The Stress of COVID-19
and its consequences

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

April 13, 2020 [printfriendly]


Stress of COVID-19Stress!


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!!



COVID-19’s Effects

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.[1] 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.


Resolving Stress

I have written several articles about dealing with stress and have published these Blogs on my website. Here are three that you might find interesting and helpful: HERE, HERE, HERE.



Resolving Endotoxemia

A double-blind randomized controlled trial was published in 2017[2]. 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[3].


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.







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Dental Plaque:
the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

      Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     January 22, 2016   [printfriendly]
Dental plaque- the Good, the Bad, the UglyWhat’s that ugly stuff around Jason’s teeth in the picture to the right – the white stuff around the necks of the teeth at the gum line?


It’s called dental plaque.


If it were thick, it might look like cottage cheese around the gum margin. It could smell bad and taste awful. It also could create severe gum disease and dental decay as it did for Jason.


Interestingly, there are different stages of dental plaque:

  • A good stage
  • A bad stage
  • An ugly stage


In the good or healthy stage, both the dental plaque and the gum tissues maintain a delicate balance allowing the gum and teeth to stay healthy. This is known as homeostasis.


In the good stage of dental plaque, a sticky substance first forms on the tooth surface. This is called the pellicle. Various bacteria begin to attach to this and eventually form a complex, multilayered biofilm. This is still the good stage of dental plaque. The outer layers of the biofilm are made up of mainly aerobic types of bacteria (bacteria that live in the presence of oxygen).


However, changes may occur that transform this healthy dental plaque into a disease-producing dental plaque – a bad stage. The biological mechanism creating this change is not completely understood.


Science suggests that when we eat processed grains and sugars, bad bacteria in the gut and in the mouth can overgrow. Some of these bad bacteria in the plaque can ferment sugar, produce many types of acids, cause imbalance in necessary nutrients, and cause decay on the tooth surface. Other bad bacteria in the plaque could cause bleeding gums or gingivitis. This is the bad stage of dental plaque.


Our body’s immune system plays a significant role in determining what types of harmful bacteria develop and overgrow. One of the most aggressive types of bacteria is called Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis). As this bug overgrows and then dies, it produces a very potent and destructive substance called LPS (lipopolysaccharide). P. gingivalis is one of the most virulent types of bacteria causing periodontitis, the advanced and very destructive form of periodontal disease. This dental plaque is now in the ugly stage. LPS creates severe inflammation that can destroy the jawbone and can seep into the bloodstream.


Research suggests that the bacteria in the gut and in the mouth are interrelated. The development and course of periodontal disease are affected by the stages of dental plaque. The stages of dental plaque appear to be determined by:

  • The foods we eat
  • The bad bacteria that overgrow
  • The strength of our immune system
  • The genes we have inherited


Good plaque helps maintain biochemical balance around the teeth. Bad plaque begins the infectious process of dental decay and early gum disease (gingivitis). Ugly plaque causes gingivitis to progress to periodontitis, which (1) destroys the jawbone, (2) causes loss of teeth, and (3) may spread to other areas of the body.


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We Were Born to be Healthy:
Part 5 of 7

evolution rThis is installment 5. Part 1 is HERE; Part 2 is HERE, Part 3 is HERE, Part 4 is HERE.


Leaky gut


Undigested proteins from grains, ingested toxins, and unhealthy levels of microbes can damage the one-cell-layer-thick lining of the intestines, creating small holes in the lining. This is called intestinal permeability or leaky gut. With constant exposure to indigestible peptides, toxins, and unhealthy bacteria, damage to the gut lining becomes more serious. Just like tears in cheesecloth, an opening or pathway is created for unwanted stuff to leak into the blood system.


Damage to the gut lining sets up a critical scenario.


Specific biological insults could occur:

  • Undigested peptides from grains and other undigested food particles could leak through these holes into the bloodstream.
  • Toxins and Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) that are very irritating could leak through these holes creating severe systemic inflammation.


The results:


Our immune system would react to these insults by creating a cascade of inflammatory reactions within the lumen of the intestines as well as within the bloodstream and throughout the rest of the body.


Complicating this process, some of these invading peptides might look like normal proteins in other tissues of our body. After enough insult to our body through this leaky gut, our immune system could become confused and begin attacking the normal cells of various organs that looked like these invading peptides (called molecular mimicry). Those tissues and organs that had the weakest genetic predisposition could become affected – possibly the Beta cells in the pancreas resulting in type 1 diabetes; possibly the skin cells resulting in psoriasis; possibly the thyroid cells resulting in hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; possibly the joint cells resulting in rheumatic arthritis; or possibly the periodontal tissues resulting in periodontitis.


We are more bacteria than human


Our human body is made up of 10 trillion human cells. However, our body is host to 100 trillion microbial cells. Most of these live within our digestive system, and the far majority of them reside in the colon. We are healthy when these microbes are in a state of homeostasis. We are unhealthy when this delicate balance goes astray.


There are probably 35,000 or more microbial species in our gut, most of which cannot be cultured through normal means. Gut bacteria affect our entire body including our mouths.


Studies have shown that patients with inflammatory bowel disease have unhealthy bacterial changes in their saliva. Research also has shown that species of gut bacteria have been able to become dormant, live intracellularly in red blood cells without detection, and then migrate to distant organs of the body, resulting in infections of apparently unknown origin. Healthy bacteria in fermented foods have been shown to improve the bacterial components in dental plaque in a randomized controlled trial involving a population of school children. All this research demonstrates how bacteria from the gut influence our entire body.


By returning the gut bacteria to a healthy balance is proving promising for various diseases. Some cutting-edge procedures like Fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) (Here, Here) have replaced bad bacteria in the gut successfully with healthy populations to cure Clostridium difficile, an otherwise difficult infection to treat. These procedures currently are being investigated for the treatment of obesity, Alzheimer’s, autism, multiple sclerosis, and even ALS – all of which have been shown to have chronic inflammation as the underlying cause.


Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, which may very well respond to reestablishment of healthy gut bacteria.

We Were Born to be Healthy:
Part 4 of 7

evolution rThis is installment 4. Part 1 is HERE; Part 2 is HERE, Part 3 is HERE.


Studies (Here, Here, Here) have shown that a Paleo-type diet embraces those nutrients that allow our individual cells to survive and thrive, and has been the way of eating through the course of human evolution. I will go into a full description of this way of eating in a future installment, but first I will discuss the connections and underlying causes of chronic inflammation and chronic disease?


Here is the connection – the vicious cycle.


What goes into our mouths affects our good bacteria and our overall health. Our gut bacteria are the major players in health and disease.


Our guts never evolved to deal with acellular carbohydrates effectively. These acellular carbohydrates changed the gut bacteria (known as the gut microbiome) and increased the harmful types of microbes. Harmful bacteria and lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which are cell membrane remnants of dead gram-negative bacteria, began to proliferate in the gut causing irritation and imbalance of bacteria. This is an unhealthy development.




I have created this diagram to help you visualize the damaging part of gram-negative bacteria.


LPS for Website


My diagram is a make-believe bacterium, half of which represents a gram-positive bacterium and the other half represents a gram-negative bacterium. The left half is the gram-positive part and the right half is the gram-negative part. The cytoplasm (the liquid center of the cell) is noted in the center and the cell membrane is identified with white arrows.


The most distinguishing feature telling the two bacteria apart is the outer layer of their cell membranes. The outer layer of the cell membrane of the gram-positive bacterium is relatively smooth; the outer layer of the cell membrane of the gram-negative bacterium is extremely jagged. This rough layer is known as the Lipopolysaccharide outer shell, and it only occurs on gram-negative types.


After gram-negative bacteria die, the LPS remnants can act like spurs. They become serious problems if they get into the bloodstream.


An accumulation of unhealthy bacteria in our gut is not the only problem. Ingested toxins also can irritate the intestinal lining. In addition, our digestive system never evolved to completely breakdown the proteins in grains.


In the next installment I will describe how LPS, toxins, and undigested proteins get into the bloodstream to cause havoc.