Endotoxins are secreted exclusively by Coliform bacteria, so-called because they all morphologically resemble E. Coli, the most common species of the group. These bacteria should make up approximately 15% of the gut flora; however it is not uncommon for many people to have bowel populations of up to 85% or more coliform, bacteria. Gram positive bacteria do not secrete endotoxins on their surfaces. Gram negative coliforms are commonly coated with a mucus and fat slimy outer covering.
This coating is composed largely of lipopolysaccharides, fatty acids with long chains of simple sugars attached to them. The fatty portion is called Lipid A and it contains the toxic principal the polysaccharide portion (the 0 Antigen) however contains the reactive portion or antigen that stimulates the body's immune reaction, the production of antibodies. These lipopolysaccharides are extremely toxic to humans and animals. They are usually firmly bound to the bacteria outer membrane and are only released when the bacteria divides during reproduction or dies. Because they are bound in the bacteria membrane and not continually secreted, they are called endotoxins.
Although the cell walls of gram positive bacteria do not usually contain endotoxins, they contain other toxic chemicals on their surfaces which make them just as dangerous if you are infected with them. However these chemicals are: 1.) always found associated with the bacteria; 2.) do not migrate independently through the bloodstream as endotoxins can and 3.) are only active during infection.
From birth the defenses of the body constantly encounter endotoxins in the bloodstream. Immune reactions, such as the development of antibodies to circulating endotoxins are constantly being produced to the many variations in their shape and size. Very often these antibodies can cross react and mark healthy tissue for destruction. This is seen with the Yersinia enterocolitica. There is some research showing that antibodies to these bacteria are capable of cross-reacting with and destroying thyroid tissue. People with Hashimoto's disease typically have high levels of circulating antibodies to this organism.
Endotoxins cause septic shock, a well recognized immune reaction found in post surgical patients and in other hospital patients with predisposing factors such as diabetes, cirrhosis, leukemia and cancer. The great majority of immunosuppressed hospital patients will also experience hospital related septic shock. Statistics show 16 out of 1000 hospital admissions will develop serious septic shock and the number has risen consistently every year since 1935. Most of the time the endotoxins are produced by the normal inhabitants of the digestive tract, although a disturbing increase is being noticed in the cases of septic shock caused by bacteria which are unique to the hospital environment. Increased endotoxin loads can lead to hypotension, or paradoxically to constriction of the arteries and veins leading to decreased perfusion. This may be the association noted between bowel endotoxemia and migraine headaches. The poor blood flow into the tissues also results in the accumulation of a wide variety of organic acids, leading to acidosis.
Endotoxins cause damage in relationship to the amount that can pass into the body. Small amounts, such as those found in bowel ecosystems with large coliform. Populations, have less outright manifestations than larger amounts, such as might result from infection or septic shock. However even moderate endotoxemia will influence the immunoglobulin aggregate.
Endotoxins can be extremely potent cancer promoters. The link between dietary nitrates, such found in smoked or preserved meats, is well known. Less well known is the fact that nitrate synthesis within the body is increased nine fold in the presence of E. coli endotoxin. It can be amply demonstrated that bacterial toxins do exist in the body and under specialized situations are capable of causing great harm.
- D'Adamo, P. Townsend Letter for Doctors, 1989 Port Washington, WA (USA)