You probably have not given much thought to your thymus gland, a small organ directly beneath the sternum and directly in front of your heart in a body space called the anterior mediastinum. While modern health conversations rarely make any mention of the lowly thymus gland, ancient Greeks in contrast viewed the thymus as the location of the human soul.
The thymus gland, while not really the seat of the soul, is crucial to human health, as it is the seat of T-cell immunity and responsible for producing and storing a class of lymphocytes that are crucial to the immune response (including immune responses against viruses) and protect you against infections and cancer. We achieve peak thymus size and T-cell activity in our teenage years during puberty. But once we are beyond this stage of life, the thymus begins to atrophy, a process that accelerates between age 30 and 40, resulting in a thymus that is a small fraction (about 10%) of its teenage self by age 70, a process called thymic involution.
The process of thymic involution can be accelerated by a number of factors: starvation, malnutrition, infection, high cortisol levels or taking prednisone, all associated with increased susceptibility to infections and impaired wound healing. We now know that thymic involution is also accelerated by metabolic endotoxemia, i.e., the flood of bacterial breakdown products that gain entry into the bloodstream with dysbiosis or SIBO. The degree of thymic involution and impaired T-cell production with metabolic endotoxemia is profound. Recall that, in SIBO, not only is there an accumulation of 30 feet of unhealthy bacterial species, but there is also increased intestinal permeability that allows such breakdown products to enter the bloodstream. SIBO and metabolic endotoxemia therefore pose a double whammy: increased body-wide inflammation coupled with accelerated loss of T-cell immunity, a peculiar situation in that it represents bacterial proliferation that impairs, rather than stimulates, an immune response. (The loss of T-cell immunity, however, is in stark contrast to the massive activation of inflammatory markers in SIBO and metabolic endotoxemia, with greater than 100-fold increase in TNF-alpha, for instance, and nearly 200-fold increase in IL-6. )
Add thymic involution to the long and growing list of reasons to aggressively manage SIBO. Too many people have been led to believe that irritable bowel syndrome is just a nuisance and reveals a neurotic flaw in character, or that fibromyalgia represents a deficiency of anti-inflammatory drugs, or that an autoimmune disease is just bad genetic luck. While it is not yet clear how many human diseases are initiated by SIBO, it is clear that SIBO plays a major role in numerous diseases, making them far worse than they should have been and resulting in undesirable health consequences such as accelerated thymic involution.
To remedy this situation, consider:
Identify, then eradicate, SIBO–as we do in the Undoctored Inner Circle. We confirm high levels of breath hydrogen gas with the AIRE device or proceed empirically in the presence of convincing telltale signs. We use two herbal antibiotic regimens (the only two regimens with proven SIBO efficacy) coupled with a biofilm disrupter, N-acetyl cysteine, and prebiotic fiber to discourage sporulation of, for instance, some Clostridia species.
We then take efforts to re-establish a healthy microbiome and prevent SIBO recurrences, efforts that include a high-potency multi-species probiotic, fermented foods, prebiotic fibers, and L. reuteri yogurt to take advantage of this species’ ability to colonize the upper gastrointestinal tract and produce bacteriocin antibiotics effective against Enterobacteriaceae, the species of SIBO. This is all summarized in the Undoctored Protocol for SIBO. We are also mindful of the co-occurrence of fungal overgrowth that occurs in 50% or more of SIBO and include at least one, if not several, anti-fungal agents, as discussed in our Undoctored Advanced Topic for Fungal Overgrowth. Because it is a bit complicated, we have frequent discussions via our frequent Undoctored Virtual Meetups and provide you with guidance and support.
Add L. reuteri yogurt to reverse thymic involution and immunosenescence—In addition to this species’ ability to colonize the upper gastrointestinal tract and produce bacteriocins, the hypothalamic oxytocin boost is also believed to reverse thymic involution and thereby reverse the immunosenescence of aging and other factors. While this has only been seen in experimental models and has not yet been corroborated in humans, so far every observation surrounding L. reuteri and oxytocin made in experimental models has held true in humans, e.g., greater dermal collagen, accelerated wound healing, the anorexigenic effect. I believe it is therefore reasonable to speculate that L. reuteri and oxytocin likewise reverse thymic involution in humans. (We anticipate funding the study to document this effect in future.)
These are exceptionally powerful strategies for regaining health. As I often say, Undoctored is not about new alternative treatments for diseases; it is about addressing the factors that allow disease to emerge in the first place, a far more effective path. So please don’t ask questions like “Do you have any alternative treatments for systemic sclerosis or pulmonary fibrosis?” Instead, ask questions like “What factors allowed this condition to emerge in the first place and what can we do to cause it to regress or reverse?”