How can you find out if your microbiome is out of balance?
Each body area—your small and large intestines, your mouth, lungs, vagina, skin, and so on—typically has its own healthy combination of microorganisms. Dysbiosis—an out-of-balance microbiome—shows these characteristics:
- Reduced diversity of microorganisms
- A loss of beneficial microorganisms
- An increase in those that can become harmful under certain conditions.
What are the symptoms of an out-of-balance microbiome?
The symptoms vary, depending on what part of your body has an imbalanced microbiome. Some common symptoms of dysbiosis of your intestinal microbes:1ScienceDirect. Dysbiosis: An Overview. Viewed June 28, 2021.
- Insufficient uptake and use of nutrients from food
- Inflammation resulting from increased leakiness of the intestines, allowing potentially harmful molecules to leak into the bloodstream before being processed to their elemental state, such as proteins from gluten, soy, or dairy; this is commonly referred to as “leaky gut”
Symptoms specific to one or more organs near the digestive tract:
- A build-up of blood (congestion) that can’t properly exit an organ near or connected to the intestines, including your liver, gallbladder, or pancreas
Systemic immune symptoms
Partially digested food molecules can leak into the bloodstream improperly when your microbiome doesn’t maintain the lining of your gut. Common reactions to this situation, called “leaky gut”:
- Worsening of disorders you’re already experiencing related to inflammation, such as autoimmunity, arthritis, or migraines
- Central nervous system problems such as brain fog, irritability, mood changes, and anxiety
- Inflammation of your glands, altering your ability to produce or secrete hormones to adapt to stress and illness
Additional common symptoms can occur related to dysbiosis in your mouth, bladder, vagina, heart, lungs, skin and other places, in addition to your intestinal tract:2Jewell T. What causes dysbiosis and how is it treated? Healthline. February 1, 2019. Viewed June 28, 2021.
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty urinating
- Vaginal or rectal itching
- Chest pain
- Rash or redness
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating
What tests can diagnose an out-of-balance microbiome?
If your physician suspects you have dysbiosis based on one or more of the symptoms described above, he or she may do a physical exam to detect yeast and bacterial overgrowth in the mouth, vagina, or skin. For example, your urine may have a telltale smell and appearance.
After going over your medical history and assessing your symptoms, your doctor may order one or several of the following diagnostic tests. Lab analysis of swabs of mucous membranes or urine may detect microorganism overgrowths.
Organic acids test
Your doctor will collect a urine sample and send it to a laboratory. The lab technician will test for certain acids that bacteria can produce. If these acid levels are abnormal, it may mean that certain bacteria are out of balance.
Comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA)
Your doctor will have you take home special equipment to obtain a sample of your stool. You’ll return this sample to your doctor for lab testing. The lab technician will test the stool sample to see what bacteria, yeasts, or fungi are present. The results can tell your doctor if there’s an imbalance or overgrowth.
Hydrogen breath test
Your doctor will have you drink a sugar solution and breathe into a special balloon. The air in the balloon can then be tested for gasses produced by bacteria. Too much or too little of certain gases can indicate a bacterial imbalance. This test is often used to test for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Your doctor may also take a sample of bacteria or tissue (biopsy) from an area of an active infection to see what bacteria are causing the infection.