Is your digestive system overloaded and letting harmful substances such as gluten, environmental toxins and bacteria escape and enter the bloodstream in turn compromising your immune system?
There are hidden, internal reasons that may lead to a compromised immune system – toxins and bugs, with the result being whats known technically as, Intestinal Permeability or more simplistically, Leaky Gut Syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The lining of the digestive system known as the epithelium is a collection of cells stuck together and held in place by tight junctions. The epithelial cells absorb certain molecules through the actual cell before exiting the other end into the blood.
However, in the presence of Leaky Gut some molecules pass between the cells and into the blood. These particles can be undigested food particles, environmental toxins and digestive bugs such as bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses.
Molecules passing between the cells when the tight junctions are disrupted isn’t always a bad thing as it can allow both faster transport and require less energy. However, in a dysbiotic gut (imbalanced bacteria) it is a problem and can lead to an increase in food allergies, food sensitivities, and in time autoimmune conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease.
A stool test can show if there is an an overgrowth of bugs causing inflammation and the toxins from these bugs cause unhealthy products to travel through the now Leaky Gut.
The long-term solution is 100% about removing the inflammation causing bugs, not never having alcohol or bread again, although both can contribute to Leaky Gut themselves. If you have inflammation suppressing your immune system how would you know Leaky Gut is involved?
7 signs you have Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Digestive issues
- Hormone imbalance
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Skin conditions
- Joint pain
These signs can be broadened to cover a range of symptoms resulting from Leaky Gut:
- Cold hands
- Dry eyes
- Mild fever
- Patchy hair loss
- Repeated infections
- Sun sensitivity
- Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
- Trouble swallowing
- Unexplained weight change
- White patches on your skin
- Yellowness of your skin or eyes
There is more to just having bugs in your poo causing Leaky Gut that suppress the immune system.
Most common causes of Leaky Gut
- Antibiotic use and abuse
- Low stomach acid production
- Dysbiosis – imbalanced bacteria
- NSAID use (such as ibuprofen)
- Excess stress
- Alcohol both increases intestinal permeability and feeds bad (pathogenic eg C.Diff, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella) bacteria
- Eating allergenic foods such as gluten and dairy
- Low secretory IgA (SIgA, first line of immune defence a giants bad bugs preventing bugs and allergens passing through)
Dysbiosis is one of the key triggers for Leaky Gut, and there are several types. You can have more than one type at a time:
- Loss of good bacteria and diversity,
- Overgrowth of bad bacteria, parasites, fungi that steal energy from your food
Dysbiosis leads to an increase in susceptibility to infection and chronic inflammation. The immune system is how the body fights off diseases and protects itself against new infections. Therefore, someone who is immunocompromised will usually get sick more often, stay sick longer, and be more vulnerable to different types of infections.
The immune system in these times needs support so knowing you have the presence of overgrowth of bad bacteria and not enough of the good or probiotic bacteria means you can get specific on how best to provide this support. The damage caused by the overgrowth of these bugs in the development of Leaky Gut cranks the strain on the immune system up a gear.
Identifying the presence of Leaky Gut from a stool test will make the argument of an increased risk for infection but also more severe symptoms as the immune system suffers a series of chronic challenges to deal with. Identifying the bugs involved and the damage or inflammation they are causing, and the resulting strain on your ability to absorb and gain the benefits of the food you eat, as well as establishing Leaky Gut helps pinpoint the exact strategy to strengthen the gut.
At the same time you can support the immune system to be the defence system it is supposed to be when dealing with all the challenges in our environment not just the current threat of SARS-CoV-2.
Learning about the deeper challenges that lie within your digestive system will also help improve your overall health, reduce headaches, food allergies, and chronic inflammation. Inflammation increases expression of ACE2 receptor, a receptor that’s been talked about in the media in connection to those with high blood pressure and the way the virus sticks to cells once it enters the body. Put another way reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of infection form the coronavirus.
Test your stool to support your Immune System
I am a massive fan of testing. It gets to the root cause of your problems and gives you a nice clear picture of your current health status.
It’s even getting used heavily on the news and in the media: “test test test”.
Back when I was sure I was healthy through my focus on exercise and good food I didn’t have the best digestive function, frequently got colds and was 100% reliant on coffee.
Your body is a system of systems so only running one test when you want to dig deeper to find out why even though you are trying, you are not as healthy as you believe you should be isn’t the answer.
Having said that thinking about the current challenge to our health being more about one system, our immune system, and 80% of it residing in our gut and then in turn the function of our gut impacting the immune system, it makes sense if only running one test, to find out how you can best support your immune system to opt for a stool test.
Using a stool test to identify bugs such as H.Pylori, Blastocystis hominis or Candida albicans will help you become more aware of the steps to take to reduce susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. The presence of these bugs will lead to a chronic weakening of the immune system meanwhile allowing for the secondary, opportunistic bugs (eg Klebsiella, Pseudomonas) that jump on the bandwagon to make the situation worse with time.
Link Between Gut Health, Immune System and COVID-19
At the same time you can support the immune system to be the defence system it is supposed to be when dealing with all the challenges in our environment not just the current threat of SARS-CoV-2. Learning about the deeper challenges that lie within your digestive system will also help improve your overall health, reduce headaches, food allergies, and chronic inflammation. Inflammation increases expression of ACE2 receptor, a receptor that’s been talked about in the media in connection to those with high blood pressure and the way the virus sticks to cells once it enters the body. Put another way reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of infection from the coronavirus.
These ACE2 receptors and another protein called TMPR22 are found in lung cells but are also found in the small and large intestine. There are links between the gut and immune system and their joint role in protection against this virus as well as other immune challenges from bacteria, parasites and fungi. The link continues with knowledge that around 50% of patients infected with coronavirus report digestive symptoms first. It is also known as I discussed in a previous post, we all need tested, being infected from breathing in or coming into contact in the toilet the virus from the stool of someone that’s been infected is another potential route to infection.
The virus can be spreading from your stool for up to 5 weeks after you have tested negative at the hospital. Then if COVID-19 causes inflammation in the gut there is a very strong case that in order to build up your resistance to future infections and currently the virus we are all talking about SARS-CoV-2, you need to look at the health of your immune system specifically as it’s affected in turn by the health of your digestive system.
The Best Protection Against SARS-CoV-2 – Being Healthy
Healthy people in the main don’t get sick. The best defence against this virus and others that may follow is to optimise your health. If antibody blood tests turn out to be reliable and a safe option to display immunity and provide future peace of mind, then a strong immune system that produces the appropriate amounts of the right antibodies is required.
There is evidence to show that those with suppressed immune systems will produce less IgG antibodies and we don’t know yet but that might not confer long term immunity. The body initially produces IgM antibodies to the virus and then a week or so later IgG antibodies. These antibody tests are principally looking for the presence of IgG antibodies to confer immunity.
So it’s possible your immune system could be running low enough that you don’t produce these antibodies even in the face of being post viral infection, this would return a false negative. This could have implications for whether you opt for the coronavirus vaccine or not. Vaccines are a whole other subject for another time.
Going forward if there really is a shift to health being the crucial step we are all in charge of to directly protect against future threats such as this coronavirus then my advice would be to target the aspect of your health most specific to protecting you from infection, the immune system. That is obvious. However it’s not so well known or obvious that 80% of the cells of the immune system reside within your digestive system.
Therefore working on your gut health will be the sneaky trick, the step that gets you the most bang for your buck in your future health campaign.
We are all going to get healthy
I am hoping once this period of self isolation and lockdown from the coronavirus is over one of the biggest shifts in society is a new found focus on health. It’s in the main clear that healthy people are less often infected and suffer less severe forms of the disease. There will always be a debate on what is healthy. There have been reports in the media about healthy people becoming infected or in some cases dying.
The health experts I admire, such as Bill Wolcott, Reed Davis and Paul Chek have always supported the belief health is more than the absence of symptoms. Symptoms being a clue something isn’t right. Whether it’s digestive symptoms such as bloating or gas, headaches, fatigue or even an inability, try as you might, to lose weight, these are all clues your body is not working as efficiently as it can.
I do not know the details of the health of those reported as healthy that became infected or died and I have no knowledge of any symptoms or clues they may have had to a loss of function in their hormone, digestive, immune or detoxification systems.
For some people going to the gym or not appearing visibly overweight may not be enough to ensure your immune system is capable of protecting you from infection. There was a time when I thought having a six pack and eating salad meant I was healthy. However now I have a fuller understand of my genetics that sets the stage for my current and future health. This drives me to stay focussed on the here and the now with the function of my hormone, digestive, immune and detoxification systems.
Through regular testing I am aware of what I need to focus on to stay healthy.
If you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the floor before the alarm, you don’t need coffee to get going, you have sustained energy across the day without the need for sugar loaded snacks or coffee, you rarely suffer bloating, gas, headaches, aching muscles and joints, feel depressed or anxious, rarely in a year get sick or suffer colds and can say you have regular daily bowel movements and someone can use the toilet straight after you, then it’s likely your immune system is up for the challenge ahead.
If however on the other hand several of the complaints above sound like you then working on your health to ensure your immune system is ready for action might be a wise move.