We are working out way throught the 20 Things You Should Know About HIV (And Probably Don’t). Yesterday, we talked about inflammation and today we are going to talk a bit more where it causes problems.
“It takes guts to get out of the ruts.” ~Robert Schuller
#11: 70% of the body’s immune cells are in your intestines.
Yes it’s true, your gut normally contains about 70% of your immune cells. The immune system in the gut is called gut-associated lymphoid tissue or GALT and protects your body from invaders in food.
From the earliest stages of infection, HIV causes injury to the lining of the intestines as it infects the many CD4 T-cells present. This damage allows microbes (germs) living in your gut to leak out. As these bacteria and their toxins such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) enter your bloodstream they trigger systemic immune activation and the resulting inflammatory response.
When it happens, people experience something called leaky gut syndrome. It results from damaging the cells of the small intestine so that the spaces between them become larger and allow these’ particles to pass through into your blood stream.
HIV is one of the culprits that cause leaky gut syndrome, but others include medications and a diet high in sugars, processed foods and alcohol. Other contributors include too many free radicals and some nutrient deficiencies.
Why is this important to you?
Inflammation in the gut makes it easier for germs to pass out of the intestine and leak into your body. This leaky gut contributes to the cycle of activating your immune and inflammatory responses. Inflammation in the gut also contributes to poor absorption of the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are molecules that are part of the coating of some bacteria normally found in the intestines and they produce a strong immune response when they get in your bloodstream. High levels in the blood are a sign of “leaky gut” syndrome. As we shared in #11, an activate immune system leads to inflammation and damage to your organs.
Scientists have also found strong evidence that LPS helps HIV to penetrate the usually impregnable blood-brain barrier contributing to HIV-associated dementia and other cognitive disorders. In other words, what leaked from your gut is allowing HIV to harm your brain.
This speeds up HIV’s march on your whole body – not just your immune system.
How does this affect your path?
Knowing that you have to start monitoring your health immediately after diagnosis is the very first step to understanding all that is happening inside your body. There are many things to know and even more to understand how it affect you.
Doing all that you can to maintain good overall health by eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercising is even more critical than you may have thought. You do have some control over how HIV affects your body by the choices you make from the day you are diagnosed/.
“Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” ~Ayn Rand