Leaky gut...or Rusty gut?
Gut health is a popular topic in recent times, and for good reason.
There are 10x more bacteria cells than human cells in the body! And these little fellas make up a huge part of our immune system as well as our digestive system. The communities of microbes exist in unique, complementary blends, and inhabit everything from our skin and genitals, to our mouths and eyes, and of course our intestines.
Some of these bacteria (the commensal) are simply along for the ride, while others (the symbiotic bacteria) offer mutually beneficial relationships. Always lurking, although usually in much smaller numbers, are pathogens – the disease-causing opportunistic microbes. The communities in our microbiome carry out a variety of functions which are vital to not only our health and well-being but our very survival.
Starting with our immune system, our microbiome establishes the parameters in which our bodies judge whether or not something is friend or foe. It maintains harmony, balance, and order among its own communities, ensuring that opportunistic pathogens are kept to a minimum, while also keeping the host system from attacking itself.
Our gut microbiota is fundamental to the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Without it, the majority of our food intake would not only be indigestible, but we would not be capable of extracting the critical nutritional compounds needed to function.
The ‘gut’ has even been called the ‘second brain’, but I recently heard that for ever signal the brain sends to the gut, the gut sends 9 signals to the brain – so perhaps the gut is really the master mind of the body!
So how do we get a strong and thriving gut microbiota?
Those at the forefront of research into this huge field basically conclude that while we have some idea of what positively and negatively effects the microbiome – there are so many variables, so many unknowns, so much complexity that we can’t really know exactly what a healthy gut flora looks like. However the main aims are to: ⭐️ Decrease inflammation ⭐️ Heal the gut lining ⭐️ Increase natural diversity of microbes
But how does iron<>copper metabolism come into this quest for a balanced healthy gut?
As it turns out - it is probably the most important place to focus for a number of reasons:
🗝 We know what causes inflammation – excess unbound iron and lack of bioavailable copper and magnesium. Once the iron recycling macrophages in the liver are overwhelmed with iron, the iron begins to build through tissue throughout the body.
🗝 Excess unbound iron accumulating in the gut causes a loss of energy production in the enterocytes (or intestinal absorptive cells, are simple columnar epithelial cells which line the inner surface of the small and large intestines) allowing intestinal permeability. Gaps appear in the lining of the small intestine allowing endotoxins (waste matter from bacteria) and food particles/proteins to ‘leak’ through into the blood stream causing the body to launch a reaction to these unrecognized proteins.
🗝 Ceruloplasmin (the copper dependant master antioxidant enzyme) is what takes care of endotoxins, so when we are deficient in magnesium, retinol and copper and can’t make this important enzyme the endotoxins add to the chaos placing stress on the body.
🗝 Pathogens, viruses, yeast and parasites all require a constant supply of host iron to thrive – hello gut imbalance!
🗝 Pathogens/bacteria generally don't float around as single cells, but instead group together in a community called a biofilm in which they stick themselves to a surface and create a polysaccharide matrix using sequestered minerals (iron promotes this and is necessary for the formation of the biofilm). This slimy structure acts as a physical barrier that keeps most immune cells from detecting the pathogenic bacteria, as well as being a difficult place for most antibiotics to access. Recent findings have linked iron acquisition to the ability of invading pathogens dispersed by microbiota biofilms to colonize, invade host tissue, adapt to various environments in the host, subvert host functions, and overcome the defenses of the host.
🗝 Host immune defense system (ie how your body fights off bacterial pathogens) rely on bioavailable copper ions basically as little antimicrobial bullets to fire at invaders.
🗝 Low-fat diets have been shown to cause an increase in e.coli and a decrease in lactoferrin.
🗝 Fermented foods such as Apple Cider Vinegar (with the ‘Mother’) help to chelate excess iron, so help not only by boosting beneficial bacteria but also lowering the iron burden/inflammation as well as reducing iron availability to pathogenic bacteria.
🗝 Gut microbes, like anyone, need an optimal environment to thrive. When copper is not there to activate oxygen, keeping iron safely carrying it around the body in the red blood cells – we end up with altered pH – candida, fungus and parasites thrive in these acidic, low-oxygen environments, whereas beneficial microbes struggle.
Rather than only focusing on trying to find the perfect combination of probiotics and trying to get them to establish in a ‘rusty’ acidic environment – instead we could aim at getting to the underlying mineral imbalance, and when this is resolves inflammation will go down, the gut lining will heal, and the ‘good guys’ will be much happier and have a much better shot at repopulating.
The most comprehensive way to improve the gut is to follow the steps of the Root Cause Protocol to remove the excess unbound iron and create an environment for a diverse range of healthy microbes to thrive.