It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way – Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis (also called dysbacteriosis) is a term for a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body, such as an impaired microbiota.’

Ok… English please. What in tarnation is dysbiosis?

Again with the mumbo jumbo- lets put it simply. Dysbiosis is the term used for when things are not going right with your digestion and intestinal tract. Countless people struggle with the following that would fall under this category (TMI incoming): IBS, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, gas, and a number of other conditions with similar symptoms they’ve been told are incurable diseases. Gut dysbiosis can be tied up with conditions and ailments, and cause a whole host of other issues such as inflammation (bloating is inflammation), skin issues, cognitive and emotional issues, etc.

And what drives me mad is that we are ok with it.

And we spend hundreds, thousands, perhaps even more on medication and surgery, and have lost priceless time of our lives in the restroom, in doctors offices, and simply suffering. Sure, some medications may help manage some of the symptoms, same with surgeries, but it’s always haunting you in the background, waiting to resurface. You’re told it never really goes away. And it won’t if things don’t change.

But what if it doesn’t have to be like this?

Let me ask you this: If this is you, do you even know why you’re struggling with these signs and symptoms? Has anyone ever walked you through how the digestive tract works? What digestive imbalances can do to the rest of your body? Have they helped you find the root cause of your symptoms? Sadly, most people will answer no to these questions. And I don’t blame those who do not know. I was once in the same boat, without knowledge, helpless to the tossing waves of doctors advice and Facebook commentary.

So let me share the little I know. Knowledge is power. And God did not create your body to malfunction. He created it to work a certain way and we as humans, as always, tend to think we can do whatever we want and get away with it without consequence. We do not see that there is a natural, created pattern for how things are to work. Things are not relative here! And when we treat the body as it was meant to be treated, we steward it as it was meant to be stewarded, it will function properly*.

*I do have to say though first that the affects of sin are real. We live in a fallen world and our bodies are broken, which is why we experience death in the first place. While God has a design for us, we are not immune to the effects of sin. There is still disease and death. But even still, are we doing our part to nurture health and growth in line with Gods original design, or helping disease to flourish? This is one thing we do get a choice in and have control over.

I can’t make you listen or care. And that’s fine, these words are simply not for you then. And I am ok with that. I remember one person who shared that they could not remember the last time they did not have diarrhea. They knew they were celiac too, and decided that they were comfortable with the consequences of their chosen diet, and didn’t want to make any changes. For that person, I cannot help them.

But for the person who wants to change, the person who has had enough, who doesn’t want to leave their health in someone else’s hands, these words are for you. And I am grateful you’d read my sometimes helpful, often sarcastic, well intentioned posts. I genuinely care that you find answers for your body. Those answers may look different from the next person, and that is ok. We are all bio-individuals. Finding what makes your body function and thrive the way God designed it to is what matters.

Let me list my top 5 most common triggers for the gut and digestion (in no particular order):

1. Stress– I think as a society we are greatly failing in this area. We have placed the priority and importance on being on-the-go, doing things quickly, and rushing from one thing to the next. How many times do you tell people throughout the week that you are stressed, that you are busy? Sometimes its the first thing our of our mouths. Do we know what this is doing to us? Our central nervous systems have two main functions, think of a light switch with one flip taking you into sympathetic mode, and the other into parasympathetic mode. Sympathetic can also be known as fight or flight, and parasympathetic known as rest and digest. It’s not commonly known that digestion is a secondary function that only works in a parasympathetic state, and when you are in fight or flight your secondary functions turn off so as to reserve energy for running from a bear….or getting through traffic, working to that deadline, getting kids out the door quickly, rushing to your next appointment, or dreading that phone call or text. When you are in a sympathetic state, your stomach will not produce your digestive enzymes and stomach acid necessary for properly breaking down your food, which will lead to a domino effect of digestive issues. Stress will also wear down our adrenals (our stress handling organs) which has its own host of issues it causes.

2. Low Stomach Acid– In continuation of the first point of stress affecting our intestinal health, low stomach acid, also known as hypochlorhydria, a deficiency in hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach, is causing more harm than we may realize in our society. Not only does stress contribute to low stomach acid because it puts us into a sympathetic state where we are not producing it, but many other things can cause low stomach acid too such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, use of proton pump inhibitors, use of tums and alkalizing tablets, and excessive alcohol use. Simply put, without our digestive enzymes and HCl, our food won’t be broken down where it is absorbable, leading to heartburn, GERD, IBS, SIBO, Candida, leaky gut, all of your intestinal discomforts, ulcers, H Pylori overgrowth, allowing for potential food poisoning, malnourishment, starvation, etc.

3. Food Allergies– I’d love to link over to another article I wrote on anxiety, as it links the reasons why food allergies might be one of your underlying issues to your signs and symptoms. That article focuses on anxiety, but know that when your body goes into a fight or flight status, when it rings the alarm that something is wrong (example: something your body recognizes as an allergen has entered the body) part of what happens is that your body shuts down its secondary functions. If your body is triggered, for lack of a better term, over a food you didn’t know you were sensitive to, your digestion can shut down causing a negative domino affect to the rest of the digestive track. If you are continually eating something you are sensitive to, your body is continually going to be going into that fight or flight state, causing great stress to your body cascading down to harming multiple systems.

4. Unhealthy Oils Used– Most oils used in conventional cooking in restaurants, in pre-made foods, and most oils recommended as the ‘healthiest’ oils with the highest smoke point, are vegetable oils which are ironically not made from vegetables, and are very hazardous to our bodies and health. Not only are they void of nutrients, usually already rancid when they hit the shelf, full of free radicals, and inflammatory, but they are simply hard to digest and can cause issues for our digestion and intestines. Because of their inflammatory nature, they can cause bloating and intestinal discomfort, and for many cause diarrhea. The best thing to do is to avoid cooking with them and consuming them. Read labels to see if they are present, and swap them out in your cupboard for olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, pork lard, beef tallow, and any other animal derived, non processed cooking fat and oils.

5. Antibiotic use– One thing to mention that is of extreme importance is that our intestines, our entire bodies, are miniature ecosystems. Because of this, I struggle when I hear of people being afraid of bacteria; do you not know your body is an ecosystem of bacteria and microscopic creatures that were designed to live inside of us, which without would actually kill us? Which is why antibiotics make the list (as well as many prescription drugs). These kill not only the infection causing bad bacteria you may have in your body, but also everything else. Just as when we upset an ecosystem in our real world, when we upset our internal ecosystem and kill off most of it through the use of antibiotics, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice which can greatly harm us. Know the risk and what you are doing to your body when you use antibiotics, and use them only in rare situations Make sure to take probiotics and eat fermented probiotic foods in your diet as well to help build that good bacteria back up (and spend time in nature and playing in the dirt. This also introduces bacteria into your system. Good bacteria, mind you. No need to be afraid of the great outdoors).

Other honorable mentions go to parasites (avoid sketchy food and if you must consume said sketch food then take HCl supplements with your meal), dehydration (drink lots of water so as to avoid constipation and allow your body the fluid it needs to make digestive juices), over eating (Stuffing yourself doesn’t help the process), not chewing your food well enough (You don’t have a gizzard, so what else is going to chew your food for you?), and eating way too fast (Slow down to allow ghrelin [not gremlin], the ‘I’m full’ hormone, to catch up with what you eat; plus if you eat slow you are more likely to chew more thoroughly). All of these will mess you up, so…just don’t. Be more mindful. You’re not a waste chute to stuff consumables down, you’re a dignified human on your way to better health. Right?

And finally…

I know a lot of this sucks. I know, you’re used to what you are used to. We humans don’t like change, we like to dig our heels and ignore symptoms until they make us miserable. Isn’t that why I sometimes at night watch Youtube until my eyes hurt and I feel nauseous, even though I am perfectly aware of how exhausted I am, how early I need to get up the next morning, and what blue light does to my brain? That’s called sabotage. Stop. Get help. (Insert get help meme) [Also this advice is for myself, but you can take it too if you want. It’s free]

To tie it into faith, the Christian life is about sacrifice and we all have to make sacrifices for the better. We pick up our cross and follow Jesus. For the Christian, this shouldn’t be anything new. Just as for our spiritual health we deny things that would not help us serve the Lord, so as for our physical health we ought to deny the things that would not steward our bodies well. And if that isn’t convincing and motivational, would we rather enjoy fleeting moments of flavor world and miss out on life while we’re miserably paying for our health [or lack thereof ], or learn the disciplines of saying yes to quality and limiting quantity now, for better health, lower doctors bills, and less worry? And trust me- you’ll be happier too!

I know what train I’ve set sail on (though to be fair I still try to get off sometimes and I sabotage the tracks and spring leaks now and then…I’m not perfect!). “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1st Corinthians 11:1), I don’t think Paul was eating no fried chicken when he said that. Alright…I’ll stop..

Love you all, I hope this helps guide you towards better gut health. Reach out if you have questions, anything I missed, anything else you’d like addressed on this topic or topics mentioned within.

Glorious food and Glory to God,

Rachel

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