One last and underappreciated means by which the small, dense LDL particles may overexpress in the body is through an unhealthy gut. 16 Within the sanctuary of our intestines resides an impressive population of bacteria. Most of the time, these bacteria are friendly and enhance our lives in invisible ways. But when we neglect to maintain their home turf, bacterial fragments can “bleed” into our circulation, causing major problems.
One of these normal bacterial components is lipopolysaccharide, or LPS, also known as bacterial endotoxin (meaning “internal toxin”). Under normal circumstances, this endotoxin is kept safely in your intestines, much like the highly corrosive hydrochloric acid that is kept in your stomach. But unlike the stomach, the lower GI tract is a place of active transport of nutrients into circulation.
It’s quite a selective system, but as a result of our Western diets and lifestyles, the barrier that controls these transactions can become inappropriately porous, allowing LPS to seep through. One way our bodies may provide a means of damage control is by sending LDL cholesterol carriers to the rescue, like firemen tasked with putting out a fire.
It’s believed that LDL particles serve an antimicrobial purpose, containing docking sites called LPS-binding proteins that allow them to soak up renegade LPS. 17 When the liver senses that LPS has entered circulation via inflammation signaling, it ramps up production of LDL to bind and neutralize it. A chronically “leaky” gut may therefore drive LDL through the roof. On top of that, once the LDL binds with LPS, the endotoxin may affect the liver’s ability to dispose of these toxincarrying particles, creating a double whammy of trouble.
A small but increasing number of cardiologists believe heart disease to originate in the gut for this very reason. 18 Here are just some of the ways you can protect your gut to promote healthy LDL levels: