The Role Dysbiosis May Be Playing in Your Health

Dysbiosis is a state in which there is an imbalance of microorganisms on or within our bodies. When in balance, these colonies of microorganisms tend to have a favorable effect on our bodies. When there is an imbalance, we may experience unwanted symptoms.

gut bacteria
jamesbenet/E+/Getty Images


Gut microbiota dysbiosis, also known as intestinal or gastrointestinal dysbiosis, refers to a condition in which there is an imbalance of the microorganisms within our intestines. These microorganisms, collectively known as gut flora, consist predominantly of various strains of bacteria, and to a lesser extent include fungi and protozoa. The gut flora are essential for digestion and immune functioning. A state of dysbiosis, therefore, will result in digestive and other systemic symptoms.

Health Problems Stemming From Gut Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis has been identified as playing a possible role with a variety of health problems. What this role might be is not always clear. It is theorized that the balance of gut bacteria can affect the immune system and the health of the lining of the gut (increased intestinal permeability). As you can see, health conditions in which dysbiosis might play a part are not all digestive in nature:


Dysbiosis reflects a change in the population of the various microbes, in that unhelpful microbes overpower those that are more beneficial. Unfortunately, this tends to have a snowball effect, as the lesser amounts of helpful microbes become less and less able to keep the "unfriendly" microbes from multiplying. Dysbiosis may also be the result of a change in the location of the various types of microorganisms throughout the intestines or a change in how they are operating.

Some factors that appear contribute to a state of dysbiosis include:

  • Antibiotic use (from medications or from the consumption of antibiotic-treated animal products)
  • Unhealthy diet (lacking in nutrients and fiber or containing harmful substances)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Secondary to medical illness, such as chemotherapy for cancer
  • High life stress levels

Improving Gut Health

Dysbiosis can theoretically be improved through improved dietary and lifestyle habits, such as eating a balanced, nutritious diet and engaging in mind/body techniques for stress management. Some alternative health practitioners recommend the use of bone broth, but there is no clinical research to back up this recommendation.

The research on the relationship between gut dysbiosis and our health is still in preliminary stages, although it is rapidly expanding. As of now, there are several treatment options that have received some research support for improving a state of dysbiosis:

For people who have irritable bowel syndrome, there is a specific antibiotic named Xifaxan (rifaximin) that targets dysbiosis in the intestines.

As of now, this area of medicine is still in its preliminary stages. Clear information about improving dysbiosis and what effect that will have on health disorders are not yet available. However, this area of inquiry appears to be a promising one.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Belizário JE, Faintuch J, Garay-Malpartida M. Gut microbiome dysbiosis and immunometabolism: New frontiers for treatment of metabolic diseases. Mediators Inflamm. 2018;2018:2037838. doi:10.1155/2018/2037838

  2. Belizário JE, Faintuch J. Microbiome and gut dysbiosis. Exp Suppl. 2018;109:459-476. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-74932-7_13

  3. Zhang L, Hu Y, Xu Y, et al. The correlation between intestinal dysbiosis and the development of ankylosing spondylitis. Microb Pathog. 2019;132:188-192. doi:10.1016/j.micpath.2019.04.038

  4. Lee SY, Lee E, Park YM, Hong SJ. Microbiome in the gut-skin axis in atopic dermatitis. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2018;10(4):354–362. doi:10.4168/aair.2018.10.4.354

  5. Horta-Baas G, Romero-Figueroa MDS, Montiel-Jarquín AJ, Pizano-Zárate ML, García-Mena J, Ramírez-Durán N. Intestinal dysbiosis and rheumatoid arthritis: A link between gut microbiota and the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. J Immunol Res. 2017;2017:4835189. doi:10.1155/2017/4835189

  6. Thursby E, Juge N. Introduction to the human gut microbiota. Biochem J. 2017;474(11):1823–1836. doi:10.1042/BCJ20160510

  7. Engen PA, Green SJ, Voigt RM, Forsyth CB, Keshavarzian A. The gastrointestinal microbiome: Alcohol effects on the composition of intestinal microbiota. Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):223–236. 

  8. Rea K, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. The microbiome: A key regulator of stress and neuroinflammation. Neurobiol Stress. 2016;4:23–33. doi:10.1016/j.ynstr.2016.03.001

  9. Bull, M. & Plummer, N. Part 2: Treatments for chronic gastrointestinal disease and gut dysbiosis. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal. 2015;14:25–33.

  10. Chang C. Short-course therapy for diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: understanding the mechanism, impact on gut microbiota, and safety and tolerability of rifaximinClin Exp Gastroenterol. 2018;11:335–345. Published 2018 Sep 24. doi:10.2147/CEG.S167031