Dysbiosis (also called dysbacteriosis) is a term for a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body, such as an impaired microbiota. For example, a part of the human microbiota, such as the skin flora, gut flora, or vaginal flora, can become deranged, with normally dominating species underrepresented and normally outcompeted or contained species increasing to fill the void. Dysbiosis is most commonly reported as a condition in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly during small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO). It has been reported to be associated with illnesses, such as periodontal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cancer, bacterial vaginosis, and colitis.
Typical microbial colonies found on or in the body are normally benign or beneficial. These beneficial and appropriately sized microbial colonies carry out a series of helpful and necessary functions, such as aiding in digestion. They also help protect the body from the penetration of pathogenic microbes. These beneficial microbial colonies compete with each other for space and resources and outnumber human cells by a factor 10:1.
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When this balance is disturbed, these colonies exhibit a decreased ability to check each other's growth, which can then lead to overgrowth of one or more of the disturbed colonies which may further damage some of the other smaller beneficial ones in a vicious cycle. As more beneficial colonies are damaged, making the imbalance more pronounced, more overgrowth issues occur because the damaged colonies are less able to check the growth of the overgrowing ones. If this goes unchecked long enough, a pervasive and chronic imbalance between colonies will set in, which ultimately minimizes the beneficial nature of these colonies as a whole.
Microbial colonies also excrete many different types of waste byproducts. Using different waste removal mechanisms, under normal circumstances the body effectively manages these byproducts with little or no trouble. Unfortunately, oversized and inappropriately large colonies, due to their increased numbers, excrete increased amounts of these byproducts. As the amount of microbial byproducts increases, the higher waste byproducts levels can overburden the body's waste removal mechanisms.
It is the combination of these two negative outcomes that causes many of the negative health symptoms observed when dysbiosis is present.
Notes and references
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As reviewed in this report, synthetic biology shows potential in developing microorganisms for correcting pathogenic dysbiosis (gut microbiota-host maladaptation), although this has yet to be proven.
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Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews have reported that patients treated with PPIs, as well as post-gastrectomy patients, have a higher frequency of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) compared to patients who lack the aforementioned conditions. Furthermore, there is insufficient evidence that these conditions induce Clostridium difficile infection. At this time, PPI-induced dysbiosis is considered a type of SIBO.
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Small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) is characterized by the presence of excessive number of fungal organisms in the small intestine associated with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Candidiasis is known to cause GI symptoms particularly in immunocompromised patients or those receiving steroids or antibiotics. However, only recently, there is emerging literature that an overgrowth of fungus in the small intestine of non-immunocompromised subjects may cause unexplained GI symptoms. Two recent studies showed that 26 % (24/94) and 25.3 % (38/150) of a series of patients with unexplained GI symptoms had SIFO. The most common symptoms observed in these patients were belching, bloating, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and gas. The underlying mechanism(s) that predisposes to SIFO is unclear but small intestinal dysmotility and use of proton pump inhibitors has been implicated. However, further studies are needed; both to confirm these observations and to examine the clinical relevance of fungal overgrowth, both in healthy subjects and in patients with otherwise unexplained GI symptoms.
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