Naturopathic doctors learn something that medical doctors never get to learn. They learn that almost all disease starts in the intestines. There are a number of reasons for this.
First of all, that’s where we digest the food we eat. Second, that’s where 95% of our immune system works. And third, that’s the most toxic area of the body.
But what about stress? Many people believe that stress is at the root of many diseases.
Turns out, there’s a study showing that even stress has its negative effects through the intestines. And the implications of this research are astounding for doctors treating illnesses of all kinds.
Researchers at the Ohio State University College of Dentistry in Columbus, Ohio conducted this study. Their article starts off by pointing out the obvious: The intestines of humans are populated by a highly complex and genetically diverse community of over 500 different species of bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
They go on to say that even though the microbes reside within the intestines, they interact very closely with the entire body. One of the ways they affect the entire body is through stress.
To investigate this connection, the researchers measured the amount of inflammatory cytokines in the blood of a group of mice. Inflammatory cytokines are molecules that the body uses to activate the immune system. And in the process of doing this, these cytokines also produce inflammation.
Then the researchers exposed the mice to stress in a very interesting way. They put overly aggressive mice into the same cage. They discovered that when the mice were stressed, the inflammatory cytokines increased by a factor of 100 times!
Stress Impacts Your Gut Bacteria
They also found out that the stress greatly affected the balance of bacteria in the intestines. The number of one particular class of bacteria, clostridium, increased by 28%, while another class, bacteroides, shrank nearly in half.
The researchers then treated the stressed out mice with antibiotics to kill off the bacteria. When they did this, the inflammatory cytokines dramatically decreased. This proved that the source of the inflammation was the microbial balance in the intestines. So let’s sum this up.
In all likelihood, the bacteria in our intestines are the major determinants of how much inflammation we have. And stress changes the balance of these bacteria in such a way that it increases inflammation up to 100 times.
So How Does This Tie Into Different Diseases?
Very significantly. Inflammation is a primary factor in many diseases. This includes cardiovascular disease, cancer, and auto-immune diseases. This is particularly true of the auto-immune disorders of the intestines, such as colitis and Crohn’s disease. It also offers a very clear insight into the connection between stress and bowel disorders.
A great many patients experience intestinal symptoms when stress hits. Most, if not all cases of Crohn’s disease first show up at a time of great stress.
According to this study, it may be possible to decrease the impact of stress on all disease by using probiotics, bowel cleansing therapies, and colonic therapy to keep the intestinal bacteria in balance.
One of the most effective overall treatments for any disease is intestinal enemas of ozone. Perhaps ozone’s effect on intestinal bacteria is why it’s so successful.
The results of this remarkable study also help to explain why so many patients with a wide range of complaints benefit from intestinal therapies, such as anti-yeast therapies and herbal intestinal remedies. These therapies affect the balance of intestinal bacteria.
The moral here is to remember the old naturopathic dictum, almost all disease starts in the intestines. Even those diseases associated with stress. So no matter what disease you are treating, if there’s inflammation, make sure you work on balancing out the organisms in your intestines.
Bailey, M.T., S.E. Dowd, J.D. Galley, A.R. Hufnagle, R.G. Allen, and M. Lyte. “Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation.” Brain Behav Immun. 2011 March;25(3):397-407. Epub 2010 October 30.