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How Endotoxins Impact Our Health

How Endotoxins Impact Our Health. Endotoxemia, LPS, Melbourne Naturopath, Kirily Thomas

Terms like endotoxemia and endotoxin always seem to sound a little dramatic and over the top, but are they actually a thing? Yes, they are! Let’s look at how endotoxins impact our health.

What is an endotoxin?

An endotoxin is the correct term used to describe a bacterial compound, namely lipopolysaccharides (LPS), that is produced by our more inflammatory gut bacteria, which if continually produced in excess, can have a negative impact on our overall health in the longer term. Think of endotoxin/LPS as being almost the complete opposite to the helpful short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, which is anti-inflammatory and helpful for our long-term health, and produced by the beneficial flora that lives in our gut.

LPS are produced by all gram-negative bacteria, as LPS forms part of the cell wall of these bacteria (up to 80% of the membrane). When these gram-negative bacteria die, they will shed LPS into the small or large intestine. If you have overgrowth of bacteria from the Bacteroidetes or Proteobacteria phyla (determined via microbiome analysis), you are likely to have more LPS present in your small or large intestine. Levels of bacteria from these two phyla can be greatly influenced by your diet and also can be impacted by the use of certain medications.

If you are in good health, eat a fibre rich diet, have intact intestinal integrity (i.e. no leaky gut), have a healthy gut transit time and your gut microbiota is well balanced, you will only have a tiny amount of LPS in your bloodstream, which is not an issue.

Conversely, if you have slow gut transit time and eat a western style diet that is low in vegetables, wholegrains, resistant starch, prebiotic fibres but rich in processed foods, saturated fats, and an overabundance of alcohol (regular alcohol consumption increases intestinal permeability) this may increase LPS absorption and promotes gut dysbiosis and poor intestinal integrity.

And when LPS is in abundance, it can also contribute to increasing inflammation in the body – endotoxemia has also been linked as a contributing factor to many different conditions including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Endometriosis
  • Liver cirrhosis & NAFLD (non alcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • PCOS
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Systemic inflammation

Western Diet Promoting Endotoxemia Cani & Delzenne 2009

How do I know if LPS is an issue for me?

Currently your LPS score can only be determined in Australia via microbiome analysis with suitably experienced practitioner who uses the most up to date testing (shotgun metagenomic sequencing is best) and is able to analyse your full microbiome map. If you are suffering from an inflammatory condition, are chronically ill, or experiencing cognitive impairment it may be worthwhile adding this to your list of things to get checked, but it is important you can get the right support.

What can I do if my LPS is high?

Changing your diet to the Mediterranean eating style is one of the first things to get started on – including extra fruit, vegetables and legumes (if you can tolerate) in your daily diet can help reduce LPS levels. And make sure you are using your extra virgin olive oil for those extra polyphenols, and olive oil also doesn’t increase LPS in the gut like a high intake of saturated fat can do.

It is important to keep your bowels moving and avoid constipation, so you can ensure that your transit time is adequate – you can see more information regarding transit time and strategies to reduce constipation here.

Support the production of Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase (IAP), as it is used by the body to detoxify LPS;

Things that INCREASE the production of IAP – improving butyrate (SCFA) production; resistant starch intake; omega-3 fats; spices like turmeric, black pepper and ginger; and polyphenol intake, especially from blueberries, apples, sweet potato and eggplant; resistant starch intake.

Things that INHIBIT the production of IAP – standard western diet, alcohol, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, high sucrose intake, vitamin D deficiency, fasting, saturated fats and omega-6 fats.

And finally, talk to your practitioner about if supportive interventions using specific herbal medicines, probiotics and prebiotics would be helpful to reduce LPS in your situation. Whilst herbal medicine, probiotics and prebiotics can be very helpful in the management of LPS, it must be prescribed by your practitioner so your script is tailored to your particular situation and guidance can be given about what to expect along the way.

Please book in for a consult if you would like assistance with your gut health.

References

Cani PD, Delzenne NM. The role of the gut microbiota in energy metabolism and metabolic disease. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1546-58. doi: 10.2174/138161209788168164.

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