because of the psychological hurdle developed by negative beliefs about previously-avoided foods. The gut flora changes in response to the diet, too. Removing a food can shift the microbiome to a state where certain foods less well digested.
The cure to our digestive problems may not be as simple as removing foods.
After all, restrictive diets can make food intolerances worse. Foods that were once acceptable become less tolerable over time as the gut microbiome changes during restriction.
A Necessary First Step?
There is certainly a place for limited diets.
Dietary restrictions might be a necessary first step to stop feeding the bad flora.
Why? Because it certainly doesn’t make sense to continue eating foods that cause inflammation or an immune response.
However, to avoid the trap of eternal restrictive dieting, gut health must improve so that diverse foods are tolerable and even welcome in the diet.
Bad Microbes Poison The Body
Anytime food is eaten, bad microbes are capable of digesting food and releasing toxic metabolic byproducts.
These toxic byproducts cause inflammation and immune response. In poor gut health, the gut barrier is weak, meaning more toxins enter the bloodstream. Even microbes enter the bloodstream, causing even more inflammation.
In dysbiosis, food gets “eaten” by bad microbes.
Instead of releasing nutrients (like good flora do), these pathogens release toxins into the gut, which are absorbed into the bloodstream.
In the bloodstream, endotoxin causes inflammation harms tissues and organs. In dysbiosis, this happens every time food is eaten.
It’s Detoxified By The Liver
These endotoxins must be removed by the liver.
Over time, the liver becomes overburdened and sluggish, resulting in poor detoxification in the body.
Ever-rising bodily toxicity causes gut health to worsen further. Good gut flora suffers and bad flora happily take their place in a vicious cycle.
As gut health worsens, the ability to properly absorb food diminishes, leading to energy deficits and nutrient deficiencies, which may be mild enough to be subclinical — yet strong enough to affect the way someone feels and their long-term health outcomes.
As immunity drops, the body’s viral and pathogenic load often increases, complicating things further and possibly leading to a chronically activated immune system (and more inflammation).
What’s more, the brain chemicals released by bad flora can lead to chronically elevated serotonin, general depressive feelings, and brain fog.
Endotoxins Can Be Debilitating
Healthy habits, foods, and thoughts may not be enough to restore vitality when gut microbes are poisoning the body continuously after every meal.
- Toxins can’t leave the system.
- Nutrients aren’t absorbed from food.
- Nutrients aren’t created in the gut.
- Brain chemicals aren’t balanced.
- The immune system is compromised — leading to chronic low-grade infections in the gut and elsewhere.
The Story Of Dysbiosis
Is one of
low nutrient absorption,
& poor brain chemistry.
It’s been suggested that many of the benefits of fasting (as well as low-carb, carnivore, and vegan dieting) are largely the result of less endotoxin production in the gut. What’s worse, a few days without needed nutrition — or ongoing toxic exposure?
…By Restoring Symbiosis
To restore symbiosis in the gut reduces the endotoxin load throughout the body.
Symbiosis, therefore, means less endotoxin — which means less inflammation — throghout the body.
When the gut microbiome becomes more healthy, less endotoxin enters the bloodstream.
Symbiosis Can Be Restored
When at my worst (for several years), nearly every food used to cause heavy inflammation.
Things got so bad, to avoid symptoms, I could only eat fresh-pressed vegetable juices.
Now, I eat essentially any food group and feel no rise in inflammation.
And of course, “leaky gut” can play a role here, too — especially when talking about endotoxin.
What Is Leaky Gut?
The science surrounding leaky gut is in its infancy.
This is a phenomenon where the gut membrane fails to perform its main task: letting in nutrients while keeping pathogens out. The membrane weakens, letting everything in indiscriminately — particularly undigested food and microbes, which cause an instant immune and inflammatory response.
The main theory is that bad microbes cause this: they set up colonies that burrow into the gut wall and eventually burst through.
Other theories suggest that the tissues can’t maintain integrity simply due to lack of energy supply as the body weakens.
In a third theory, similar to how the gut lining can increase permeability up to 80% during/after exercise to absorb more nutrients, in states of poor health it’s possible the gut is “opening up” to receive more nutrients.
The reality could be an “all of the above” situation.
The gut’s permeability is always variable (again, permeability increases 80% after exercise). In this syndrome, permeability is chronically increased.
The leaky gut theory potentially explains autoimmunity and food intolerances, as well.
A leaky gut can heal over time, but bad flora and other issues must be addressed. It’s not as simple as “taking lots of L-glutamine” — which can actually cause serious complications by raising levels of glutamate in the body.
This completes Intro to the Gut.
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