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We humans exist in sea of microorganisms. According to the American Society for Microbiology, there are 10 fold the number of bacteria living in and on our bodies as cells that make up our bodies. Wherever our bodies are exposed to the outside world, for example our digestive tracts, skin, mouth, vagina, etc. we find specific varieties of bacteria and other organisms.

The totality of all the bacteria and other microorganisms that populate our bodies is called the microbiome. The microbiome is highly individualized, with the spectrum of bacteria differing from one person to another; much like an individual’s fingerprints. All people display wide variations in the kinds of bacteria that inhabit them. The types and numbers of bacteria in and on our bodies differ depending on our genetic makeup, our diet, and environmental factors.

Immune cells are found throughout the body where they are always on alert defending the body against infection. Inflammation is the primary way that the immune system controls infections and healing, but overactive immune responses can lead to debilitating inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and bowel disorders.

There is considerable “cross-talk” between the microbiome and the immune cells. Microorganisms influence the responses of the immune system, and the immune system in turn affects the populations of the organisms that inhabit us. For example, evidence suggests that certain bacteria in the gut can decrease inflammation in the gut and decrease chronic disease. [Whether the organisms themselves are producing these molecules, or whether they are triggering immune cells to release anti-inflammatory compounds is not clear.]

Celiac Disease and Diabetes:
Individuals with celiac disease are highly sensitive to foods containing gluten, a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. People with celiac disease have significant quality of life issues such as bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation.

When the immune cells of celiacs see gluten, they mount an inflammatory response to try to eliminate the gluten from the intestines. The immune cells produce antibodies that attach to the inner surface of the gut and through inflammatory responses cause direct damage of the gut lining. Inflammatory responses against the body’s own tissues lead to autoimmune (against oneself) disease.

Diabetes is also the result of an autoimmune condition. Inflammatory immune cells destroy specialized cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone needed to control blood sugar.

Individuals with celiac disease have more than digestive issues, since they have almost 2.5 times a greater chance of developing diabetes than those without intestinal problems. Such conditions are associated with antibodies directed against the insulin-producing cells. When Individuals with celiac disease go on a strict gluten-free diet, they produce fewer anti-insulin-antibodies, suggesting that they are producing less of an inflammatory response.

Gluten intake changes the kinds of bacteria found in the gut. Diabetic-prone mice that eat regular mouse chow containing gluten are more likely to get diabetes than diabetic-prone mice on gluten-free chow. In addition, when the gut bacteria are analyzed, the diabetic-prone mice on gluten have the type of bacteria more often associated with inflammation, than the mice not on gluten. Thus, diet affects the responses of the immune cells and the microbiome.

As followers of this blog are aware, in the face of constantly changing external and internal challenges, the immune system of a healthy person makes adjustments to maintain immune balance, immune homeostasis.

One would expect that if inflammatory and autoimmune responses were better controlled by the body, that individuals with celiac disease and diabetes would experience a far better quality of life.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22699609
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Immune inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself from infection and cancerous cells. It is also necessary for repairing damaged tissues and eliminating dangerous compounds produced internally or to which we are exposed to externally.

In the 1800’s, Dr. Rudolf Virchow, one of the 19th century’s foremost scientists, observed the presence of inflammatory immune cells in cancerous tissues and suggested that there was a connection between cancer and inflammation.

The right balance of inflammatory responses are needed to fight cancer. Too little of an immune response leaves cancer cells unrecognized and unchallenged. Too much inflammation, or going down a different pathway of immune cell stimulation, may cause the immune system to support tumor growth rather than go into an “attack” mode.

Immune and digestive homeostasis, intestinal balance, depends on the right types and numbers of microbiota (bacteria), the health of the cells that make up the intestinal lining, and the immune cells that are embedded in the intestinal walls.

Over 75-80% of the immune system is represented in the gut. The immune cells produce antibodies (immunoglobulins), cytokines, and other immune factors that help protect the digestive system from pathogens that are introduced into the gut when consuming food and drink.

Bacteria and their secretions interact with intestinal immune cells and vice versa. These bacteria play a major role in the health of the digestive tract. An inappropriate level of intestinal immune responsiveness and incorrect types and numbers of microbiota may contribute to difficulty in maintaining intestinal homeostasis, gut balance. Immune imbalances, a breakdown of any of these elements, lead to problems with the intestine such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.

Pre-cancerous polyps often precede the development of colorectal cancer. Several naturally occurring substances have been shown to reduce the size and number of polyps, probably by down-regulation of genes that cause inflammation.

Maintaining immune and digestive homeostasis is imperative for good health. I look forward to having you contact me about any questions you might have on limiting inflammation and returning to homeostasis. I can be contacted at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/. You may also reach me at: 1.302-265.3870 [USA, Eastern Time].

www.nature.com/nature/journal/v454/n7203/abs/nature07201.html
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