Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT)

You have all seen the television ads with Jamie Lee Curtis telling you that 75% of your immune system is in your digestive tract. Of course, that statement is false. However, 75% of your lymphatic supply is in the digestive tract and it is the first line of defense for the immune system.

When food, bacteria, viral particles, or any other substance enters the digestive tract, the GALT examines these substances. Cells, called dendrites, extend an “arm” into the gut, contact the substance and evaluate it chemically. Sometimes these crane-like dendrites will bring the substance back into the lymphatic system for further analysis.

The process is called “cross talk”. The GALT actually communicates with both friendly and potential pathogenic organisms. The information gleaned from “cross talk” is then transmitted to the immune system via the thymus.

The thymus responds by increasing the percentage of Th1 or Th2 cells released into the blood stream. Th1 cells stimulate infection fighting and Th2 cells respond to food sensitivities or allergies. The total number of cells doesn’t really change, just the focus from infection to allergy. This system helps prepare the body for any potential threat. One of my concerns with immunization, is that it by-passes this defense system and mandates a response directly from the secondary immune system – cell mediated immunity in the blood stream itself.

After treating inflammation in my office, the next step is to evaluate the status of the immune system as it relates to “cross talk”. Th1 problems commonly occur after the use of antibiotics or prolonged use of probiotics. Yes, the use of probiotics often causes problems rather than helping the immune system. This will be covered in the next Wednesday Wisdom blog. Th2 problems are related to food sensitivities. Carbohydrates and proteins are the triggers. As noted on my blog, Inflammation – Part 2, wheat (especially gluten), dairy, soy and corn are the biggest offenders.

If these substances get into the blood stream, the immune system is ready and waiting to attack them. This is a normal immune response. However, if the amino acid sequence of a small protein or viral particle resembles some protein structure in the body, then the immune system goes on to attack the body itself. This is the basis of autoimmune disease. MS (multiple sclerosis), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Crohn’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis are just a few of several hundred autoimmune diseases thought to be triggered by this process call “molecular mimicry”.

Only single amino acids amino acids are supposed to cross the gut wall into the blood stream. Viral organisms are simple strings of amino acids, long enough to generate an immune response. In similar fashion, only single sugars (monosaccharides) like glucose, fructose and galactose can normally cross the gut lining. If disaccharides (double sugars) like lactose or sucrose get into the blood stream, they can also cause molecular mimicry and create autoimmune disease. Lactose intolerance is basically an inability to break down lactose into glucose and galactose, with some leaky gut issues.

Avoid taking probiotics daily. If you have to take an antibiotic, follow up with a probiotic at each meal for 2 weeks, then discontinue. If you suspect you have food sensitivities, have a nutritional evaluation to find out how you can overcome these issues. Finally, if you suffer from any autoimmune disease, please investigate treatment options for leaky gut, dysbiosis, and molecular mimicry.