Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
April 13, 2020
You can’t see it or touch it or smell it. But it’s all around us.
Everyone talks about it and experiences it.
Life in our modern world seems to create it. Or maybe we are creating it for ourselves.
But then came COVID-19, and it blew all of us away!!
I don’t have to tell you about the stress we have endured during this pandemic. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives abruptly and severely. Sadly, a number of us have gotten sick; many of us have lost jobs or businesses; a few have died. The emotional trauma of these bombshells is taking its toll. I’m not sure if life will ever be the same as it was before the virus raised its ugly head and spread like a raging hurricane.
The psychological ramifications are yet to be realized. So many of us have feelings of desperation and are demoralized. Those that are demoralized feel that no matter what they do and how hard they work will make no difference. They are falling into the abyss of depression and feelings of worthlessness.
Stress and the Gut
You may not realize it, but stress affects your gut, your immune system, and your brain. Especially if the stress is continuous and seems to have no end. The consequences could be subtle or might create significant and immediate effects. Or, it may affect our body months or years later manifesting as one of many types of chronic diseases. The pathway to tragic illnesses is pretty amazing and probably will surprise you.
Emotional stress can lead to changes in the intestinal wall by opening up spaces between the cells of the epithelial barrier. This is a natural process that allows additional water, sodium, and glucose to get into the blood system. Your body needs these to assist in the chemical changes induced by stress. When short bouts of stress are resolved, then the holes in this gut barrier return to normal. However, significantly increased stress from financial and social disruptions caused by COVID-19 can last a long time. No one knows how long these stresses will endure. What is certain is that chronic, overwhelming stress will induce serious problems. The resulting damage to the gut epithelial barrier will allow the continuous leakage into the blood system of harmful substances from the gut lumen – especially lipopolysaccharides (LPS).
Endotoxemia Causes Chronic Disease
LPS (which is an endotoxin) is the outer cell wall of dead gram-negative gut bacteria that is highly toxic. Endotoxemia is a disease where large amounts of lipopolysaccharides leak into the bloodstream continuously and course throughout the body. The immune system initially overreacts to excessive and continuous LPS causing a cascade of highly inflammatory chemicals. The immune system may settle down but will still produce inflammatory chemicals as long as the source of emotional stress is still present. The overall result is chronic inflammation circulating to all cells and organ systems. Ultimately, debilitating chronic diseases could manifest.
Some of the chronic diseases include depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic heart failure, type 2 diabetes, autism, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), asthma, and dental diseases including periodontal disease and tooth decay. The immune system also may begin destroying normal human cells causing autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that chronic diseases are responsible for 70% of all deaths in the US. For the most part, these chronic diseases originate from low-grade, systemic, chronic inflammation originating in the gut.
In addition to the “leaky” gut as a result of continuous stress, poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices can create a “leaky” gut.
Poor food and lifestyle choices will cause chemical changes in that gut that promote the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. The unhealthy change in the bacteria of the gut is called dysbiosis. Pathogenic species cause a breakdown in the protective mucosal layer as well as the epithelial barrier of the gut. Dysbiosis causes the immune system to produce inflammatory chemicals. Once toxic substances from the gut leak into the circulatory system, the immune system goes into high gear. It creates a cascade of inflammatory chemicals, which flood all the pathways leading from the gut to the rest of the body.
So, the emotional stress produced by COVID-19 along with dysbiosis in the gut are powerful ingredients directing the body to go into a prolonged tailspin leading to disastrous outcomes.
A double-blind randomized controlled trial was published in 2017. The investigators showed how a supplement containing spore-based probiotics could heal a damaged gut lining and resolve endotoxemia.
Brian McFarlin and his researchers selected 28 participants whose blood tests demonstrated significant endotoxemia after consuming a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. This select group of individuals were divided into two groups. Both groups took two capsules of a daily supplement for four weeks. One group took placebo capsules, and the other took capsules containing five different spore-based bacillus probiotics. At the end of the trial, participants ate another high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. Their blood was tested before the meal and then retested after the meal. Five hours after the meal, the results showed an average decrease of endotoxemia of 42% in the group taking the probiotic capsules. However, the group taking the placebo actually had a 36% increase in endotoxemia. The authors suggested that the positive results might be improved significantly if the probiotics were taken for several more months. Also, the overall results probably would be significantly more effective if the participants were eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods rather than high carbohydrate, processed foods.
My Personal Experience
I am only one of billions of people dealing with the stress caused by COVID-19. I also am one of those in the high-risk group because of my age (73 years old) and my underlying health condition (incurable bone marrow cancer which I am successfully treating unconventionally). The stress from lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19 is as real for me as for everyone. Knowing about stress and dealing with stress are two different things.
I try to destress using some of the methods I described in my article I referred to earlier. And I also help heal my body from endotoxemia by following my daily Protocol to Restore Normal Gut Bacteria. Part of my Protocol consists of the spore-based bacilli probiotics that were investigated in Brian McFarlin’s peer-review study which I referenced above.
I am trying to do my part to do what I can do for myself and to share what I know with all my readers.