You may be asking yourself “Why am I feeling so tired when I have a pretty good diet and I exercise regularly. What is wrong?”. It could be “leaky gut” and “malabsorption”. These two conditions go hand-in-hand.
Almost all disease starts in the gut probably because 70% of our immune system resides in the digestive system where lymph nodes housing immune white cells called Peyer’s patches are abundant. “T cells” are white cells born “immature” in the thymus gland and the bone marrow. Then they have to travel to the Peyer’s patches for “maturation”. That just means they kind of need to “go to college and experience the environment out there” getting a sample of what’s just outside of us, potential threats to our health and learn to be
Fighter T-Cells (Th17) cells or Peacemakers T-cells (Treg) cells.
The best place to look for the outside environment is the biggest portal of entry into our bodies: our digestive system. We eat several times a day taking in food, bacteria, fungi and other organisms. Who do T-cells learn from as to how to behave? The bugs in your gut! That’s right: the bacteria in your intestines literally influence how you immune system works. The ratio of Th17/TReg cells is influenced by what happens in your gut. Too many Th17 (agressive) and too few TReg (tolerant) cells means your immune system is fired up releasing inflammatory cytokines like IL-17 and Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNFalpha) which literally make you feel lethargic, fatigued and “under the weather” all the time.
Push the ratio of Th17 / TReg too far in favor of Th17 cells and you develop autoimmune illness.
How the Gut Barrier works:
The “inside” of your gut contains the food you eat plus organisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses. The only thing that keeps the inside of your gut separate from the rest of you is this thin layer of cells called “intestinal epithelium” which is supposed to act as a barrier and keep all the bad stuff out (see image below). These epithelial cells are specialized and they normally stick together closely with “tight junctions”- sealing walls between the adjacent cells which are designed to prevent anything from leaking through the barrier and into the lymphatic or blood circulation. Peyer’s patches (lymph nodes discussed above) with 70% of your immune system contain “immature” white blood cells (T-cells) sit just on the other side of this “intestinal epithelium” barrier waiting to interact with anything “foreign” that might trespass through the filter as you can see in the image below.
“Leaky Gut” basic mechanism:
The moment the intestinal epithelium layer gets damaged or disrupted, it starts to “leak” allowing bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, undigested food particles and other material that is considered “foreign” to come into contact with the T-cells and the immune system. As you can imagine this is not good. Immature T-cells see this event as worrisome and they mature into aggressive “pro-inflammatory” T-cells called Th17
Left unchecked this “leaky gut” condition this causes a process called “chronic inflammation” which causes almost all disease in the body including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and autoimmune illness. For an in depth description of this process watch the following 6 minute video.
A damaged intestinal epithelial layer also becomes inefficient at extracting the good nutrients which you are supposed to absorb from food for your cells to make energy in the mitochondria. This process is called mal-absorption (bad absorption). We discussed this in Part 1 of these series but to review the energy essential nutrients are: B vitamins, Minerals, Anti-oxidants, Amino Acids, Carbohydrates and Fats. “Leaky gut” and “Mal-absorption” are linked and they are a particularly bad combination. On one hand the leaky gut revs up you immune system, which consumes a lot of energy. On the other hand the malabsorption prevents you from absorbing the vitamins and nutrients you need to make energy. The results: energy depletion and fatigue.
Here are 10 sure signs you have “Leaky Gut”:
1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome diagnosis: Constant abdominal bloating, constipation, diarrhea
2. Food allergies and sensitivities
3. Skin issues like eczema or acne
4. Mood imbalances like anxiety and depression
5. ANY AUTOMMINUE CONDITION: Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis,
6. Hashimoto’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis
7. Asthma and allergies with or without sinusitis
8. Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
9. Candida overgrowth
10. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – SIBO
“Leaky Gut” as you can see cause a lot of problems and it is very common. T-cells that are exposed to the foreign material including bacteria, fungi and their toxic byproducts become activated and travel from the gut attacking tissues and organs randomly, including your brain and nervous system. This causes the common complaints of “brain fog” inability to concentrate, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
What are the common causes of “Leaky Gut”? Basically anything that causes irritation of the intestinal epithelium, that layer of cells described above that is supposed to filter out all of the unwanted foreign material in your gut from the good nutrients. Here’s a short list
1. Food sensitivities and allergies: Gluten (from wheat) is the primary offender.
You don’t have to have true Celiac disease, which is a severe form of gluten allergy present in about 3% of the population, to have a sensitivity to gluten. Gluten can cause an irritated intestinal epithelium which becomes “leaky” in the absence of true allergies.
Dairy is another common irritant and cause of leaky gut.
Overgrowth of bad bacteria like Toxin A from Clostridium Difficile, LPS (endotoxin) from Gram Negative Bacteria and Acetaldehyde alcohol from fungi like Candida Albicans. Interestingly some of “bad bugs” grow because of repeated use of antibiotics which kill the good bacteria and allow the bad bacteria and fungi to overgrow.
Ibuprofen and all Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory agents, antibiotics are just a few examples
Alcohol, heavy metals and pesticides for example. Th17 cells have an Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (Ahr) which binds to the toxin “dioxin” and also other molecules. When this receptor is activated it causes the Th17 cells to release inflammatory cytokines like IL-17 and IL-2 causing increased inflammation.
This causes a heavy burden on the intestinal layer. Usually the intestinal epithelium is protected by antibodies made by the immune system called IgA ‘s in addition to a thick layer of mucous. Stress shuts down the production of IgA’s and mucous leaving the intestinal epithelium exposed to damaging organisms and toxins.
If you have any symptoms of fatigue, inability to concentrate, brain fog which are associated at least in part with abdominal symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, cramping, then you should consider coming to our clinic, IV for Life for the Healthy Gut IV treatment and a through evaluation with possible blood work and stool studies.
The Healthy Gut IV uses L-Glutamine, which is an abundant amino acid that is used extensively by the cells lining the intestinal tract as fuel. Glutamine has been shown in many studies to correct intestinal permeability (leaky gut). In addition to glutamine, zinc, Glutathione and Vitamin C are added to this IV to help heal damaged intestinal epithelium and get you a running start in feeling healthy once again.
Next up:“Part 4 of the Energy and Fatigue Series: 10 things you should do right now to fix Leaky Gut”