How your gut influences your entire body
By Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS
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. Just like tears in cheesecloth, an opening or pathway is created for unwanted stuff to leak into the blood system.
The results: Our immune system would react to the leaky gut by creating a cascade of inflammatory reactions within the intestines as well as within the bloodstream and throughout the rest of the body.
Complicating this process, some of these toxins might look like normal proteins in other tissues of our body. After enough damage 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 could become affected – possibly 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 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. All this research demonstrates how bacteria from the gut influences our entire body.
By returning the gut bacteria to a healthy balance is proving promising for various diseases. 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.