Gut Dysbiosis: Energy Vampire?

Gut Dysbiosis: Energy Vampire?

More than 1000 different species of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and protozoans, call our digestive tract home – from its entrance to its exit – amounting to approximately 100 trillion individual organisms. This population is called the human gut microbiome, and depending on the part of the digestive tract that is being cultivated, the ecology of that area supports a very exclusive array of organisms that can easily be disturbed when certain parts of that local environment are modified.

The types of microorganisms present can be divided into three general categories, depending upon their effect on the host (i.e., humans):

  • Beneficial (they help us function and survive)
  • Commensal (they’re along for the ride)
  • Pathogenic (they cause dysfunction and illness and can potentially be fatal)

When the composition or diversity of the resident microorganisms is disturbed so that certain more pathogenic organisms can flourish or when the gut is depleted of its usual overall quantity of beneficial microorganisms, the term gut dysbiosis is applied.

Why Is It Important to Maintain Our Resident Microbiome?
So, what are we doing to our resident microbiome as modern humans to enhance or disturb that delicate balance ensuring energy-rich health or energy-depleted illness?

There is only one immutable factor: If you are alive, you ARE the host.

Every other factor, to a greater or lesser degree, can be modified by how you treat your resident microbiome. One of the factors that seems immutable is aging, but even this, with appropriate considerations and attention, can yield great results for a healthy gut microflora.

Multiple factors regularly contribute to gut health or gut dysbiosis, including, but not limited to:

  • Dietary composition and quantity
  • Hydration
  • Sleep habits and sleep-disturbed breathing
  • Exercise habits
  • Psychological condition
  • Environmental toxins, including environmental contaminants, smoking, and alcohol
  • Prescription drugs and medications

Essentially, all those things your mother told you to be careful of when you were young.

Ecosystems of the Digestive Tract
Let’s look a little more closely at the four general ecosystems within the digestive tract:

  1. the oral cavity and esophagus
  2. the stomach
  3. the small intestine
  4. the colon or large intestine

Between each of these specific anatomical regions are powerful muscular sphincters that, under normal healthy conditions, act as gatekeepers to prevent backflow and cross-contamination. These junctions also prevent the retrograde flow of resident microflora.

Ecosystem 1: Mouth and Esophagus
The first ecosystem, the mouth and esophagus, is the entryway for all nutrients and irritants to the gut microbiome. This area is usually characterized in health as an alkaline watery environment, with the primary microbes preferring an oxygen-rich environment. However, in the pathology known as periodontal disease, anaerobic (oxygen-hating) bacteria flourish, which have been causatively linked to atherosclerosis.

Ecosystem 2: The Stomach
As we pass through the lower esophageal sphincter, we enter the second major ecosystem, characterized by its high HCl acid concentration specifically designed to reduce bulk protein sources into smaller peptides and single amino acids. This high concentration has the beneficial side effect of neutralizing many otherwise pathogenic microorganisms before they can reach the next ecosystem, the small intestine. If the stomach is overfilled or acid-reducing medications are indiscriminately prescribed and used, the modulating effect of this ecosystem is changed with significant potential adverse effects – for example, GERD and Barrett’s esophagitis.

Ecosystem 3: The Small Intestine
The third major digestive tract ecosystem is found in the small intestine. The primary physiologic functions of this part of the digestive system are biochemical rather than microbial, and its acidity is at a more neutral pH, having been buffered with bile salts and digestive enzymes. Consequently, in health, the small intestine has a lower quantity and diversity of microbes. But under the wrong circumstances, even the small intestine can become overpopulated by microbes.

Ecosystem 4: The Colon or Large Intestine
Finally, we reach the most significant repository of microbial life in our digestive tract: the colon or large intestine. These resident microbes make our lives as humans possible, and most of the time, they serve us well. It is here that the greatest quantity of microbes exists in a great diversity of species and strains. And it is with great peril that we ignore this ecosystem or, worse, try to annihilate parts of it altogether.

Nurture Your Resident Microbiome
The synthesis of essential vitamins and gut-brain neurotransmitters occurs through the actions of these denizens, which modulate the digestion of certain foods. And yet, when we forget to nurture them (with prebiotics) or when we destroy them (with overly processed “foods” or with broad-spectrum antibiotics), we set ourselves up for the ravages of chronic inflammatory problems and illness and sometimes even acute severe illness.

Pay attention to your resident microbiome. It could mean the difference between vibrant energy-rich wellness and serious health problems.

Kevin Norige, DMD, is the founder and chief dentist at South Windsor Smiles, a private dental practice that focuses on oral health as part of the whole-body system. For over 35 years he has worked with patients to achieve a healthy mouth and live a healthier life.

Call 860.288.2111 or www.SouthWindsorSmiles.com.