Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS May 5, 2016
In Part 1, I described how inflammation could move from the healthy state of acute inflammation to the unhealthy state of chronic inflammation. In this part, I discuss how gut bacteria and the cellular lining of the gut are involved in chronic inflammation.
Healthy bacteria make vitamins and other nutrients, and they affect the immune system. They support digestion and total health when they populate our guts in proper ratios, varieties of species, and absolute numbers. They specifically nourish the cells that line the gut and provide a first line of defense against invaders into the body. The gut microbiome also can influence the health of the blood brain barrier.
When the ratios of unhealthy to healthy bacteria soar, overall health is compromised. When the gut microbiome falls out of balance and the “bad guys” proliferate, the imbalance is called dysbiosis. The byproducts of bad bacteria, yeast, and parasites are toxic and inflammatory to the body and destructive to the cells lining the gut. HERE.
The Gut Barrier
The cells that line the gut are replaced every one to two weeks. This quick turnover helps maintain health and function in the gut lining. However, toxic substances and overpopulation of bad bacteria over a long period of time can lead to a breakdown in the cell lining of the gut barrier, allowing leakage into the bloodstream.
Think of the lining of your digestive tract as a fine mesh net with extremely small holes that allow only specific substances of a specific size to pass through. If the substances are smaller than the holes in the net, they can pass through. If the substances are larger than the holes, they can’t. If the bigger particles are not digestible, they eventually get eliminated. If they are digestible, they’re broken down into their smaller nutritional elements. Only then can they pass from the gut into the bloodstream. This is how a healthy gut should function. Your gut lining works as a barrier keeping out those bigger particles that can damage your system.
If the “fine mesh net” in your digestive tract gets damaged and bigger holes develop, some bad stuff could pass through into your bloodstream. This damage to the gut lining is called a leaky gut, or more specifically increased intestinal permeability. Some of the larger particles that should never seep through are able to penetrate. Unhealthy substances might include not-fully-digested proteins (such as gluten that is not able to be completely digested by the human gut), bad bacteria along with their harmful byproducts, and other food particles that have not been broken down into their biologically effective components. Toxic waste could also leak from the inside of the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. All substances that leak into the bloodstream (but should not be there) can initiate chronic inflammatory responses. The entire body becomes the playground for chronic inflammation.
Frequently, damage to the gut lining can cause symptoms that are well removed from their source. Examples are lesions in the mouth, damage to the joints, malfunctioning organ systems, and the list goes on. However, some gut symptoms resulting from chronic inflammation include:
- Dark and foul-smelling feces
- Irritable colon
- Crohn’s disease
- Colon cancer, etc.
Chronic Systemic Inflammation
Chronic systemic inflammation is a serious problem. It can make you feel really bad. It can stop your body from doing what it should. It also can contribute to cascading and cumulative problems like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and various autoimmune diseases (including rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel diseases, multiple sclerosis, periodontal disease, and many others). Many of the problems of chronic inflammation may not show up as obvious symptoms until years or even decades have past.
In Part 3 of 3, I’ll explore ways of reducing chronic inflammation