Inflammation Circuit Dysfunction – Part 2

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD

Read Part 1 | Part 3

Constipation and Inflammation

It can be difficult to go to the bathroom with inflammation circuit dysfunctionConstipation is a condition where the bowels do not move regularly, resulting in difficult, and perhaps painful, defecation. Considered normal to be constipated now and then, regular constipation may result in a gut disorder that can affect the inflammation circuit.

You may ask ‘how normal is normal?’ It varies from person to person, but defecating once or twice a day is within the bounds of what is considered as normal in most instances. Going without a bowel movement for more than three days leads to constipation, as the stool dries out over time, making it more difficult and painful to defecate.

Using the bathroom while constipated is not only uncomfortable, but the straining causes a set of problems of its own, such as hemorrhoids or diverticular disease.

There are a number of reasons for constipation. Among these are included: a diet poor in fiber, drinking too little water, a diet high in dairy products, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, long periods of inactivity, problems arising due to issues with the muscles or nerves of your colon, stress, certain types of medications, hypothyroidism, and pregnancy.

Constipation is often a complication that manifests during the latter stages of adrenal fatigue, as your body’s lowered energy levels make it difficult to defecate in a bid to conserve its energy. Your digestion slows down, causing waste materials to stay in the colon. This increases toxicity and results in inflammation. Symptoms usually associated with this state of affairs include: food allergies, brain fog, pain, irritability, yeast infections, anxiety, and a host of others.

If left alone, and as your adrenal fatigue progresses, things, over time, get worse. Toxins build up in the body overwhelming the inflammation circuit, possibly resulting in inflammation that in turn could lead to the breakdown of the musculoskeletal system. This would include the internal organs’ collagen structures. Your GI tract, over time, becomes compromised, causing a circular effect whereby your constipation and digestive issues worsen. Your stomach does not produce enough acid in order to break food down so that nutrients are assimilated. This depletes the cells. The result is a cycle causing the entire system to slow down in order to conserve energy. It can, however, result in a catabolic state characterized by a huge weight loss.

In most such instances, the thyroid gland is also compromised, slowing down in order to reduce your metabolic rate in an effort to conserve energy. This further compounds your fatigue and adds to the constipation problem. Because waste products build up, the toxins start affecting your liver and kidney function. Where the constipation is severe or persists, an enema may be necessary. Gut flora can be improved by means of probiotics. They help to improve the gut flora composition, help with bowel movement regulation, and help to prevent GI disorders.

Diarrhea and Inflammation

Diarrhea is only a problem when it is persistent as it could cause you to become dehydrated and lose electrolytes. If persistent, however, it is also indicative of a more serious problem. If you notice blood and/or mucus in your stools, and have fever, pain, or suffer from weight loss, you need to consult with a healthcare practitioner as soon as possible as these are signs of an underlying, deeper problem.

Rest and staying hydrated can help diarrhea, one of many conditions related to inflammation circuit dysregulationThere are a number of common causes when it comes to diarrhea. These include bacteria, eating foods to which you are allergic or to which you are sensitive, or viruses. Other causes may include Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diabetes, certain cancers, hyperthyroidism, and malabsorption, among others.

In most cases, however, diarrhea is not related to any of these conditions and the problem is usually alleviated by means of medications that can be purchased over the counter. In the majority of cases, light meals, enough rest, and staying hydrated help immensely.

People who have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) usually suffer more from constipation than diarrhea. On the other hand, very severe diarrhea is often to be found in those who have advanced adrenal exhaustion.

Leaky Gut Syndrome and Inflammation

One of the gut’s most important purposes is to prevent toxins, microbes, undigested food, and foreign substances from gaining entrance to the bloodstream. When healthy, the mucosal cells’ junctions in the gut are tight, allowing only the nutrients needed by the body to pass. When you have leaky gut, these junctions are not as tight, and toxins and other particles are allowed through. These are seen, by the immune system, as foreign invaders. Your inflammation circuit then attacks them, resulting in inflammation.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) include:

  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation / diarrhea
  • Bad breath
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches

IBS is usually diagnosed by a process of elimination when lab tests rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. It is, in essence, an irritation of the GI tract.

Although many factors contribute to IBS, e.g. the use of certain medications such as antibiotics, anxiety, depression, a hormonal imbalance, and various other factors. Stress plays a major role.

The latter stages of AFS see the metabolism slow down to conserve energy. During this process, gut movement slows down as well. Food thus moves through the body at a much slower pace. The result is, more often than not, constipation, although diarrhea also manifests on occasion. This, of course, adds to your gut irritation and worsens the symptoms associated with IBS.

Certain supplements, like omega 3 fatty acids, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) hormone, activated charcoal, glutamine, pantothenic acid, plant sterol, quercetin, and pantethine all can potentially help with the occurrence of leaky gut. Adding fiber to your diet, as well as using peppermint oil, are great aids when it comes to combating diarrhea while helping in the prevention of GI disorders. Some types of fiber are even useful for helping your microbiome and strengthening your inflammation circuit.

The Microbiome and The Inflammation Circuit

Healthy gut bacteria is vital for a balanced inflammation circuitYour microbiome can be described as all the genetic material of all your different microorganisms within a certain environment in your body. It is the second part of the inflammation circuit. The word ‘microbiome’ is actually broken up into two parts: micro (meaning small), and biome, which includes all the characteristics found in an environment, including the biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components.

The term biome is not to be mistaken with the term microbiota which refers only to the microorganism within a certain environment, i.e. only the GI tract, as an example.

It has been estimated that approximately ninety percent of all cells in the body are not human. They are, for the most part, prokaryotic in nature. A prokaryote is unicellular, has no mitochondria, and the nucleus is without a membrane. These prokaryotic cells are the result of over forty thousand different strains of bacteria coming from over 1,800 different genera. In total, these smaller cells, of which our bodies have about 100 trillion, make up about five pounds of an adult’s weight. This means that taken as a mass, they are roughly the size of an adult human brain.

Prokaryotic cells are found everywhere in the human body where it is exposed to the environment. This includes the skin, vagina, and mouth, although the largest population is to be found in the gut. This is because this area has a constant supply of the nutrients it needs for survival. Taken collectively, they outnumber our other cells in a ratio of ten to one.

Development of the Microbiome

While you are a fetus, the gut is sterile. It only becomes populated with microbes from the mother’s vaginal and fecal microbiome during birth. Other (environmental) microbes are received during the first few days after birth. There are different factors influencing colonization at this time, including diet (breastfeeding or formula milk), possible antibiotic treatments, and hygiene. Interestingly, children born by C-section are often not as healthy as those born naturally and are often obese in later life.

The first microbes to colonize are known as facultative anaerobes, i.e Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus spp. and Escherichia coli, and obligate anaerobic species that present themselves as your gut’s oxygen levels decrease. Once a child is three years old, his microbiome has stabilized, although it continues balancing itself throughout our lives as the body strives to maintain homeostasis.

As we age, however, the microbiome changes as well. The result is an increase in inflammation due to a decrease in the body’s microbial diversity.

The inflammation circuit is in part regulated by your microbiomeThe majority of microbes found in the body do no harm. Instead, they help in maintaining certain processes that ensure continued health. These microbes, although harmless under normal conditions, are considered part of the natural flora in a normal microbiome. Healthy gut bacteria is needed for the many functions carried out in our body. Among these are included the reactions associated with various enzymes. Our body cannot carry out these functions on their own, e.g. synthesizing certain vitamins in order to stay healthy.

The Microbiome, Our Immune System and Inflammation Circuit

The gut’s microbiome, when we are young, plays an extremely important role when it comes to the formation of our immune system. This is especially the case in early childhood when the immune system is still developing. It is as children that our body’s immune system is exposed to and becomes used to antigens and develops a tolerance towards them. Once the state of homeostasis (balance) is reached, foreign microbes and antigens will not be able to cause an inflammatory response in the body. It is only when our immune system is weak or underdeveloped that exposure to foreign allergens will trigger a response in the inflammation circuit resulting in autoimmune diseases, allergies, and a sensitivity issue when it comes to chemicals and certain foods.

A good example is that of mice kept in a sterile environment their whole life. Although they are healthy, their immune system is not fully developed. Once exposed to foreign microbes, they tend to develop autoimmune diseases and other health issues.

Research indicates an infant’s first gut microbiome has a profound effect on their health. Babies that were delivered via a C-section were compared with those born naturally. They found that the latter colonized their mother’s gut and vaginal biomes and the former, who were not exposed during birth, tended towards allergies and obesity.

Different microbes, seemingly, on certain parts of your body have a different functionality on different people. An example is where two people have a different microorganism on their tongues, yet they do exactly the same job when it comes to breaking down sugars. Microbes need a stable habitat that is rich in terms of the food we eat. In turn, we benefit from the heat energy released when they break down certain components that are digested by the gut.

This means there is a definite, beneficial interaction between our bodies and our microbe hosts, and that certain functions in the body are dependent on these microbes in order to stay healthy. When, for some reason, there is an imbalance in our microbiomes, we are in a state of dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis and the Inflammation circuit

Dysbiosis is a common symptom seen with inflammation circuit dysregulationInflammation is often the result of dysbiosis. It plays a role in a number of health issues, including diabetes, obesity, asthma, autism, and heart problems, among others. It is also associated with certain problems relating to the bowels, such as Crohn’s disease. It may also play a role in the brain and is thought to be one of the triggers of leaky gut syndrome (IBS). These conditions are all linked to dysbiosis in the gut.

A common cause of dysbiosis is antibiotics. They destroy ‘good’ bacteria needed to keep your system in balance. When the ‘good’ microbiome is negatively impacted, so too is your immune system.

Dysbiosis in the gut may cause inflammation which in turn leads to damage of the mucosa. When the junction between different mucosal cells is compromised, your immune system responds accordingly. Proteins, bacteria, and toxins can easily move into the bloodstream through the damaged gut lining, causing what is known as leaky gut (IBS). The symptoms associated with this condition include: brain fog, depression, insomnia, and fatigue, along with a host of others.

Healthy gut bacteria, in conjunction with a diverse microbiome, results in a healthy gut supporting your inflammation circuit. People with a healthy gut are often healthier and less likely to get infections or recurrent illnesses as their body’s defense system is stronger.

Microbiome and Neurological Disease

Dysbiosis in the gut has been linked to a number of neurological disorders. Among these are the autism spectrum, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s. An initial symptom for a Parkinson’s sufferer is usually constipation, to be followed by a loss of smell and taste. The other symptoms, such as tremors and shuffling only appear long after the GI disturbance appears.

There are many environmental factors that influence neurological conditions and the inflammation circuit. One of these is where proteins are not correctly used in the brain, resulting in a number of neurodegenerative disorders. It may be the result of gut inflammation triggering certain inflammatory responses in the brain causing the inadequate use of proteins and the degeneration of the neural cells in the brain.

Inflammation and a gut imbalance may also be linked to certain autoimmune disorders. The populations of Western countries have a similar diet and a corresponding higher rate of MS. The diet followed may result in inflammation and thus a disruption in the proper functionality of the microbes present in the intestinal tract.

People suffering from Parkinson’s and MS show an increase in antibodies against a number of antigens due to the increased permeability of their intestinal lining. Evidence would suggest that constant stress, among various other reasons, is responsible for the dysregulation of the inflammation circuit.

Alzheimer’s and a decrease in cognitive functions are earmarked by oxidative stress, immune problems, and changes in the brain itself. Experiments show that these are all due to diet and the effect it has on the gut biome. Neurotrophin, a protein that both protects and encourages healthy neurons, is dependent on a healthy gut biome. Those with Alzheimer’s show a marked decline in this regard.

The Microbiome Effect on Psychiatric Disorders

Poor microbiome health can affect your inflammation circuit and your moodEvidence shows a strong correlation between gut and brain health. This implies that certain psychological problems, such as depression, may be the result of inflammation, with the gut as the initial instigator. Research on animals shows a marked psychological decline in healthy mice when certain microbes are transplanted from those that are depressed.

Two of the most common symptoms associated with AFS are anxiety and depression. The evidence thus suggests it is imperative that those with the problem need to ensure a healthy gut microbiome. Not only will it help restore their neurological processing, but help the body in its recovery.

Bacterial Overgrowth in the Small Intestine

When the growth of bacteria in your small intestine grows beyond what is considered a healthy limit, the condition is known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). These bacteria are usually to be found in the colon. Those with SIBO have very similar symptoms as those who have IBS, and many people suffer from both these conditions. Symptoms associated with the condition include abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

There are a myriad of reasons why this condition develops. The most common causes include:

  • A diet high in sugar
  • A diet high in refined carbohydrates
  • Too much alcohol
  • Scarring due to Crohn’s disease that collects bacteria
  • Diverticular disease where sacks are formed in the walls of the small intestines and collect bacteria
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics that have a disruptive influence on the gut flora
  • A weakening of the inflammation circuit due to infections such as candida, Lyme disease, and the Epstein-Barr virus
  • AFS could either aggravate or trigger the condition as it influences gut bacteria

If SIBO is not treated, it has a debilitating effect on your health, resulting in chronic diarrhea, leading to malabsorption of the necessary nutrients your body needs, and ultimately, weight loss.

Read Part 1 | Part 3

© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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