Out of the three core body systems the gut can play such a pivotal role in literally every health issue you are experiencing. You may be tired, overweight, underweight, fatigued, depressed, lack of motivation, having hormone problems, neurological problems, autoimmune problems, chronic sinusitis, arthritis, and all the other itisis's, recurrent colds and the flu, recurrent UTI's, joint pain, thyroid problems, digestive problems; gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea to more advanced issues like high blood pressure to diabetes or blood sugar dysregulation. But the bigger picture is where did these problems come from? The connection between the stress response system and hormone/neurotransmitter production via the adrenal glands/limbic area of the brain and the digestive system is paramount. Both are so interconnected and affect each other in both directions.
When the stress response system becomes activated for a prolonged period of time glucocorticoids remain elevated and become damaging to the body. With regards to the gut the main influence of high glucocorticoids, namely cortisol, is immunosuppression. Cortisol and DHEA systemically modulate the production and turnover of specialized immune cells called immunocytes that produce the secretory antibodies that protect us. The primary antibody of defense is secretory IgA it is found predominately in mucosal tissues: gut lining, urinary tract lining, sinuses and lungs and comprises 70-80% of our immune system.
The intestinal barrier of the gut lining is permeable. It is designed to let fully digested nutrients enter the blood stream to be distributed throughout the body to every cell. It is only one cell thick and its junctions by nature are very tight. Secretory IgA protects these cells and junctions from opportunistic infection, parasites and allergic reactions to foods or food sensitivity. It plays a major role in overall health. When Secretory IgA is low and the lining is not protected undigested food particles, toxins, microbes, and large protein molecules can get past and into our system, we term this a "leaky gut".
As the gut lining becomes damaged the long finger like projections begin to collapse. The result is a decrease in the availably of surface tissue to absorb nutrients. Think of the gut as a major distribution center sending out nutrients to every cell, tissue and organ in the body. If this distribution center starts to degrade we are essentially cutting off nutrition to fuel the body. These stages I like to refer to as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly".
- When the gut is "Good" we have normal finger like projections and nutrients are absorbed fully broken down to supply the body with all the essentials it needs.
- When the gut is "Bad" we begin to see partial atrophy of the finger like projections. The available area for nutrient absorption is becoming limited, therefore we are not getting the full amount of nutrition the body needs. We are also starting to see signs of food sensitivities. Certain foods we always tolerated are now starting to bother us. Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea may be present. Some people experience no symptoms. Some experience symptoms totally unrelated to the gut, like neck and shoulder pain. We also see at this stage bacterial infections and parasitic infections further damaging the lining of the gut.
- When the gut becomes "Ugly" we now have some real problems occurring. Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, tissue damage to name a few. Or for some people it may take a completely different pattern and show up as an autoimmune problem; Hashimoto's, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Again multiple infections are more likely to be present, along with a leaky gut lining. For these people gluten, soy or dairy intolerances is more likely.
It is imperative to test and detect pathogens in order to restore a normal, healthy gut lining. When the lining is not healthy inflammation occurs causing chronic stress in the stress response system. You cannot remove this stressor until you repair this lining. It is akin to being on a merry-go-round that never stops.