Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that involves an immune system attack of the protective sheath (myelin sheath) that covers nerves. This destruction has a damaging effect on the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The disease process varies widely per person, ranging from symptoms of weakness, tingling, numbness, blurred vision, muscle stiffness, and difficult thinking to, in some cases, loss of the ability to walk.

Scientists are not entirely sure how MS develops, but a recent study may help explain the early disease process. Published in the Public Library of Sciences ONE journal, researchers from Lund University in Sweden discovered that inflammation and changes in intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut syndrome) occur early in the disease.

“Our studies indicate a leaky gut and increased inflammation in the intestinal mucous membrane and related lymphoid tissue before clinical symptoms of MS are discernible,” noted Shahram Lavasani, PhD, one of the researchers. “It also appears that inflammation increases as the disease develops.”

Previously Dr. Lavasani’s team showed that probiotic bacteria were protective against MS, which is what prompted them to take a closer look at the function of the intestinal lining. They found increases in inflammatory immune cells common in people with inflammatory bowel disease, another autoimmune condition.

“In most cases, we don’t know what triggers autoimmune diseases, but we know that pathogenic cells frequent and disrupt the intestines,” stated Lavasani. “A leaky gut enables harmful bacteria and toxic substances in the body to enter the intestine, which creases even more inflammation. Our findings provide support for the idea that a damaged intestinal barrier can prevent the body ending an autoimmune reaction in the normal manner, leading to a chronic disease such as MS.”

Exactly! This process, which begins with gut bacteria imbalance that triggers inflammation and leads to leaky gut, opening the doorway for inflammation to enter systemic circulation and reach any area of the body, is a central theme of the gut connection, a topic that I have been educating about for years. It’s why I strongly stress the importance of beginning any health journey by optimizing digestive health. It all begins with gut balance and healing the intestinal lining. This study is a great example of a process that occurs in countless chronic diseases.

As I always say, balance your gut, heal your body.