Autoimmune disease is a group of conditions that are associated with abnormalities of immune system regulation. The normal function of the immune system is to defend the body by attacking foreign invaders such as pathogens and destroying them before they can invade the body and cause illness. With autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes your own cells as harmful invaders and attacks them. The list of disease states that are considered autoimmune in origin are constantly expanding.
What Causes Autoimmune Disease?
The reason behind what causes the immune system to malfunction, which results in autoimmune disease, is still being explored what we do understand about this process is that there is a genetic predisposition and then an environmental trigger that creates epigenetic changes to activate those genes. Commonalities that have been associated with autoimmune irregularities often include leaky gut or hyperpermability, issues with food sensitivities , high toxicity that burdens the body, candida or yeast overgrowth within the gut, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Autoimmunity and the Sexes
Male and females can be affected by autoimmunity however, it is more common in females and that is thought to be related to multiple hormone shifts that occur that might allow for more vulnerability.
Negative Gut Microbiota
70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut. Gut microbiota are responsible for the breakdown of dietary compounds, they help with the metabolic processes, absorption of minerals, as well as benefiting the gut lining. The amount, type, and balance of proteins, fats, and carbs all have a substantial impact on the gut microbiota. Negative gut microbiota can be caused by eating a diet that is highly inflammatory , antibiotic use, NSAID use, chronic stress, and history of chronic infections.
Intestinal Hyperpermeability or “ Leaky Gut”
When present this allows large protein molecules, bacterial toxins or endotoxins to pass into the bloodstream. The presence of these substances will cause an immune response, when this immune system becomes activated to these substances there can be collateral damage to surrounding tissue as well as mistaken identity of these substances and this is when antibodies to your own tissue are developed which leads to potential development of autoimmune disease, depression, skin conditions, or obesity. Interestingly, it is not uncommon for patients with leaky gut to be absent of gastrointestinal symptoms. Common symptoms of “ leaky gut” are fatigue, joint pain, abdominal weight gain, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, poor memory, allergies.
The Importance of Gut Health
The gut has a connection with many different parts of the body and their overall functions. These include:
Gut Brain Connection
Microglia cells are produced by the gut and travel to the brain where they work to activate specific brain cells, These cells play a vital role in brain repair. If chronically activated, it can cause impaired communication and symptoms of depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s or other disorders.
Gut Metabolism Connection
Gut microbiota can be a source of bacterial endotoxins that provoke inflammation and insulin resistance. This results in increased appetite, increased rate in which fats and carbs are absorbed, and increases the amount of fat stored.
Gut Immune Connection
Intestinal permeability is the precondition for developing autoimmune disease. This is caused by leaks of environmental antigen, or protein, leaks that activate an immune response.
Prevention for Autoimmune Disease
Taking care of your gut health is the foundation of preventing and treating chronic inflammation. One of the fundamental things you can do to help support your gut health is to consume a diet that reduces your overall level of inflammation. Eating an anti inflammatory diet may look different for each person and that is why we encourage a careful evaluation to determine what your body needs in order to heal. . Managing stress levels is also essential at maintaining a healthy gut and body function. In order for you to properly digest your food your body must be in a state of relaxation, if eating when stressed it will likely initiate an inflammatory response. Moving your body is also a must. Your body was designed for activity. If we had a “pill” that could give you everything that exercise does for your body…everyone would want to take it. Adequate sleep quality and quantity as also essential for your body to preform its best.
Treatments for Autoimmune Disease
Conventional medical treatments for autoimmune disease often include medications that are overall immune suppressing rather than searching for the root cause of immune dysregulation and inflammation and directly addressing the specific source. However, there is now an emerging system for addressing autoimmune disease through functional medicine, which aims to focus on treatment through addressing the source of inflammation and not just the symptoms. Functional medicine is a revolutionary mindset that teaches practitioners to understand the body as an overall system. This allows treatment strategies that empower you understand how lifestyle factors influence your immune function. For patients with autoimmune conditions it is often most helpful to have a Integravive approach combining the wisdom of functional medicine as well as conventional medicine.
If you feel that you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with autoimmune disease, it is important and encouraged to seek treatment from a functional medicine practitioner. Reach out to our office here at Enhanced Wellness Living to learn more.
Contact us today (601-202-5978) and schedule your consultation towards improved overall health!