Dr. Perlmutter Why the Gut Matters in Multiple Sclerosis
Fundamental aspects of our clinical protocol for dealing with multiple sclerosis actually center upon rebuilding gut wall integrity. Multiple sclerosis, like other autoimmune conditions, is a manifestation of lack of regulation of the immune system. We now understand that the integrity of the gut wall plays a fundamentally important role in keeping balance within the immune system. Loss of integrity, “leaky gut syndrome,” is a situation that is characterized by various proteins and even bacteria within the gut gaining access to the systemic circulation, and as such, challenging the system and leading to inflammation. And it is this situation that has now been correlated with such autoimmune diseases as type I diabetes, celiac disease, as well as inflammatory conditions of the bowel. Interestingly, autoimmune conditions like these are increasing dramatically in their incidence, especially in Western countries and in other countries around the world where the diet has become more “Westernized.”
Like these diseases, multiple sclerosis is a condition of increased inflammation with autoimmunity. It is known that the blood-brain barrier is broken down in multiple sclerosis. It is now becoming clear, however, that like other autoimmune conditions, there is evidence to suggest that there is increased intestinal permeability in multiple sclerosis as well.
In a new report, Swedish researchers, using an experimental rodent model for multiple sclerosis, have now confirmed that immune activation as a consequence of increased intestinal permeability may play a fundamental role in multiple sclerosis. Indeed, when multiple sclerosis was induced in these rodents, there was an almost immediate correlation with increased gut permeability, which, in retrospect, was certainly something that was anticipated and was then proven.
The integrity of the gut wall is clearly dependent upon healthy gut bacteria. That said, one important early life experience that tends to increase the diversity of the gut bacteria is being breastfed. We are now seeing literature to suggest that absence of breastfeeding is associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis in humans. Lack of breastfeeding is associated with alterations of the gut bacteria, and this may well explain why a lack of breastfeeding shows correlation with risk for asthma, obesity, ADHD and allergies.
So as it relates to MS, again, preventive medicine should focus on creating a healthy gut bacteria by favoring such things as vaginal delivery as opposed to cesarean delivery, minimizing antibiotic exposure and breastfeeding if at all possible.
About Dr. Perlmutter: David Perlmutter, M.D., is an expert in the human microbiome, a board-certified neurologist, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, America’s brain-health expert and #1 New York Times best-selling author.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.