What up Colitis Folks!
The time has come, we need to get down to some basics with our Immune System.
What a strange looking/sounding set of words. Almost sounds like a part of an insect’s antennae right? Truth is, we all have these things, and a crapload of them. Even if you don’t have colitis, you don’t have to feel left out because you for sure have some epithelial surfaces too.
Watch the video. You very well may learn something. But in all honesty, I thought it was time to try and do a bit of strumming on the old (kinda getting dusty) guitar and break down some big points regarding this part of the immune system which is always working and in action.
Check this out:
Many immunologists consider these epithelial surfaces to be our biggest 24/7 fighter against infection and keeping us alive and well for that matter. Just imagine if you ripped off all your skin and just sat around waiting to see how things went…Not a very promising situation right?
A Part in Active Colitis Symptoms?
Let’s carry things one step further. Do me a favor, a simple one you’ve done many times before. Ask yourself the real simple question:
“Where do colitis symptoms start?”
OK, if you have or know someone with UC, maybe you’ve done this thousands of times before. Maybe it leads into a mad cycle of theories, internet research and everything else in between. That’s cool. Don’t trip out. That’s normal, and hell the FRICK YA, WE ALL DO IT, especially right after getting diagnosed with UC.
I for sure struggled with this question, and also with developing an answer that made even a tiny bit of sense. When I asked my gastroenterologist doctors, “Hey Doc…where do colitis symptoms start”, the answers didn’t really help me out either.
Depending on which of the numerous GI’s I spoke to, it was often along the lines of, “We” (meaning the scientific and medical community) don’t know where or how it starts, and because it is an “autoimmune disease”, it doesn’t know how to turn itself off. Then there was also the talk about genes and “pre-dispositions” to UC and other GI related disease. But the simple fact remained, where in the body do colitis symptoms actually start?…I struggled for months on learning an answer that made any sense TO ME.
So, let’s go back to the good old epithelial surfaces which line the insides of our colon.
If what I’m singing about in the song, (based on what I’m reading about in the Immunology journals and textbooks is true), the epithelial surface(s) is/are one of the prime places where immune responses actually start. When pathogenic organisms (AKA- bacteria) make their way into our good old colons…the epithelia start going to work. Mucins, mucus, and a wide range of other parts of our super complex immune system crank up the engine and try their hardest to help us out.
Pathogenic Organisms – aka Bacteria
One thing I hope we all can learn from the science that exists: NOT ALL BACTERIA ARE BAD. It’s that simple. And, our bodies and immune systems know this as well.
Unfortunately, too much bad bacteria can lead to a full on inflammatory response. (The epithelial surfaces work wonders, but they are still human and have their limits. Just imagine you(epithelia) trying to put out a forest fire(bacteria), but at the same time the fire is growing twice as fast and gasoline is raining on the fire at the same time…tuffie battle to win right)
When the bad guy bacteria start colonizing the colon(overgrowing), ulcerative colitis can most certainly become the diagnosis. After four years of treating my disease, that’s pretty much how I feel. And, with the understanding of how the immune response works(which I’ll be posting on in the future), and in specific the inflammatory response, ulcerative colitis starts to make sense.
And then There Were Drugs
Some of you who know me well might be surprised to see me saying this, but some of the medications that are offered to UC patients actually make a ton of sense. I think this about the immune suppresant Remicade. This drug is/was a super blockbuster when it came out. And many years later, it still is helping a crap ton of colitis patients worldwide.
Why did/do so many people love it? It’s simple: Remicade found a way to shut down a big component of one specific part of our immune system’s response. The inflammatory response associated with TNF-Α (Tumer Nucrosis Factor Alpha) to be exact. Unfortunately it does not always work for everyone, and sometimes it stops being effective(as it was win my case after a few infusions 4 years ago, but that is also true for so many medications).
I’m sure it was rocket science to actually develop Remicade, but the logic is not. Maybe the drug company thought something like this:
- Epithelia are not getting the job done
- Pathogens are breaking through and activating the immune system
- It appears to be an inflammatory response that happens next
- Let’s develop a drug that breaks the immune system’s communication
- And let’s cut off TNF-A receptors since they lead to much of the inflammatory response
- And…let’s call this medication Remicade since Infliximab sounds WAY too crazy
- (And of course, let’s charge a CRAPLOAD, maybe $10 thousand or so per infusion)
You may not agree with this thinking, that is 100% your decision. But the idea is simple, stopping the immune system’s communication can stop the immune response.
I Still Feel It’s a Bacteria Problem
I’m positive that the majority of the gastroenterologists, even the ones listed on the gastroenterologists page here from the site would much rather think that bacteria are not the cause of UC. Some might continue to believe that UC is caused by an unknown source, or triggered by an unknown trigger. It will probably always be debatable. And again, that’s just fine.
At the end of the day, it is up to you. Each person living or dealing with UC can decide what they believe, why and how this whole UC stuff is happening. And heck, you don’t even have to decide now. It’s taken me several years to form a clear idea that allows me to rest at night.
As for good bad bacteria/bad bacteria and using diet to control UC, you don’t have to believe in that either. But if you are like me and go along with this thinking, this posting should make a ton of sense to you, and things should really start to click.
So once and for all, congrats to our Epithelial Surfaces-they have a tuff job that never stops.
Below is a video/song that evolved in a campground a few days ago outside of the small, but pretty darn cool town of Woodstock, NY at a nearly vacant campground. Thankfully it was nearly empty, not sure what others would think about this one…
- Also, you can read up on wikipedia on this stuff here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intestinal_epithelium
- You can also read up on a free PubMed article titled: Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Exhibit Dysregulated Responses to Microbial DNA. This article above is much more detailed, but makes mention to several of the topics such as the epithelia and how they recognize pathogenic bacteria and how they kick start the immune response, and lots of other stuff which I’m sure you may enjoy reading and learning about.
Take care, if you have any questions or comments, please write them below.
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I started site and the eNewsletter(you can join that below) shortly after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in October of 2008 with severe pancolitis (when my whole colon was inflamed).
For me, it was a very rough start with severe symptoms. Getting bounced from medication to medication was not easy or too helpful. But, I did meet another UC’er, changes several parts of my diet, and of course the rest is history.
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