By Michael Sharp | May 16th, 2019
Autoimmune disease, a health epidemic that many may be experiencing without any knowledge of it!
You may be experiencing debilitating symptoms such as joint pain, metabolism/weight issues, chronic fatigue, digestive issues, bowel issues, blood sugar issues etc. and have no idea that an overactive immune system may be contributing to your struggles.
So, what is autoimmune disease? A process by which your immune system is mounting attacks on its own tissue, becoming desensitized to what is “you”, and what is foreign. Basically, your body begins to mistake your own tissue as an enemy, beginning to attack it.
Why? Why would your immune system attack your own body? This concept seems completely strange, and for many, may not make any sense at all! Let me explain a little more!
The Role of Leaky Gut in Autoimmune Disease
I know what you’re thinking; I start by introducing a very odd concept, and now I’m diving into an even more strange sounding concept!? Hear me out!
The role that the gut or digestive system plays in autoimmune disease is what I believe to be the turning point to addressing the root cause of this troubling condition.
Your digestive system is a complex machine made of many different functioning parts. Your main absorptive intestine, the small intestine, is our main area of focus when discussing autoimmune disease.
The small intestine is approximately 20 feet long (yes, that’s what I said!). The entire surface of the absorptive tube is connective tissue, and the tube is wrapped in finger like projections called villi, and even finer versions of the villi, microvilli. The microvilli are what gives the small intestine its absorptive powers, creating a larger surface area for sucking up all the good nutrients you consume in your diet!
Besides its absorptive abilities, the small intestine acts as an incredible barrier, protecting the rest of the body from harmful pathogens, toxins, and undigested food particles. Maintaining the integrity of the small intestine is portions called tight junctions, which pull the small intestine wall close together, to disallow anything foreign or large from passing through.
Over time, due to stress, toxins, food sensitivity (consuming foods that the body doesn’t like), and poor digestive ability, inflammation and damage occurs on the surface of the small intestine, eventually causing these tight junctions to split, or breakdown. This is the definition of a leaky gut.
This may not sound like a huge issue to you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The process described above may be one of the biggest contributors to the autoimmune process!
You see, once the gut barrier (small intestine) has lost its integrity, substances like bad bacteria and other pathogens, toxins, and most importantly, undigested food particles begin to enter the blood stream.
The reason why I say “most importantly” regarding undigested food entering the blood stream is, it is these undigested food particles that may be triggering our immune systems.
When undigested food proteins enter the blood stream, our immune system view them as enemies, targeting them for destruction and storing that enemy in its memory banks for the next time it may come around (undenounced to the immune system, it doesn’t understand that it is simply just a food protein). The problem is, most of our body tissues are made of the same proteins!
Now that the immune system has recognized certain proteins as enemies, it may begin to recognize the same protein make-up that are the basis of our organs and tissues as enemies as well! This is where the autoimmune process may begin!
How do we Keep our Gut Barrier Healthy?
With what you just learned above, many of you may be wondering how to prevent this process from occurring and keep your small intestine barrier as healthy as possible, and there are a few key things we can all be doing in regard to this!
- Reduce your Consumption of Irritating & Sensitive Foods!
This is a big one. One of the main reasons why our gut linings may not be as integral as they could be is due to irritating and sensitive foods being consumed in the diet!
Foods like gluten, dairy, legumes, and grains are conventionally not very digestible for the human body. They contain compounds like lectins, indigestible fibers, alkaloids, steroids, and proteins that are very hard to digest, and often breed inflammation in the body. This can eventually lead to the degradation of your tight junctions, and an ensuing leaky gut!
Also, foods like rancid oils, processed, preserved, junky, and sugary foods can produce massive amounts of inflammation in the body, while also subjecting the body to toxins and compounds that it struggles to breakdown/detoxify. The consumption of these types of foods can also contribute heavily to the leaky gut/autoimmune process!
- Stress is Creating Holes in your Gut!
Well, not exactly, however stress can have a major impact on the functioning and health of your digestive system!
Under stress, the body directs less energy and blood supply to your digestive organs. Digestive secretions such as stomach acid and digestive enzymes that are key in healthy digestion are also lessened.
This decreases your bodies ability to properly break down foods. When food is consumed under these stressful conditions, large and undigested food particles can create inflammation and damage to the small intestine lining, furthering the leaky gut process!
- A Lack of Beneficial Gut Bugs Can Precipitate Leaky Gut
Our bodies are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells! So technically, we’re more bacteria than human!
Our digestive systems harbor most of the body’s bacteria content, containing a mix of bad and good gut bugs. In the case of good health, we want more of the good guys, and less of the bad guys!
When we are eating poorly, are consumed with stress, not exercising, or, just not in good health, our gut may be filled with large amounts of bad bacteria, in a condition known as Dysbiosis.
Good bacteria play an important role in gut integrity, as they protect the gut wall from damage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, bad bacteria can nip away at the gut wall, creating damage!
What Can you do if you’re Concerned about Autoimmune Disease?
Well, learning from the above paragraphs would be crucially important.
Reducing your consumption of irritating foods, properly managing your stress levels, and maintaining the populations of good bacteria in the digestive system would be most important in protecting your gut wall (you can receive support with this type of work by booking in for a Full Nutrition Consultation with myself).
Your medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor can run specific blood tests to potentially uncover whether your body is dealing with autoimmune disease as well!
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Keep on living holistic,
Michael Sharp, CNP, NNCP.
DISCLAIMER: The information listed above is for educational purposes and discussion of general health information only. The information, opinions, ideas, and suggestions listed above are in no way intended to diagnose disease/health issues or act as a treatment for disease/health issues and is not to act as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Before taking part in any natural or alternative approach to health, these approaches should be reviewed by your doctor for approval especially if there are existing health conditions and if prescribed and or pharmaceutical medication is being taken due to the potential for interactions between medications and any natural approaches to health.