Is Gut bacteria linked to your immune system?

80% to 90% of your immune system is located in your gut. When addressing any immune health problems, we should focus on restoring gut health.

Studies show that gut bacteria is crucial in maintaining a balance immune system. Imbalance in gut bacteria or increased in bad bacteria in your gut can lead to leaky gut and progression of inflammatory diseases such irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other auto-immune diseases including diabetes type 1.

While modern medicine has helped us address many acute concerns, conventional medicine has no true solution for auto-immune diseases, diabetes, cancer, depression and dementia. Often times, medications are prescribed to treat the symptoms rather than the root cause. As in all medications, consider the benefits, risks, and any alternative options to address the symptoms effectively and naturally.

This article will discuss 6 popular medications that could cause leaky gut and the safer alternatives to these medications.

What medications cause leaky gut?

#1   Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) use

NSAIDs, a class of over-the-counter painkillers, are generally considered safe but can cause stomach and intestinal bleeding even in low doses. Research shows that long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause leaky gut.

Curcumin and omega-3 oils are safe alternatives to NSAIDs. Clinical trials have proven that turmeric’s active compound, curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation and pain while supports the immune system.

#2   Antibiotic Use

Antibiotics kill good and bad microbes in your gut and can lead to long-term alteration of the gut microbiome . Most gut bacteria return after 1 to 4 weeks after 1 dose of antibiotics, but the numbers don’t return to previous levels. A study shows that a single dose of antibiotics reduced the diversity of a dominant bacterial groups and increased the number of antibiotic-resistant strains which remained for up to two years.

Without the good bacteria, candida and small intestinal bacterial (SIBO) can overgrow and multiply, damaging the gut lining causing leaky gut which can progress to auto-immune diseases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Fluoroquinolones, Cephalosporins, Penicillins, and Clindamycin are the most common antibiotics that lead to C. difficile infections, which is a bacteria that causes the colon to swell.

If you must take antibiotics, ensure to replenish your gut with beneficial bacteria with high quality and high potency probiotics (100 billion CFU) to re-establish a healthy microbiome. For maintenance dose, transition to 30 billion CFU (colony forming units). Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and tempeh also increases the good bacteria in your gut. However, limit intake of yogurt, keifer and kombucha that are high in sugar.

#3   Acid reducing drugs

Over-the-counter antacids, H2 blockers and Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) work to reduce or block the production of acid in the stomach to treat acid indigestion, heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux diseases (GERD). These medications can actually put you at risk for serious gut infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, PPI medication can increase the risk of C. difficile bacterial infection, which causes intestinal inflammation, enlargement of the colon (toxic megacolon) and sepsis.  

Consider a change in your diet to address acid reflux or GERD without the harmful side effects. Avoid eating gluten, dairy, alcohol and fried foods can ease acid reflux. Low stomach acid can be addressed with HCL supplementation which can support and restore your gut to optimal stomach pH.

#4   Oral Contraceptives Pills

The link between oral contraceptives and intestinal inflammation was first reported in the late 1960s. Recent studies have shown that the use of birth control pill increases the risk of developing Crohn’s Diseases by 50%.  

Based on CDC’s survey conducted from 2015-2017, 9.06 million women are on birth control pills. It is shocking to learn that this “pill” could affect gut health and overall-well being of so many women. 

Birth control pills contain estrogen that can lead to estrogen dominance causing hormonal imbalance in your body. Excess estrogen in your body can double the risk of developing candida overgrowth, which is a major contributor of leaky gut.  

As a safe alternative, consider natural family planning. Use condoms or the calendar rhythm method. However, this is a personal choice and women should do their due diligent to research non-hormonal contraceptive methods and decide what’s best for them.

#5   Cortecosteroids

Cortecosteroids, often used as an anti-inflammatory, includes cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone to treat chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, allergies, lupus, asthma, eczema or any time there is unchecked inflammation.

Cortecosteroids mimics cortisol, commonly known as a “stress hormone” produced naturally by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortecosteroids raise your cortisol levels to reduce the symptoms of inflammation while suppressing your immune system. Elevated cortisol levels can disrupt the gut microbiome and contribute to the break down the gut lining. This is how chronic stress / anxiety contributes to leaky gut which leads to auto immune diseases due to a suppressed immune system.

Steroids can be effective in suppressing inflammation but that does not change the fact cortecosteroids destroy the gut lining. These steroids have serious side effects such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, increased risk of infection from common bacteria and viruses, higher risk of bruising and slower wound healing.

Rather than relying on harmful drugs, reverse auto-immunity by providing support to your immune system so it can return to its optimal function instead of suppressing your immune system.  

#6   Chemotherapy Drugs

Chemotherapy is the administration of a concoction of drugs to kill cancer cells but may have negative side effects like diarrhea and vomiting caused by the imbalance of microorganisms in the gut. Chemotherapy also causes damage to the intestinal wall cells.  

To reduce the effects of chemotherapy, it’s important to restore the gut flora with prebiotics and probiotics. Before chemotherapy, take lots of plant-based foods like fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous, beans and legumes. These are high in insoluble fiber which allow the probiotics to thrive. After and during chemotherapy, take lots of probiotics that have multiple strains to replenish your gut with good bacteria.