In previous articles we explored the much underappreciated role good bacteria in the digestive tract plays in the maintenance of our health. This essential gastrointestinal bacterial flora also helps in the prevention and treatment of many disorders, from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, to asthma, eczema and allergies in general. The tremendous growth of asthma and allergies in our society today now looks to be related to an unhealthy gastrointestinal ecology.
Recall that about 80% of our immune system exists within our gastrointestinal tract and it is in constant communication with over one hundred trillion beneficial gut bacteria, which weighs about 3 to 6 pounds. It is these beneficial bacteria and the absence of unwanted microbes that helps keep our immune system in proper balance. Dysbiosis is an over abundance of unwanted non-infectious GI microorganisms and/or a lack of beneficial gastrointestinal bacteria, which can adversely affect our immune system. Dysbiosis can ramp up the immune system causing it to become hypervigilant, overreacting to everything from house dust and animal dander to common foods or even your own tissues.
Good hygiene does reduce our exposure to harmful bacteria, but it also limits our exposure to beneficial microorganisms. This is one of the reasons why the bacterial flora of our digestive system isn't as robust and diversified as it was long ago. "The bacteria in our digestive system are essential to digestion and also serve to educate our immune system. They teach it how to react to strange substances. This remains a key in the development of a child's immune system," according to Dr. Guy Delespesse, professor at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine and director of the Laboratory for Allergy Research at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal. Dr. Delespesse goes further, "The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime."
There are many other factors in our modern lifestyle that lead to an imbalanced gut bacteria flora, such as antibiotics, poor diet, decreased digestive enzymes and maldigestion. Whatever the cause, this dysbiosis can also lead to an unhealthy intestinal lining. Your intestinal lining acts as an intelligent safety net selectively determining what is safe to come inside of you and what must be evacuated from the system. When this intelligent intestinal lining is damaged from dysbiosis it will "leak" and expose your immune system unwanted particles such as undigested food molecules, microbes, wastes, toxins, and even antigens and pathogens. This has been referred to as a 'Leaky Gut Syndrome,' and remember it is these leaked rogue particles that can ramp up your immune system causing it to become more reactive and allergic.
If you are one of the many individuals who now find themselves allergic to multiple foods and environmental factors you may want to find out if dysbiosis is playing a role. All you need do is have your doctor properly run and interpret a CDSA through one of the labs specializing in this testing. Research has shown that quality highly concentrated probiotic supplementation with specific strains of bacteria that can colonize the bowel can help to reduce allergic reactions. Also high fiber diets with no simple carbohydrates have been shown to improve the quality and quantity of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Don't let allergies get in the way of having a fantastic summer this year!
About Dr. Greg Fors
Dr. Greg Fors, D.C. is a Board-certified Neurologist (IBCN), certified in Applied Herbal Sciences (NWHSU) and acupuncture. As the director of the virtual Pain and Brain Healing Center, he specializes in a functional medicine approach to fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety. He is a sought after international lecturer for various post-graduate departments and state associations. Dr. Fors is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Why We Hurt” available through booksellers everywhere.