Gut Health and IC Relationship
Researchers are finally addressing the topic of gut health as a major portion of the whole body health experience and the effect that gut health has on the immune system. Ongoing studies have resulted in an association with the balance of the gut microbiome as part of a systemic approach to health, and the discovery of the interrelationship of many disorders due to gut problems, including autoimmune dysfunction. Understanding the important role that the gut plays in overall health has opened the doors for an explanation to those that suffer from the painful symptoms of interstitial cystitis.
What Happens with a Leaky Gut
A majority of our digestion occurs in the small intestines and this 20 ft. long organ is an incredible machine. Nutrients flow through the small intestines and are caught by projections known as “villi”. Smaller hairs on the villi, called “microvilli” capture the tiniest particles and the entire process ensures that only the most-minute of particles pass through the intestine wall for nutrient absorption. Intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) occurs when the tight junctions holding our cells together are damaged, creating openings in the gut lining and allowing larger molecules and toxins to pass through and enter into the bloodstream. The body does not recognize these larger molecules, leading to an immune and/or inflammatory response. Leaky gut compromises your small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients. When the villi and microvilli are damaged, it reduces the surface area of the small intestines and your ability to absorb nutrients goes down. Meaning that if you have leaky gut you aren’t getting the full nutritional benefits from your food, even when you are consuming healthy foods. The body’s response to this situation is to fire off the natural chemicals to try to take control of the situation and this creates a domino effect of trying to fight inflammation with massive quantities of antibodies. Symptoms of this situation can include everything from acne to headaches, and it’s the body’s way of signaling that there is a problem. Over time, the constant battle is overwhelming and the immune system can become compromised and this is when the development of an immune disease may occur.
Poor Gut Health and IC
Many of the symptoms of IC are associated with poor gut health. Functional medicine professionals have historically made note of the common symptoms of their patients and have included gut health as part of the analysis. A healthy gut environment can be compromised by stress, antibiotics, poor diet, environmental toxins, endotoxins, and more. For example, research is now showing that you do not need to have Celiac disease for intestinal damage to occur when exposed to gluten. Another common intestinal problem is with yeast overgrowth, particularly Candida and a diet with a lot of sugar and starches. While this condition can be the result of a few situations, it usually reflects back on the intake of antibiotics from an initial infection. While antibiotic use can’t always be avoided, it is now linked to gut dysbiosis, SIBO, and SIFO. When stool and blood samples are taken there is generally a low white blood cell and IgA levels which are red flag alerts that there is a yeast overgrowth that is suppressing the immune system. In turn, this cascades into a variety of symptoms that we now know relate to interstitial cystitis.
The Gut-Brain Connection
We now understand that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut. Serotonin is the feel-good, positive neurotransmitter that the brain and intestinal tract require for healthy function. A healthy gut microbiome is necessary for tryptophan metabolism, which the brain requires to synthesize its own serotonin. When there is a gut imbalance, particularly with the intake of antibiotics, yeast production goes out of control and spreads inside the gut. Yeast is associated with the production of the all-important brain neurotransmitters, so as this process continues it creates situations that affect the immune system and can have an effect on the brain that results in symptoms such as anxiety, depressions, brain fog, pain perception, and memory problems.
Reversing to Get Back to Good Health
Understanding what is happening is important in getting a patient back on track to positive health. To reverse and renew, there is a requirement to make some radical changes. You will need the removal of all contributors that disrupt the GI environment and participate in a leaky gut condition. This includes all inflammatory foods such as gluten, grains, sugar, processed foods, and chemicals that are part of the toxic burden on the system. Restoring the essential ingredients that are required for proper digestion and absorption, particularly focusing on digestive enzymes, will help in creating a balance. You will need to infuse the body with the healthy bacteria that the intestines and the body requires. This includes the correct probiotics as well as fermented foods. Supplements can help to repair the gut and the gut wall lining.
The good news for IC sufferers is that many of the symptoms of IC are caused by poor gut health and gut cells repair themselves at an incredibly fast rate. They have a very short lifespan and when they are replaced with new, healthy cells, the changes can occur quickly which offers great relief for the reduction/removal of symptoms.