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The Link Between Your Digestive System and Chronic Inflammation

by Dr. David Minkoff August 26, 2020 6 min read 0 Comments

The Link Between Your Digestive System and Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is one of the most dangerous conditions to affect the human body. The WHO estimates that three out of five deaths worldwide are associated with chronic inflammatory diseases (stroke, cancer, heart disorders, and other conditions and diseases).

Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone who suffers from chronic inflammation is going to die – quite the contrary. But it does mean that it is crucial to identify the condition and address it early before it progresses into a disease or serious health condition.

And while your physician can help you identify the source of the inflammation, today we are going to talk about one of the most common causes of chronic inflammation: A malfunctioning or damaged digestive system.

[1]

Inflammation: A Quick Review

First, let’s quickly review the subject of inflammation.

Inflammation is an immune response by the body to help fight off a perceived pathogen (foreign invader). It includes many physiological changes and bioactive processes, such as:

  • Dilated capillaries to improve blood flow to the cells
  • Increased white blood cell activity
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased fluid
  • Swelling

If you have ever been injured and had the wound turn red, swell up, get hot, and hurt – you have experienced acute inflammation. In most cases, inflammation is a healthy, productive response by your body that helps keep it safe. It only becomes a problem when:

  • The perceived pathogens spread throughout your body (in your bloodstream and cells)
  • White blood cells misidentify healthy cells or proteins as pathogens and begin to fight healthy body cells (autoimmune diseases)

In either of the above cases, the inflammation can become chronic and spread throughout your body. Chronic inflammation wreaks havoc on your body, triggering some of the most painful and deadly diseases and conditions.

The Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation

Chronic and systemic inflammation have different symptoms than what you experience with localized, acute inflammation due to an injury. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Body pain, arthralgia (joint pain), myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue and trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety, depression, and other emotional changes
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea

When chronic inflammation is prolonged, it sets the stage for your body to contract severe illnesses that each have specific symptoms, including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders.

It is important to note that chronic inflammation has a broad spectrum. Some cases are minor with few symptoms, while other cases are far more severe. There are likely millions of individuals who suffer from a mild case of chronic inflammation, with less extreme symptoms that may never progress into an illness or health condition.

That being said, we want to feel healthy, full of life and lower our risk of disease – which means that avoiding any level of chronic inflammation is vital to your overall health.

[2,3]

Your Gut: One of the Most Common Sources of Chronic Inflammation

Your gastrointestinal system (colloquially known as your “gut”) contains approximately 70% of your immune cells and is the entry point for a vast majority of toxins and pathogens. When your gut is functioning correctly, it breaks down the food you eat into composite nutrients, nullifies bacteria and other pathogens, and sends unwanted particles out through your colon. This process serves two essential functions:

  • Protecting your body against pathogens that enter through your mouth
  • Providing your body with the nutrition it needs to function

Most of the real work of nutrient absorption takes place in the intestines, which have sophisticated systems in the inner linings to allow the broken-down, absorbable nutrients to pass into your bloodstream while blocking the “bad” stuff.

But what happens when the inner lining becomes damaged or starts opening too much and allows the wrong substances to enter your bloodstream? Well, your immune system identifies the unwanted particles as pathogens and triggers an inflammatory response.

In summary: The weaker your gut is, the more toxic substances enter your bloodstream to trigger inflammation.In its worse stages, this condition is called leaky gut – which you can read more about here.

To make matters worse, systemic inflammation weakens your digestive system and inhibits healthy digestion – creating a vicious circle that worsens over time. For most people, the symptoms are minor. You might experience unwarranted fatigue, stomachaches, pains, or a feeling of general lethargy. For others, the symptoms are far more severe. In any case, inflammation caused by improper digestion and increased gut permeability poses a definite risk to your overall health.

[4,5,6]

Risk Factors for Gut Health

Okay, so we now know that poor digestive health (and specifically intestinal permeability) can trigger systemic and chronic inflammation, but what are the triggers that make your digestive system go haywire?

Well, there are literally thousands of things that could impact your digestive health, but some of the most common and most significant causes of increased intestinal permeability include:

Eating too much sugar

Sugar negatively impacts your digestive system in multiple ways. On its own, fructose (a common form of sugar) has a direct impact on intestinal permeability through the formation of “bad” bacterial overgrowth.

Furthermore, the chemical function of converting blood sugar to energy creates the toxic hydroxyl radical as a byproduct. Your body is designed to deal with normal levels of hydroxyl radicals from food consumption, but an excess of sugar can contribute to oxidative stress, which is yet another trigger for systemic inflammation.

Alcohol

Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption not only impacts intestinal permeability but also overloads your liver – increasing the flow of toxins into your bloodstream.

Imbalanced gut biome

Your gut contains thousands of microbiota that are a key factor in healthy digestion. While most are considered “good” bacteria, many are harmful. In a healthy gut, the “good” bacteria keep the “bad” bacteria under control, and your overall gut biome is balanced and healthy. An imbalanced gut biome means that the bad bacteria have begun taking over, and this causes a wide range of digestive issues – including increased gut permeability. This is the reason it is usually smart to eat yogurt or take a good probiotic after completing a course of antibiotics – it helps replenish the good bacteria and bring your gut back in balance.

Stress

Stress is known to alter the line between your brain and your gut (known as the “brain-gut axis”) and contribute to a multitude of gastrointestinal diseases and malfunctions. One of the more common symptoms of high stress is – you guessed it -- increased intestinal permeability.

Inflammation

Inflammation and gut permeability are interlinked. Systemic inflammation from other sources can cause trouble in your digestive system, which leads to more inflammation (the vicious circle).

Toxins and Poisons

Zonulin is one of the most important proteins in your digestive system, as it directly influences the opening and closing of the tight junctures of your intestinal walls. In healthy systems, zonulin is produced in the liver and intestinal cells, activated by normal digestive function. Sadly, certain toxins in the environment can also activate it – causing unplanned openings in your digestive openings that allow toxins to enter your system.

One of the most dangerous of these toxins is called glyphosate – which is the active ingredient in most modern pesticides. Glyphosate is a carcinogen, herbicide, antibiotic, endocrine disruptor, and neurotoxin (paralyzing agent), and is in the same class of chemicals as Agent Orange (which was used as a biological weapon in the Vietnam war).

Glyphosate not only directly triggers zonulin to open the intestinal walls, but it also degrades and kills the protective barrier – making it highly dangerous. If you are considering buying some Roundup® for weed protection in your garden – make SURE to wear a mask and use it sparingly. For more information, check out Zach Bush, MD’s research.

Keep a Healthy Gut to Reduce Chronic Inflammation

If you suffer from minor chronic inflammation symptoms, the solution may be as simple as changing your diet, making some lifestyle changes, and taking some digestive supplements to help repair your gut. If the symptoms are severe, we always recommend paying a visit to your local physician to isolate the exact problem – but helping your gut function well is ALWAYS a good thing!

The bottom line is:

  1. Do not ingest foods or chemicals that are harmful to your digestive system – and especially stay AWAY from glyphosate.
  2. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as these foods all contain nutrients that support healthy digestion. Adding some fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, or kombucha can help support your digestive system, as they are rich in good bacteria.
  3. If you find yourself suffering from the symptoms of chronic inflammation, take a digestive supplement such as BodyHealth’s Full Spectrum Digestive Support. It contains a wide range of probiotics, digestive enzymes, and other nutrients to support a strong, healthy digestive system. You can also take Inflam-Arrest, which can help reduce inflammation in your body.

At the end of the day, you MUST keep your digestive system happy so your body can absorb the nutrients it needs correctly and efficiently. It is one of the ways you can exert real control over your health and help avoid the risk of contracting a serious illness.

[7,8,9,10,11,12]


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
  2. https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/5-signs-chronic-inflammation/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21248165/
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-leaky-gut-real
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4253991/pdf/12876_2014_Article_189.pdf
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4266989/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22314561/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19295480
  11. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384703/pdf/nihms366557.pdf
  13. https://zachbushmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Glyphosate-for-ProHealth-FINAL-v3.pdf
Dr. David Minkoff
Dr. David Minkoff

Dr. Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974 and was elected to the “Phi Beta Kappa” of medical schools, the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honors Medical Fraternity for very high academic achievement. He then worked as an attending physician in infectious disease, co-directed a neo-natal intensive care unit and worked in emergency medicine until 1995. In 1997, his interest in alternative and complementary medicine led him to open LifeWorks Wellness Center, which has become one of the foremost alternative medicine clinics in the U.S. His search to find a source of the highest quality nutritional supplements led him to establish BodyHealth in 2000, a resource that could provide doctors with the best possible supplementation and education for their patients. Today, the BodyHealth products are used by hundreds of practitioners and individual consumers who seek all-natural wellness and detoxification supplements with a demonstrated high level of quality and effectiveness. In addition to their use by patients looking to heal disease, the BodyHealth products are also used by sports enthusiasts interested in achieving and maintaining optimal performance. As a 42-time Ironman triathlon finisher, (including 8 appearances at the Ironman World Championships) Dr. Minkoff has first-hand experience to help athletes achieve optimum conditioning. His expertise in protein synthesis, detoxification, and nutrition allow them to run, swim, and bike faster and longer. Today, Dr. Minkoff is an alternative healthcare expert, guest lecturer, writer, tv and radio show guest. He also authors two weekly newsletters, the BodyHealth Fitness Newsletter and the Optimum Health Report.



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