Why am I Doing a Detox? – Part 2 – Intestinal Integrity

Your intestinal tract plays a very large role is this game of cleanse.

Intestinal Integrity – Normal AnatomyHealthy Gut Lining

When you ate your spinach and salmon salad for lunch, it went through your gastro-intestinal (GI) tract for a series of well-orchestrated activities that attempt to extract nutrients for your use and eliminate the rest. The small intestine is where most of the nutrient absorption happens. The cells of the lining of your small intestine (called enterocytes) fit together snuggly and have finger-like projections called villi that form a “brush border”. The brush border increases the surface area of the cell so that it can absorb nutrients more efficiently.  In order for any substance to get from the inside of your GI tract into the blood stream, it has to pass either thru the enterocyte or between the tight junctions holding cells together (which are protected by special guard proteins). In a healthy gut, this is a very tightly regulated system.  Different types of nutrients are allowed to cross through specific routes depending on their chemical structure.  The good guys get in and the bad guys stay out.  Any substance or protein that is too big or doesn’t have the secrete password stays in the GI tract for elimination via number two.

Foreign Invaders

The problem comes from two different angles.  When we consume something that that is not recognized by our sentry cells, it may be able to sneak past the guard.  Our system does not know what to make of some of the things that we are putting in because they have no semblance of food products.  Other products can have their own unique effects.  Wheat is a great example.  Gliadin, a class of protein components in wheat, induces zonulin release. Zonulin (which is an awesome name for a protein or a superhero) is one component responsible for regulating intestinal permeability.  The gliadin-induced increase in zonulin expression opens up the tight junctions in between enterocytes. So now, large, scary proteins and other components – that were never meant to cross the intestinal barrier in the first place – are capable of crossing over directly into the blood stream.  This response has nothing to do with a gluten sensitivity or allergy; it happens in everyone.  An increase in intestinal permeability (sometimes called “leaky gut”) has been linked to a surfeit of health conditions, most notably autoimmune diseases.

Once an invader gets past the intestinal lining and into the blood stream, the real trouble begins.  Your immune cells will wage war against the trespasser, trying to neutralize the threat.  This can be a pretty messy fight and there are often casualties of friendly fire.  If you immune cells can’t neutralize, and your liver can’t process, then the evil villain is either roaming around wreaking havoc, sentenced to an adipose prison, or plants himself in some other inconvenient location to slowly cause damage and dysfunction and a chronic inflammation response.

Chronic Inflammation

The other half of the problem has to do with chronic inflammation.  When the lining of your small intestine becomes inflamed (likely due to the overload of oxidative stress or the war waging on the evil invaders that snuck through), the villi of the brush border swell up.  This reduces the surface area of the enterocyte, making nutrient absorption much more difficult.

The End Result

So, the end result is that large, ugly, scary proteins are bursting through the gates into the blood stream to join the fight against your immune system while any nourishment from your food is having a very hard time being processed and absorbed properly.  Your immune system is raging uncontrollably, your inflammation levels are through the roof (making everything very irritable), and your vitality goes down the drain.

Fertility Connection

With all of your energy going to this fight, your reproductive system takes that back seat.  With too much inflammation and too little nutrients, fertility can be a real issue.  How could your body hope to grow another person inside of you when it can’t even nourish and care for itself?

Comic-FarmacyYou need to heal your GI tract.  Not only will you feel better (and probably look healthier too), but you will be taking the first step to regulate your immune system and your inflammatory system.  It all starts at the gut.  A healthy gut is that foundation to a healthy body.  It needs to be the first system to heal. Any more direct fertility interventions that you attempt will be more effective with a healthy gut and a well-managed inflammation response. The medical cleanse is going to give me a boost, but my first recommendation to you is this: Stop putting fuel on the fire!  Stop sending aggravating agents down your food tube. Your body has an amazing capacity to heal, but you need to give it a chance.  You don’t have to wait to do a cleanse. Start now by filling your mouth with nutrients instead of stressors. Good luck!

 

Want to learn more about zonulin? Check this out:

http://physrev.physiology.org/content/91/1/151/F14.expansion.html

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