Endotoxin: Part 1 – How Opportunistic Bacteria Damage Your Heart

Endotoxin: Part 1 - How Opportunistic Bacteria Damage Your Heart

For the last decade, I have been finding articles about fecal matter transplants in rats. When scientists transplant fecal matter from an obese rat into a healthy rat, it soon becomes obese. 1 There have been several other biological ailments that can also be assumed by the transplantee including diabetes, 2 cardiovascular disorders, 3 autoimmune disorders, 4 and an increase in biomarkers related to high stress. 5 At first glance, this is both strange and perplexing. Researchers have concluded that the gut biome can contribute to your overall health. “Good” bacteria make you healthy, and “bad” bacteria damage your heart. At this point, I had a choice to make. I could accept this at the surface level, or I could go down the rabbit hole and try to discover which gut bacteria damage your heart, and how are they doing it.

Remember the “O” in FODMAP? It stands for oligosaccharide, a polymerized sugar. When gram-negative bacteria use this substrate along with an O-antigen and a lipid, they make an endotoxin called lipopolysaccharide, or LPS for short. This is an amphiphilic compound (water soluble on one end, and fat soluble on the other) that usually resides in the outer cell wall of bacteria. It is theorized that these compounds evolved to protect bacteria against the macrophages of the host immune system. 6 When LPS is released from bacteria and enters the bloodstream, health problems occur. White blood cells detect the O-antigen as a pathogen, but there are no attached bacteria to destroy. In humans, CD14 encodes a protein that binds LPS to a lipoprotein. 7 The liver produces LDL to transport cholesterol all over the body. When LPS is present in the blood, it prevents LDL from performing as it should, and VLDL (the type of lipoprotein associated with ApoB and heart disease) begins to form. 8

Damage from LPS extends beyond the issues with the arterial plaque. Endotoxin has also been shown to increase nitrous oxide production within the myocytes of heart cells. 9 This limits the ability of cardiac muscles to contract. LPS has also been shown to increase and trap lipid peroxide in heart cells leading to free radical damage. 10 After the free radicals have damaged heart tissue, researchers also found that endotoxin inhibits fixing damaged cells because it breaks down the matrix metalloproteinase responsible for tissue repair in the heart. 11

Endotoxin is usually confined to the gut in healthy adults, but anytime the mucosal integrity is compromised, it can enter the bloodstream that can later damage the heart. Japanese doctors have been looking for endotoxin for quite a while, but it has not been until the last decade that Western doctors have utilized diagnostic tools for detecting, but they usually only look for it in prenatal care, post-surgery, or severe trauma. 12 Disruption in mucosal integrity is not limited to these conditions. Leaky gut, SIBO, H. pylori, Campylobacter, NSAIDs, and infection can also disrupt the gut allowing bacteria and their endotoxins to escape the gut. Since these gut conditions do not lead to endotoxin diagnostics, the mainstream medical community often overprescribes statins to treat what is instead a problem with the microbiome.

Gut health plays a critical role in health and has a direct impact on the heart. People like a quick fix, which is one of the reasons why statins are so popular. Please do not turn to another quick fix to try and kill off the bacteria creating these toxins especially through the use of antibiotics. Doctors at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany have reported that the use of antibiotics creates a rapid release of endotoxin 13. If you have a condition that will compromise the gut barrier, you need to address the root issue. Most of the time, this is going to involve a lifestyle change, and it takes time and effort.

Heart health is but one of many disorders that this endotoxin series will cover giving you all the more reason to Fix Your Gut through diet and lifestyle changes instead of looking for the quick fix.

See more from this series:

1 Comment
  1. This is a good introduction to an interesting topic, gram-negative bacteria, a ubiquitous and stealthy group of critters, as I understand. Curious what the diagnostic and treatment options might be? Looking forward to Part 2.

Leave a Reply