Dysbiosis: How To Balance Your Gut For Better Performance
By Connor Young on
Your small intestine (gut) is home to trillions of bacteria from hundreds of different species. They compete, cooperate, grow, shrink, and engage in an intricate dance that keeps a healthy balance.
Your gut bacteria influence your whole body. There’s a direct pathway between your gut and your brain, for example . Gut bacteria can even influence body-wide fat storage .
Your gut biome’s widespread influence gives you a powerful opportunity to strengthen your whole body. The flip side of that, though, is that when your gut bacteria fall out of balance, you can see a broad range of effects. If you’re experiencing several of the following issues, there’s a chance you have dysbiosis (an imbalance in your gut bacteria):
- Constipation [3,4]
- Diarrhea/gas 
- Fatigue 
- Brain fog [7,8]
- Depression [9,10]
- Acid reflux 
- Hormone imbalance 
- Stubborn yeast infections, including Candida 
- Food sensitivities 
- Impaired immune function 
If you’re struggling with any of these, don’t despair! We’ll help you understand why dysbiosis happens and give you some practical tools to restore gut health. With a little diligence, you can reprogram your gut bacteria and build a healthy gut in no time. Balancing your gut microbiome can also improve your immune system, reduce bloating, help with weight loss, relieve irritable bowel syndrome, and strengthen your digestive tract to protect against leaky gut.
Here's why dysbiosis happens, and what you can do to increase the beneficial bacteria in your gut flora for a stronger digestive system.
Four common causes of dysbiosis
These are four of the most common causes of dysbiosis:
1) Antibiotic use and dysbiosis
Antibiotics kill many damaging pathogenic bacteria. That’s great if you have strep throat or an overgrowth of E. coli. But the downside to antibiotics is that they aren’t picky about the bacteria they kill.
Taking antibiotics is like nuking your gut biome: it wipes out everything, including all the friendly bacteria thriving in your gut. And bacteria are clever. They adapt quickly to things that kill them, meaning the more humans use antibiotics, the more bacteria figure out ways to survive the nuke. That can lead to antibiotic-resistant pathogens that survive a round of antibiotics, and with no friendly bacteria competing, they’re free to aggressively colonize your gut.
If you recently took antibiotics and you’ve started noticing the issues you read about above, you may have antibiotic-induced gut dysbiosis.
Pro tip: in the future, follow antibiotics with a good probiotic, to inoculate your gut with healthy strains of bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus (two of the strains we included in Ample, by the way) both help prevent dysbiosis from antibiotics [16,17]. The other tips later in this article may help you, too.
2) Dysbiosis from sugar and refined carbohydrates
Refined carbs are a favorite food of several pathogenic bacteria . If you’ve been eating a lot of sugar or refined carbs like white bread, pasta, and so on, you may be fueling the overgrowth of damaging microorganisms in your gut.
It’s worth noting that complex carbs, especially ones rich in fiber, have the opposite effect: they’re great for improving gut health [19,20].
3) Stress and dysbiosis
We mentioned earlier that there’s a direct link between your gut and your brain. As a result, your psychological state can have a major impact on your gut, and vice versa.
If you’ve ever been anxious and gotten an upset stomach, you probably know about the gut-brain link intuitively. Recent research has shown that that link is quite real. Stress contributes to oxidative damage and inflammation in your gut, which can in turn contribute to dysbiosis . Dysbiosis can also happen if you're stressed because you aren't getting enough sleep.
4) Alcohol and dysbiosis
There’s a strong link between alcohol and inflammatory bacterial overgrowth in both humans and rodents . Regular drinking seems to lead to more severe dysbiosis, as well as increased gut inflammation, but there’s also an acute effect with alcohol - that is, a night of binge drinking negatively impacts your gut. Alcohol may also damage your gut lining .
These are some of the most common factors in gut dysbiosis.
How to restore gut health
Here are three simple ways to balance your gut bacteria and restore - or even enhance - your gut health.
1) Cut sugar, add fiber
As a rule of thumb, bad gut bacteria run on sugar, while good bacteria run on fiber [24,25]. A Western diet (low-fiber with lots of inflammatory fats and simple carbs) leads to, quoting the referenced study, “severe gut dysbiosis” .
The biggest takeaway here is to cut out sugar and refined carbs, including alcohol, and to increase fiber intake. Fiber will feed good gut bacteria and ferment into short-chain fatty acids that curb inflammation and improve the overall health of your gut .
If you’re on a higher-carb diet, get your carbs from high-quality, complex, fiber-rich sources. If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet, make sure you’re loading up on veggies. And no matter what diet you follow, favor healthy fats over inflammatory ones.
- Cut sugar, simple carbs, and alcohol
- Get plenty of fiber from complex carbs, vegetables, or both
- Eat healthy fats to decrease gut inflammation
2) Exercise to improve gut health
Working out is a two-pronged approach to building a stronger gut. Exercise on its own, independent of diet, improves gut biome composition by increasing anti-inflammatory bacteria [28,29].
That alone is awesome, but exercise also strengthens your gut-brain axis by decreasing stress, regardless of the type of exercise you choose . As you read earlier, stress is a major factor in dysbiosis.
So get moving. Do whatever you enjoy - running, lifting, yoga, even walking. Your gut bacteria will thank you.
3) Probiotics and prebiotics for dysbiosis
You can also address your gut bacteria more directly. Probiotics are supplements that contain live beneficial gut bacteria. Taking them on a regular basis can inoculate your gut biome with healthy strains and crowd out bad bacteria. You can then add prebiotics - special types of fiber or starch that feed good bacteria and encourage them to grow.
If you’re drinking Ample, you’ve already got this step covered. Every bottle contains six of the best-studied probiotic bacteria, as well as three prebiotics to feed them. If you want to go further, you can also pick up individual probiotic supplements. Check out our guide to probiotics and prebiotics for details on which bacteria are best, and what each one does. You can also eat probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha. Most common fermented foods contain healthy bacteria that support your gut microbiota.
Do you have any other ways to strengthen your gut biome? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading and have a great week.
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As for probiotics, I have found that SACCHAROMYCES BOULARDII, which is actually a prebiotic, has worked wonders for me.
FIBER: Keto diets are generally low fiber. Gut Biota will get dysfunctional when lacking adequate fiber on a regular basis.
IF you notice getting too gassy from adding fiber, 1st understand that’s a normal reaction to suddenly adding more fiber! The gut Biota is just trying to catch-up; it must grow more kinds of biota that can digest more fiber….Until it adjusts, it forms too much gas. But IF you keep giving your gut enough fiber, the biota steps-up, adjusts to digest it just fine; the gas-attacks will markedly decrease fairly quickly, to a point where there is very little gas produced.
ELECTROLYTES: I thought about trying to mix the AmpleK using coconut water, since that has loads of electrolytes…but coconut water also has high carbs…so, unless one’s digestion has already happily converted to Keto, coconut water might not work for you. I got some Magnesium Threonate powder, and add a little of that to at least one shake or meal per day. You can also get potassium powder to add to shakes or meals.
SALT: I like using the Himalayan pink salt, because it tends to Not raise blood pressure, for many people. The trace minerals in Pink salt, might be helpful to many doing Keto.
VIT. C: Since there’s so little veggies eaten, one might want to supplement with a chewable natural C w/ bioflavanoids. This helps tissue repair, and helps fend-off infections. Vit. C is strongly anti-oxidant, too.
MIXED GREENS POWDERS: There are numerous organic freeze-dried greens powders. One scoop of this stuff in a shaker of water, or added to one of the meal shakes, can provide the concentrated nutrition that comes from veggies, without the higher carbs that come from eating servings of whole veggies. This seems to fit well with Keto, like getting the best of both worlds….some versions have higher fiber, as well, which helps Keto. Greens contain B-vits, Folate, and Minerals; using a greens powder while doing a Keto diet, can really help make it a “no-brainer” to stick to, because getting the nutrients from the greens powders, helps prevent craving for carbs.
MCT OIL: Putting it too simply, this oil does not over-whelm the liver. This can be a real help to those trying to go Keto, who have say, lost their gall bladder, or, those with a fatty liver to heal. The liver doesn’t have to work hard at all, to process MCT’s. That said, though, one might want to study deeper information on MCT’s, to better determine if this oil is something you want to use more of.
Remember, MCT’s naturally come in Coconut oil; by using organic cold-pressed coconut oil [NEVER the refined type], you also get co-factors in that, which are lacking in the MCT oil products.
I’ve found that WHEN you take a probiotic really matters. If I eat something with a lot of fiber, it will give me pain and cramping in a few hours, UNLESS I take a probiotic at the same time. If I do that, then I feel good. If I take the probiotic at a random time of day instead of taking it with the high-fiber food, it doesn’t do me any noticeable good. So, clearly, there’s something else doing the fermenting of those fibers unless I make sure to “seed” the right organisms. This is particularly important if I’m going to have a stressful day, because stress will make the discomfort worse and can start a pain/stress feedback loop.
Melanie Weisberg on