The gut health connection to chronic disease
Learn how diet, environmental toxins and medications can contribute to a variety of health conditions by breaching the gut lining and interacting with your specific genes which may initiate chronic disease based on your own unique susceptibility.
As Hippocrates wisely stated more than 2000 years ago ‘all disease begins in the gut’.
What he may have been referring to is that the gut represents a first line of defense between what scientists term ‘self’ i.e. our internal cells, organs and systems and ‘non-self’ i.e. foreign particles and substances that threaten our well-being.
The adult gut is about the length of a tennis court and has several compartments with different environmental conditions that aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food and the elimination of waste.
If the gut lining is compromised – it’s only one cell deep – and non-self material gets into the bloodstream then the body goes to war mounting an immune response which may cause some collateral cellular damage especially if the insults are sustained over time.
When the balance is tipped too often and for too long that’s when chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and even cancer or autoimmune disease can take hold. Which disease state occurs depends on your own particular genetic susceptibility.
Chronic disease has few causes. How it manifests depends on your unique genetic vulnerability
So what causes a breach in our intestinal defenses?
Our digestive tract is a self-contained ecosystem of more than 500 species of different gut bacteria – collectively called the microbiome – which we need to help digest and ferment our food. These microbes protect us from disease and illness and have many other beneficial roles like making vitamins and fatty acids that feed the gut cells.
What’s more there are 10 times more of them than us in terms of cells and they have 150 times more unique DNA-expressing genes (i.e. they make stuff happen through such activities as regulating our immune and inflammation responses, our appetite and our mood). (1) They produce their own energy, have first dibs on the food we consume and create their own – sometimes toxic – waste products.
Most gut bacteria are friendly but when they get compromised by diet, environmental toxins or medications or when our immune system is weakened, destructive bacteria or yeast already present in the gut can overgrow forming colonies that imbalance the ecosystem.
These unfriendly bacteria produce toxic gas that can damage the delicate lining of the gut ultimately breaching its integrity and leading to gut dysbiosis, often referred to as ‘leaky gut’.
Bacterial overgrowth due to diet or toxins can cause a leaky gut