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Immune balance: 500 species of bacteria having a party in your gut

Posted Mar 02 2011 12:58pm

A great post today in the health section of the Huffington Post by Dr. Leo Galland, M.D. It talks about many aspects of gut health, leading with a “savory” description of parasitic populations within the human gut and all the problems that may cause.

Further into the piece comes a section that helps spell out the role of intestinal bacteria and immune function:

“The gastrointestinal tract is a complex and dangerous frontier.
All the nutrients required for life must pass through, while the bad guys are kept out. Given the large area, there is much that can go wrong, leading to a huge range of ailments. In keeping with its immense surface area and intense exposure to foreign antigens, the intestinal tract is the largest organ of immune surveillance and response in the human body.”

Yes, the gut is ground zero for the immune cavalry’s ride to the rescue in the rest of the body.  But what about the relationship to those parasites? As the Galland points out:

“…over two-thirds of your body’s immune system is located in the wall of the small intestine. The immune cells (called lymphocytes) leave the intestine and travel all over your body. When activated by a parasitic infection, they can carry the inflammatory message to your joints, your skin, your eyes, and your lungs.”

Hmmm. Interesting. We’ve talked in this blog about over-reaction of immune defenders being a big reason for all kinds of inflammation in the body . Now, it may appear immune cells are coded with inflammatory instructions spawning from parasitic infections in the gut, kind of like creating a bunch of Manchurian Candidates that go out and take up residence in the rest of the body.

Goes to show that balancing these good/bad role players in the body is highly complex.

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