What do we mean by ‘dysbiosis’ in relation to gut health?

What is dysbiosis?
What causes dysbiosis?
How can consumers reduce the likelihood of dysbiosis?

Around the world, shoppers are switching on to the benefits of better gut health, but the next important challenge for formulators lies is in helping consumers to turn knowledge into action.

With the health and nutrition industries looking to support the future needs of consumers, an understanding of the gut microbiome is key to unlocking the potential of the gut-focused health and nutrition product category.

The gut microbiome is a complex collection of microorganisms that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. Collectively referred to as the gut microbiota, this sophisticated ecosystem of bacteria interacts with different functions of the body, and as a result, plays a significant role in physical and mental wellbeing.

Studies1 have shown that the gut and its colony of bacteria play a pivotal part in many of the body’s core functions, including the immune system, mental health and even sporting performance. These areas of health have been a key focus in the development of Bimuno® GOS, a prebiotic galactooligosaccharide ingredient designed to make gut health simple from formulator to consumer.

Within the digestive system, the make-up of the gut microbiome can vary greatly from one individual to another as there are understood to be more than 1000 types of bacteria that can inhabit this space. The gut microbiome’s composition can be influenced and shaped by factors including lifestyle and diet and is believed to be as unique as a fingerprint.

When speaking about ‘gut health’, this is most often referring to the composition of bacteria in the gut microbiome; whether this is a favourable, beneficial composition, or not. In turn, this takes into consideration how many advantageous ‘good bacteria’ inhabit it in relation to the ‘bad bacteria’ that either do not confer a health benefit or are detrimental to health. As the science behind the gut continues to develop, the term ‘dysbiosis’ has also grown in use.

What is dysbiosis?

The balance between good and bad bacteria can be significantly altered by what we put into the body, through diet and nutrition, as well as certain medications. For example, prebiotic fibre, such as GOS ingredient Bimuno, are known to be the preferred food source for certain kinds of good bacteria. In the case of Bimuno, this is bifidobacteria. However, stress and other non-dietary factors can influence the composition of this bacterial community.

A gut microbiome which contains adequate levels of beneficial bacteria is considered to be the benchmark of good gut health. An imbalance or interruption to this bacterial ecosystem, resulting in a less beneficial composition, is called dysbiosis.

Importantly, dybiosis is recognised as a state of condition rather than a medical diagnosis. It is used as an umbrella term to describe a disproportionate balance of the ‘bad’ to ‘good’ bacteria in the gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome is a finite space and can only contain a certain volume of bacteria, which adds extra importance to what kind of bacteria are present. When the gut microbiome holds too much of the bad bacteria and not enough of the good, the disruption can lead to, or exacerbate, gastrointestinal health issues. This can also lead to associated digestive health symptoms such as upset stomach, bloating or diarrhoea.

What causes dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis is typically the result of a significant change in the diet or consistent poor eating habits over an extended period of time.

While excessive levels of protein, sugar, alcohol or food additives in the diet are thought to impact the composition of the gut microbiome, it has also been noted that ingesting certain chemicals and pesticides that are commonly found on unwashed fresh fruit and vegetables can also play a role in impacting the gut environment.

The symptoms and severity of dysbiosis often depend on which particular type of bacteria is out of balance. Often, symptoms are mild and can easily be treated by simple lifestyle or dietary changes, to give the good bacteria additional support. However, if symptoms persist and/or worsen, medical advice must always be sought in the first instance.

How can consumers reduce the likelihood of dysbiosis?

Many studies2 have revealed the importance of regular intestinal fertilisation of the gut microbiota, as it supports metabolic and immunologic functions that assist the body’s homeostasis, or regular function. One way in which we can help the gut microbiome is to ensure the inclusion of prebiotic fibre in our diet.

Prebiotics are known to restore the bacterial balance and enhance bioavailability, improving the intake of minerals and nutrients. The promotion of good bacteria generates activity in the gut which helps the body fight against harmful bacteria, aids healthy digestion and immune functions in addition to cognitive health benefits.

Prebiotics are non-digestible short-chain carbohydrates that can successfully pass through the upper digestion tract of the human body intact, reaching the large intestine. In the large intestine, the bacteria ferment the indigestible fibre, creating short-chain fatty acids, which is a major nutritional source for good bacteria in the gut microbiome.

Found naturally in some foods such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans, prebiotic fibre can also be added via specialised ingredients to create or enhance a supplement or added to a finished food or drink product.

An additional consideration for brands is the growing category of synbiotics, which include both a prebiotic and probiotic ingredient in one product. In these instances, a stable and versatile prebiotic, such as Bimuno GOS, is essential.

At Clasado Biosciences, we work with leading brands and manufacturers in the food, pharmaceuticals and healthcare markets in the creation of bespoke formulations for finished products with enriched prebiotic functionality and performance. The market-leading targeted prebiotic, Bimuno, can be added to any food, drink or existing supplement.

Available in both syrup and powder form, the multi award-winning Bimuno GOS is a blend of non-digestible galactooligosaccharides (GOS) which passes through the upper gastrointestinal tract until it reaches the colon, where it feeds the beneficial gut bacteria creating a healthy and happy, balanced gut microbiome.

Why not learn more about the importance of good gut microbes? Click here to learn more about bifidobacteria, a beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome.