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Dysbiosis, ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’, and
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

What is Dysbiosis or 'Leaky Gut Syndrome'?

The upper part to the small intestine is designed to be almost free of bacteria. When bacterial levels increase and this bacteria (microflora) chemistry is altered, toxic compounds are produced by the bacterial breakdown of food. This has been shown by Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff to cause a wide range of degenerative diseases.

“Alterations in the bowel flora and its activities are now believed to be contributing factors to many chronic and degenerative diseases. Irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis have all been linked to alterations in the intestinal microflora.

The intestinal dysbiosis hypothesis suggests a number of factors associated with modern Western living have a detrimental impact on the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract.

Factors such as antibiotics, psychological and physical stress, and certain dietary components have been found to contribute to intestinal dysbiosis. If these causes can be eliminated or at least attenuated then treatments aimed at manipulating the microflora may be more successful.” (Altern Med Rev 2004;9(2):180-197)


 What is Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth?

Further testing can be pursued through your family physician, naturopath, or holistic nutritionist with dietary and stool analysis to rule out Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

This condition can cause further reductions in immune function due to food allergies, mental and physical stress, inflammation, joint pain, increased stool odour, smelly gas, nausea, diarrhea, feelings of indigestion, bloating and pain the in mid section.


Causes of SIBO

The main causes of leaky gut and SIBO are:

  • reduced peristalsis - movement of the smooth muscle of the intestine);
  • lack of digestive secretions;
  • malabsorption of nutrients;
  • intestinal infection (by the Candida Albicans yeast infection for example); and
  • altered pH in the stomach.


Foods to Avoid When Treating the Gut

How we eat can create a leaky gut and SIBO. Here are the ways that we may be unknowingly damaging our small and large intestines:

  • consuming a diet high in refined sugar - slows the activity of the gastrointestinal tract);
  • eating a high protein diet – particularly red meat and processed meats two or three times per day;
  • consciously or unconsciously following a diet high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats;
  • having low levels of stomach acid (called hydrochloric acid) which fails to cause closure of the lower esophageal sphincter;
  • creating a weak iliocecal valve which separates the small and large intestines - due to constant straining with defecation and/or experiencing long term constipation; and
  • having a low fibre diet.


Best Course of Action

We really do not need to test for SIBO. If we alter the diet we can heal this condition within two to three weeks! In order to reverse the conditions of dysbiosis and SIBO the cell membranes forming the walls of the small and large intestines must be healed.


Gut Healing Strategies 

The goal when healing the gut is to avoid eating foods that could further cause damage to the cell membrane. For healing to occur, it is best to follow the guidelines below:

  • completely avoid any sources of refined sugar
  • all processed/packaged foods
  • eliminate gluten (ideally all grains)
  • remove all sources of dairy – unless the food is particularly labeled dairy free, avoid all milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, sour cream, ice cream, gelato, whey protein, lactose and casein in deli meats (kosher/pareve labelled sources are ok), breads baked with milk and/or butter, protein bars, anything that says ‘butter flavoured’ like chips or popcorn, canned tuna (contains hydrolyzed caseinate), and soy based ‘cheese’
  • limit red meat to once per week
  • increase the number of servings of mostly lightly steamed vegetables to improve dietary fibre intake
  • increase the amount healthy saturated fat through the addition of avocado, coconut and olive oils, olives, nuts and seeds,


Treat with Probiotics

One of the fastest acting treatments for dysbiosis and SIBO include the addition of broad spectrum probiotic supplements to increase the level of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut. 

It is suggested that probiotics can be most helpful taken just before bed on an empty stomach. This way the bacteria can repopulate the gut and any early side effects of newly introduced busy bacteria, such as gas or bloating, will not be as uncomfortable as during the day.

Probiotic foods can also be helpful. Try a tablespoon or two of coconut or water buffalo kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut with each meal. Delicious and very healthy at the same time!

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