Autoimmunity is a condition one develops when the body’s immune system starts attacking its own body parts. There are many different autoimmune conditions, over 100 have been identified so far, some of the most common include:
– Addison’s disease
– Ankylosing spondylitis
– Coeliac disease
– Crohn’s disease
– Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
– Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
– Multiple sclerosis
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Type 1 diabetes
More and more people are suffering with autoimmune conditions and the question is why?
The immune system is there to protect you and attack anything that enters your central circulatory system (blood stream), that shouldn’t be there (foreign particles), such as bacteria and viruses. It’s like your body’s own security system. It’s great when it is balanced and working properly but with an autoimmune condition the immune system becomes dysregulated and starts attacking more than just foreign particles; it’s starts attacking your own body cells.
Now I want you to think of your body as having an inside and an outside. The outside runs from your mouth to your anus and includes everything in between including your oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Think of it like one long funnel that runs through you. It is in constant contact with the outside world and everything that we ingest. Then, there is your inside and this includes your bloodstream and the rest of the body.
The digestive tract (outside), has a big role to play in protecting the rest of your body from coming into contact with anything harmful. 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract for this reason.
The intestines absorb digested nutrients into the blood stream across a one cell thick membrane to enable us to function and essentially live. These cells are lined up next to each other and attached to one another by the use of something called tight junctions, these junctions ensure that nothing passes inside that shouldn’t.
Immune system goes into overdrive
The problem occurs however, when particles pass through into the bloodstream that should have remained in the digestive tract for excretion. This is known as ‘leaky gut’ or increased intestinal permeability and allows toxins, bacteria, viruses and undigested food particles through. These particles are flagged up by the immune system as ‘foreign’ and are attacked. When this happens constantly the immune system goes into overdrive and cannot always identify between ‘self’ cells (own body cells) and foreign particles, so it starts attacking your own body cells too.
The place of attack on your body will differ from person to person as we all have different weak spots due to our genetic make-up. In some it may manifest as a skin disorder such as eczema or psoriasis, others as rheumatoid arthritis or hashimoto’s for example.
However, if you have one autoimmune condition you are likely to develop another and therefore it is important to put plans in place to stop this happening with the aim of reversing your autoimmunity altogether.
So how do I go about reversing my autoimmunity?
Well you have to stop the immune dysregulation within the body by healing and sealing the gut lining.
The 3 steps to reversing leaky gut include:
1. REMOVE TRIGGERS. This will differ from person to person as we all have a different genetic makeup, for example, if you are sensitive to certain foods then you will have to remove them. EVERYONE can benefit from these three triggers though:
– Gluten contains a protein called gliadin which triggers the tight junctions to open. As mentioned above, tight junctions are what hold the cells lining the digestive tract closely packed together preventing anything entering the blood stream that shouldn’t. It is essential to remove gluten if you are serious about reversing your autoimmune condition.
– NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) as they eat away at your gut lining. The most common is ibuprofen.
– Stress levels need addressing as both high and low cortisol levels can trigger immune dysregulation. Cortisol can trigger certain genes to be turned on and off, for example many people with ankylosing spondylitis have the HLA-B27 gene variation. Most people with this version of the gene will never develop the condition but stress is a factor which can turn the gene on.
2. REPAIR THE GUT LINING. Food is medicine and you need your own custom diet to heal your gut. Everyone is unique, for example one person may be lactose intolerant and therefore should avoid dairy whereas someone else may be fine. I suggest starting with high protein, healthy fats and vegetable based diet and removing all starchy foods, sugar and flour. Introduce foods and see how your body replies. If you get bloating, gas, pain then remove that food. Once you have healed your gut lining your body will be able to tolerate a lot more foods though.
Key supplements to include are:
- Vitamin D (once tested levels)
- Collagen powder
3. FIX THE ROOT CAUSE This is where functional testing comes in to address any underlying issues such as a SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) test, saliva panel (to address cortisol levels) and stool testing (to ascertain and digestive imbalances).
If you or someone you know has an autoimmune condition I hope this has given you some useful guidance.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at all or would like to see me for testing and a personalised to plan. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07850897304.