The concept of health “starting from the gut” is not new - over 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates, the grandfather of modern medicine, hypothesised that all disease begins in the gut. We wrote about this in a recent blog (read more here) and now we explore what happens in the gut when things go wrong.
Gut dysbiosis, what happens when gut health goes wrong?
Zestt Wellness co-founder, Darcy Schack, has a favourite saying - he says it so much, that I have started repeating it myself, so here we go:
“Inflammation is the smoking gun at the scene of all crimes.”
Low-grade inflammation is thought to underpin a range of chronic inflammatory, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as allergy, asthma, some autoimmune diseases, and later onset NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and neurogenerative disorders.
There are many factors which can cause or influence the pathways of these diseases. Increasingly researchers are finding that altered gut colonisation patterns associated with decreasing microbial diversity is a central theme implicated in the shift from gut homeostasis – into dysbiosis. Basically, we don’t have enough bacterial species in our gut and things are getting out of balance.
On top of that, there is increasing evidence of the role of the gut microbiota in a healthy immune response, especially the role of bacteria containing lipopolysaccharides in their outer membrane, which play a key role in host–pathogen interactions with the innate immune system (read more here)
What causes disruptions in the gut microbiome?
A number of things happen in our lives which can cause gut disruptions which might lead to dysbiosis:
- dietary shifts;
- antibiotic and medicine use;
- age; and
We have all experienced what happens when things go wrong – the only holiday I ever lost weight on was when I travelled with a cricket team throughout India! That was extreme gut dysbiosis, but gut problems can also be insidious, gradually creeping up on us after years of poor diets and/or medications.
What do bacteria do in the gut?
Within the gut, bacteria produce a wide range of biologically active molecules, such as short-chain fatty acids and other metabolites, or enzymes and other proteins. Some of these bioactive molecules are tethered to the bacterial outer membrane or contained on or within membrane vesicles. These vesicles can transport their content to different organs in a concentrated manner. Some of these biologically active molecules e.g. short-chain fatty acids, can affect intestinal mucosal permeability or activate the immune system e.g. lipopolysaccharides.
How does inflammation occur from the gut?
Our classical understanding of inflammation is of a normal physiologic response to an infectious threat or tissue injury. In this way, inflammation has a positive effect on the body in that it leads to tissue repair, resolution, and restoration of the balance in tissues.
Within a “normal” homeostatic state, microbes within the human gut play a significant role in the regulation of various elements of gut and the gut–brain axis, via their influence on inflammatory cytokines and production of antimicrobial peptides that generate short chain fatty acids, vitamin synthesis, and nutrient absorption (read more here).
Essentially, some inflammation is good, too much is often bad. The challenge is to recognise when inflammation is simply doing its job (appropriate inflammation), and when it might cause problems (inappropriate inflammation).
In the case of chronic inflammation, in diseases such as asthma, allergy, obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis and other NCDs, there is usually no acute or immediate threat, and there is no resolution. Instead, there is chronic tissue malfunction and a shift of the normal homeostasis or “balance” to adapt to new physiological or metabolic conditions.
In states of chronic inflammation, the immune system continues to produce white blood cells and chemical messengers that prolong the body’s response to perceived attack (read more here)
When this happens, white blood cells may end up attacking nearby healthy tissues and organs. For example, if a person is overweight and has more visceral fat cells (the deep type of fat that surrounds organs) the immune system may be triggered by those cells and overproduce pro-inflammatory white blood cells. The longer a person is overweight, the longer their body can remain in a state of inflammation.
The prevalence of diseases associated with chronic inflammation is anticipated to increase persistently for the next 30 years in the United States (read more here).
Worldwide, 3 of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Increasingly, many people also suffer from intestinal intestinal inflammatory diseases, with several studies now reporting dysbiosis to be associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease.
Can we do anything about gut health and associated chronic inflammation?
Of course we can, but you will have to wait to read our next blog 😊 to find out more and in the meantime, please eat your vegetables!
If you have any questions about this blog, please contact us:
We love hearing from you, we might not know the answers to your questions, but hopefully we can track down somebody who does.