Endotoxin: Part 2 – How Opportunistic Bacteria Damage Your Liver

Endotoxin: Part 2 - How Opportunistic Bacteria Damage Your Liver

Although I am probably in the minority, I enjoy returning to work after the holiday. It is just the right amount of rest that I need to recharge and get back to it. I am fortunate to have a job that I enjoy. Not many people have that privilege.

I overheard some of my coworkers talking about how much they dreaded returning to work. They looked tired – exhausted, and they were complaining about the amount of weight they put on. As I was making copies on the community copy machine, I could not help but react when someone said that they gained fifteen pounds in two weeks from eating cookies! Fifteen pounds! Is that even possible? Let’s do the math:

From strictly a calories in/calories out standpoint, it takes, at least, an additional 3,500 kcals above metabolic maintenance to put on one pound of body fat. Let us say that a cookie contains two hundred calories. You would have to eat over 260 cookies AND maintain your previous caloric intake over a two week period to achieve this. That is an extra twenty cookies per day at 4000 kcals of excess energy intake. I suppose it is possible, but eating that many cookies in a day would probably make you sick and unlikely to consume any the next day.

So what is it then? A broken scale? Maybe an inaccurate reading before the holiday? Perhaps, but it probably has more to do with the gut/liver axis.

For a while now, I have been researching endotoxin and finding links to all sorts of disease including weight gain. I recently came across this study that shows that when the diet shifts to include 20% of the protein intake consisting of gluten and casein (wheat and dairy,) the usually probiotic E. coli bacterium starts producing significant quantities of LPS endotoxin.

Cookies contain a lot of wheat flour and dairy. If a person eats two cookies as an afternoon snack (at 400 kcals) it is going to fill them up. They are going to eat less protein for their evening meal. Maybe later that night, they will get hungry again, and sneak a couple more cookies. Now we have a diet that meets our requirements of 20% gluten and casein proteins.

There is a natural barrier in our intestines that keep unwanted materials from entering the bloodstream. Our intestines however, are far from perfect and consist of thin layers of mucus and junctions that can be broken down. They are not meant to handle large amounts of opportunistic bacteria, and as the above study shows, a shift in diet can change a group of organisms that are very prevalent in the gut into little endotoxin overproducing monsters. They begin to congregate in the tight junctions of the intestines where they are safe from passing stool. These junctions open when weakened within the mucosal layer and LPS endotoxin passes quickly into the blood. The liver has to work harder to remove these toxins. In many cases, it becomes damaged over time that leads to a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease wrecks the human metabolism, and the body goes into fat storage mode. To read more about this phenomenon read this article from the microbiology department at the University of Maryland. They did an excellent job of describing how endotoxin leads to weight gain.

Given my recent understanding of endotoxin, what would I do if I suddenly gained an abnormal amount of weight eating cookies? The first thing I would do would be to eliminate all gluten and casein and completely abstain from wheat and dairy products. I would then consider taking liver support supplements like the following:

Have you ever gained an abnormal amount of weight in a short period of time? Post about it in our forum here at Fix Your Gut!

See more from this series:

3 Comments
  1. This is fascinating… and making me completely rethink getting some of my daily calories from cheese.

  2. Does it show up in elevated bilirubin? Or elevated volume of the organ itself?

    • The main endotoxin tests that we have now are LPS antibody tests that only measure our immune system reaction to them so they are not perfect. I wish serum LPS was more quantifiable to infection load. Liver markers could be increased in people with endotoxin loads, we know this through the studies of alcoholism and the gut.

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