Putting Out the Fire: Gut Flora and the Inflammatory Cycle
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: How
To Eat More Fat
Once you realize the relationship between nutrition, disease, health,
and metabolism is complicated, complex, and completely interdependent,
things somehow get a bit simpler. Everything is connected to everything
else. Chronic stress begets chronic inflammation, which chronically
elevates cortisol, which induces insulin resistance and belly fat
accumulation. Celiacs are usually intolerant of casein, too. Diabetics
get heart disease more and have higher cancer mortality rates. Diabetics
are often insulin resistant and usually overweight. Celiacs are
often Type 1 diabetics. The overweight sleep less, work more, and
get less sun than leaner folks.
Now, it’d be
difficult to map out the precise relationships between myriad maladies
and their nutritional triggers or risk factors. To do so definitively
would produce a mostly unreadable mess. What we do instead is speculate.
Make good guesses based on clinical, anecdotal, even anthropologic
evidence. We look at what those people with chronic inflammation,
obesity, autoimmune disease, diabetes, and celiac are eating, sleeping,
and exercising, and we go from there. The precise physiological
mechanisms behind some of these relationships have yet to be fully
teased out, but the relationships exist and that’s usually enough
to get results. Hence, simplicity.
relative simplicity is a better descriptor. My point is
this: the human body is incredibly complex, its every process multi-factorial.
As soon as we decipher cause-and-effect, we’re beset with more questions.
There are intermediary steps along the way. What’s causing the “cause”
to have the “effect”? What’s it like on the cellular level? How
many steps, how many mechanisms are at play between cause and effect?
It’s almost like there’s an infinite
regression of steps simply because there are so many things
going on at the cellular level to make basic physiological processes
do know that inflammation, especially chronic, systemic inflammation
seems to be involved in nearly every disease under the sun. Obesity,
cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease – if it’s killing people,
increasing health care costs, and reducing quality of life, inflammation
is bound to be involved at some level. That makes things easier,
in my opinion, because we have a good idea how to avoid chronic
inflammation, and that should take care of half the battle.
Eat lots of
and their fat,
along with vegetables,
– but not too much, and keep the Chronic
Cardio to a minimum.
there’s a new (ancient) wrinkle to consider in the fight against
chronic inflammation: the gut flora. Understanding our
own bodies is difficult enough, but now we’ve also got to make sense
of how the droves of foreign (but symbiotic) microbes living in
our guts interact with our health. We know a fair amount already.
to gut flora is confusing and rather precarious. If the right conditions
are met, we exist in harmony. If good bacteria is stable, breaking
down fiber (like pectin and inulin) into short chain fatty acids
and working harmoniously with the body, gut inflammation is suppressed,
intestinal permeability is reduced, and multiple health biomarkers
(lipids, insulin) improve. But we must remember – gut flora doesn’t
exist for our benefit. Even if gut flora species were sentient,
they’d only be acting out of self-interest. They wouldn’t “care”
about us. They’re just trying to survive. It just so happens
that keeping us happy by mediating immune responses and tight junction
function, helping identify harmful intruders, and producing short
chain fatty acids like butyrate puts the flora in good standing
with our immune systems. They scratch our back, we provide
room and board and don’t dispatch antibodies to destroy them.
flora influences the human immune response (provides a blockade
against damaging bacteria; gives a “safe word” to avoid the immune
system wasting resources on attacking; influences size of the thymus).
Mice without gut flora have a severely truncated immune response,
Now what is
the primary immune response to damaging stimuli? Inflammation.
In correct doses, inflammation is a boon, necessary for healing
and protection from foreign invaders. But in excess, inflammation
is at the heart of many diseases. Gut inflammation especially is
associated with a number of autoimmune diseases. Leaky gut, or intestinal
permeability, for example, is associated
with inflammation of the gut, and with small intestinal bacterial
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December 3, 2011
© 2011 Mark's Daily Apple
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