It's October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Immune Health Month. When it comes to immune, breast, and overall health, it is important to know that it starts with gut and hormone health. More precisely, it begins with a healthy balance of the gut and one’s individual hormones. Having a healthy gut is more than eating “healthy foods.” A healthy gut encompasses all the flora, or bacteria and microbes, that make up the gut as well as cellular health (the cells that make up the lining of your stomach and intestines).
The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the largest interfaces between the host and the human body through environmental factors and antigens (Thursby & Juge, 2017). The gut or intestinal microbiome includes and exceeds 1,014 human cells and bacterial cells (Thursby & Juge, 2017). The tissue and cells that make up the intestines, along with the bacterial, commensal bacterial (those that are normal or do not cause harm), are included in the makeup or microbiome of the gut.
When it comes to the immune system, even if you eat healthy foods, your health may not be optimal. One area of gut health that we hear a lot about is gluten. Gluten is a combination of wheat proteins. Many studies have shown that once the balance between intestinal microflora and the human body is broken, it will lead to multiple systemic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and coeliac disease through bile acid metabolism, brain-gut axis, intestinal barrier, and the immune system (Wu et al., 2021).
Wheat proteins occasionally may be okay, however, regularly ingesting these proteins may hurt the gut lining and overall health. At least 50 gliadin epitopes exert immunomodulatory, cytotoxic, and gut-permeating activities that can be partially traced back to different domains of α-gliadin (de Punder & Pruimboom, 2013). Meaning one of the proteins in gluten, gliadin contributes to the permeability of the lining of the gut. The permeability opens or loosens the tight junctions of the cells that make up the lining. This allows other proteins, microbes, chemicals, and substances to enter the blood. For gliadin to interact with immune system cells, it must overcome the intestinal barrier. Gliadin peptides cross the epithelial layer by transcytosis or paracellular transport (de Punder & Pruimboom, 2013). Even if there is no gene or individual gluten-related disease, it can still hurt the human body through the gut lining.
Hormones play a part in immune and gut health. Every organ and structure of the body has hormone receptors. If there is inflammation or an imbalance, those receptors cannot function properly, or there may not be enough hormones to go around. It is important for hormones to be balanced and checked regularly.
Elevate Functional Medicine is focused on your overall well-being and health. We give you an individualized health plan and work with you to facilitate optimal health goals by elevating your understanding.
Kiara Poloney, LMT, FMP-C
BluWillo Precision Medicine.
de Punder, K., & Pruimboom, L. (2013). The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients, 5(3), 771–787. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5030771
Thursby, E., & Juge, N. (2017). Introduction to the human gut microbiota. The Biochemical journal, 474(11), 1823–1836. https://doi.org/10.1042/BCJ20160510
Wu, X., Qian, L., Liu, K., Wu, J., & Shan, Z. (2021). Gastrointestinal microbiome and gluten in celiac disease. Annals of medicine, 53(1), 1797–1805. https://doi.org/10.1080/07853890.2021.1990392