I explained what happens in a healthy gut and the problems that occur in our bodies when our gut is damaged. What causes our gut to go from healthy to damaged? Unsurprisingly, it’s not just one factor.
We’ve probably all been prescribed antibiotics at various times in our life. We are also exposed to them through food. Animals, poultry and farmed fish are routinely given antibiotics so our meat, milk, eggs etc. provide a constant supply of antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria. A lot of fruit and vegetables are also sprayed with antibiotics. As well as having a devastating effect on beneficial bacteria in our body antibiotics also:
- change benign bacteria, viruses and fungi, giving them the ability to invade tissues and cause disease.
- Change bacteria, making them resistant to antibiotics, so more and more powerful antibiotics have to be developed
- have a damaging effect on the immune system, making us more vulnerable to infections, which leads to a vicious cycle of more antibiotics and more infections.
Most drugs, especially those used for long periods of time have a detrimental effect on gut flora.
- Pain killers (aspirin, ibuprofen etc.) stimulate growth of certain bacteria in the gut which are capable of causing disease.
- Steroids (like Prednisolone, hydrocortisone, betamethasone etc.) damage gut flora and in addition supress the immune system.
- The contraceptive pill has a devastating impact on gut flora, and since an new born baby acquires most of it’s gut flora from it’s mother this will be passed on to the child.
- Sleeping pills, heartburn pills and other types of drugs can all cause damage to the gut flora, digestive system and immune system.
What we eat has a direct effect on the composition of the gut flora. This will be addressed further in future posts.
- Different infectious diseases, bacterial and viral, can cause lasting damage to the gut flora.
- Chronic illnesses are often accompanied by serious defects in gut flora.
- Abnormal gut flora is also commonly seen after surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
Short term stress has a detrimental effect on the gut flora, but it usually recovers well once the stressful situation is over. However, long term stress (physical or psychological) can do lasting damage to the indigenous flora.
The following are also known to have an effect on our gut flora:
- Physical exertion,
- old age,
- exposure to toxins, radiation and extreme climates
What does this mean for CFS/ME sufferers?
Most of us have been exposed to most of these factors, and as such our gut flora will have been influenced, and will be unable to perform all the functions that it should. By working to improve our gut flora, by following a good diet we can improve our situation, reduce many of our symptoms and improve our immune system.