Gut and Autoimmune Connection
During my practice as nutritional therapist, I have personally noticed the rise of autoimmune conditions or individuals on a high rise of autoimmune spectrum. I am perplexed seeing so many people being diagnosed with rheymatoid arthritis, psoriasis, celiac disease, and more! Nowadays younger generation has more of these problems than my older patients and the question would be why and how it this happed? I started digging in deeper that I learned how massively connected is gut health and autoimmunity.
What’s causing this steep rise? It’s currently unknown what causes autoimmune diseases, but it’s thought to be a combination of genetic factors and environmental influences such as toxins in our air and water, overuse of medications, chronic viral infections, mold exposure, chronic stress and of course our diet which is high in fast foods, carbohydrates, and genetically modified ingredients and low in antioxidants, vegetables and fiber. According to Chinese medicine and functional medicine, inflammation always starts in the gut.
Why the Gut is the Gateway to Health
First of all, autoimmune disease is a disease of the immune system. Somewhere along the way your immune system went rogue and began attacking your own tissues. It could be your thyroid under attack, your intestines, your skin, your brain, your pancreas, or another organ. No matter what part of your body is under siege, the underlying problem is within your immune system. This means in order to treat, prevent, and reverse your autoimmune disease you’ll need to get your immune system back under control.
In order to do that, you must address your gut health. Your gut is the foundation of your whole body’s health because 80% of your immune system is located there. Without a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system. Without a healthy immune system, you’re open to infections, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.
How to Deal with your Gut to Prevent Inflammation and Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune disease is not curable, but can be manageable, and there’s so much you can do naturally to put your autoimmune into remission. Knowing all this, it won’t come as a surprise to learn it’s important to start with a healthy diet that will help heal the gut when dealing with an autoimmune disease or chronic inflammation.
What is Leaky Gut?
The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb these vital nutrients. In fact, regulating intestinal permeability is one of the basic functions of the cells that line the intestinal wall. In sensitive people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining.
Other factors — such as infections, toxins, stress and age — can also cause these tight junctions to break apart.
Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. The immune response to these invaders can appear in the form of any of the nine signs you have a leaky gut, which are listed below.
What are the Symptoms Associated with Leaky Gut?
Patients who suffer from leaky gut syndrome can experience a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain, cramps, gas, diarrhoea, and bloating. They are also often more sensitive to certain foods and more likely to experience migraines. However, clinical studies demonstrate that a large number of patients with leaky gut can display “seemingly unrelated” symptoms such as eczema and psoriasis, brain fog and depression, anxiety and insomnia, various aches and pains, and generalized inflammation.
What causes Leaky Gut?
The main culprits are foods, infections, and toxins. Gluten is the number one cause of leaky gut. Other inflammatory foods like dairy or toxic foods, such sugar and excessive alcohol, are suspected as well. The most common infectious causes are candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Toxins come in the form of medications, like Motrin, Advil, steroids, antibiotics, and acid-reducing drugs, and environmental toxins like mercury, pesticides and BPA from plastics. Stress and age also contribute to a leaky gut.
How do I Heal Leaky Gut?
One of the most common recommendations is strict gluten avoidance, which will often result in improving symptoms associated with leaky gut and/or most autoimmune conditions. This protein, which is found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley, is linked to many autoimmune conditions. Removing gluten for 60 days, then reintroducing it, can also be a helpful test for some people.
Even gluten-free grains like corn and rice can flare up the immune system in some people. Molecular mimicry occurs your body confuses your own body tissue for the similar proteins found in some foods, is something that I see very often in my practice. Find out if you are having any cross-reaction with the food you are eating. This can be very helpful for people who have cleaned up their diet but are still having symptoms.
However, for most individuals suffering from autoimmune conditions, they often need a more comprehensive dietary approach. These patients will usually benefit from additionally avoiding foods in their diet such as dairy, soy, nightshades, nuts and seeds, and all grains and sugar. Thus, paleo diets, specific carbohydrate diets, or those diets restricting certain types of carbohydrates such as FODMAP may greatly improve leaky gut symptoms.
Next step would be focusing on taking a certain number of nutritional supplements which have demonstrated high effectiveness in treating leaky gut. L-glutamine can help build strength in the lining of the small intestine and thereby minimizing leakage. In addition, curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids and their anti-inflammatory properties can aid in reducing both inflammation and oxidative stress that occur when tight junctions in the gut are open. Zinc supplements have been shown to improve gut permeability abnormalities in patients with Chrohn’s disease. Quercetin is a natural mast cell stabilizer that aids in decreasing histmine release and aids in further decreasing inflammation. Vitamin A and D are helpful for improving the mucosal immune system and the yeast Saccharomyces Boulardii has been shown to increase secretory IgA function. Although there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to leaky gut symptoms, there are a number of valuable resources that can alleviate patients suffering from this condition.
Choose your best health today and keep it for the rest of your life!
To learn more about how to heal leaky gut and how to prevent and heal the condition through dietary intervention please contact me and we could discus how my nutritional protocol could help you.
- Gandhi, B. (2018). Want To Prevent Inflammation & Autoimmune Disease? Here’sWhere To Start. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Gecse, K., Roka, R., Sera, T., Rosztoczy, A., Annahazi, A., Izbeki, F., . . . Wittmann, T. (2012). Leaky gut in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome and inactive ulcerative colitis. Digestion. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Gut-Immune System Connection (2018). [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Karakula-Juchnowicz, H., Szachta, P., Opolska, A., Morylowska-Topolska, J., Galecka, M., Juchnowicz, D., . . . Lasik, Z. (2014). The role of IgG hypersensitivity in the pathogenesis and therapy of depressive disorders. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Myers, A. (2018). The Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Connection. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Myers, A. (2018). 9 Signs You Have A Leaky Gut. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Navarro, F., Pearson, D. A., Fatheree, N., Mansour, R., Hashmi, S. S., & Rhoads, J. M. (2015). Are ‘leaky gut’ and behavior associated with gluten and dairy containing diet in children with autism spectrum disorders? [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Parke, E. (2018). Are You Trapped in a Vicious Health Cycle? The Gut Microbiome, Immune System Health, and Autoimmune Disease. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Rapin, J. R., & Wiernsperger, N. (2010). Possible links between intestinal permeability and food processing: A potential therapeutic niche for glutamine. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Sturniolo, G. C., Di Leo, V., Ferronato, A., D’Odorico, A., & D’Inca, R. (2001). Zinc supplementation tightens “leaky gut” in Crohn’s disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.
- Van Hemert, S., Breedveld, A. C., Rovers, J. M., Vermeiden, J. P., Witteman, B. J., Smits, M. G., & de Roos, N. M. (2014). Migraine associated with gastrointestinal disorders: review of the literature and clinical implications. Front Neurol. [Online]. Accessed September 2018.