INFLAMMATION AND GUT HEALTH?
(part 1 of 2)
Inflammation; what does that word bring to your mind? I have asked this to numerous different groups and the answers are generally that of the various “itis’s” like tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis, or sprains and strains. Certainly these are common conditions in which inflammation is the secondary effect of the injury. Whether it is acute or chronic, in these conditions we see the cardinal signs of inflammation; redness, swelling and pain, and as well, in these conditions we are apt to know the cause of the inflammation. But what about other inflammatory conditions like the myriad of autoimmune processes, heart disease, Fibromyalgia, ADD/ADHD and Alzheimer’s? What triggers the inflammatory process that ends up being expressed as these conditions?
This is an important question with many possible answers. However, for the purpose of this article I will focus on the connection between the foods we eat, gut health, and inflammatory conditions.
First it is important to have some background on the structure of the intestinal lining. It is an intricate interlocking of cells which, in their optimal structure only allow passage of fluids and digested small particles of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. This mucous layer of cells also blocks large undigested food particles from escaping and entering the bloodstream.
Secondly, it is important to know that more than 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. The gut’s immune response is run by the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue or GALT. The health of our gut is directly impacted by diet, lifestyle, stress, food allergies and sensitivities, toxins, and nutrient deficiencies. If gut health declines over time ( and this can happen very quietly and with few symptoms) the interlocking of the cells begin to loosen and gaps form wide enough for larger particles of nutrients to pass through. This can cause overactive GALT response due to the perceived “Foreign Invaders” crossing the barrier. In response to this over activity of the GALT, the immune system will increase production of inflammatory proteins which have the ability to change the permeability of the blood-brain barrier as well as cause production of antibodies to attack the foreign invaders. These antibodies can deposit in any tissue (cartilage, thyroid gland, gut lining, skin, arteries, to name a few) and because of the weakened blood-brain barrier, they can also deposit in the brain, brainstem, or dura. Hence, any time that the food which has been marked as the foreign invader is eaten, it can trigger an inflammatory response.
The process by which the gaps widen and food particles escape is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome or increased intestinal permeability. There is increasing evidence showing that this process is related in some way to all of the afore mentioned conditions. And remember, that at the root cause is inflammation.
So how do we maintain our gut health so that we don’t start this silent triggering of inflammatory reactions?
Tune in next time for helpful steps toward optimal function.
By Cherrelyn Seegers, D.C.