If you’re someone that has been dealing with the struggles of an autoimmune disease, you know that trying to find a way to manage symptoms to get you back to feeling like yourself again can be exhausting.
The truth is, that if you’re only looking at ways to suppress the symptoms (ie. solely through medications) then you’re missing the key component to actually set yourself up for a successful journey back to feeling like yourself again-- the gut!
The gut is home to a complex set of microbes that control just about every aspect of one's health and wellbeing. The father of modern medicine was correct when he said that “all disease begins in the gut”, which is why today we’re going to explore that a little further.
What is an autoimmunity?
The human body is incredibly complex and intelligent. It knows that it’s sole purpose is to keep you alive and well, which, to no fault of its own, is what it thinks it is doing when an autoimmune disease arises.
The immune system is your own personalized security guard, protecting you from harmful and sneaky invaders. When it functions properly, you are resilient against infections like the common cold and even the coronavirus. But when it isn’t functioning properly is when we start to see disease and illnesses strike.
Autoimmune disease is a systemic condition when the body attacks healthy tissues or organs and can no longer distinguish between self and other.
The exact cause of autoimmune disease is not fully known, but we do know that both modern lifestyle factors – rich in sugar and refined grains, high levels of stress, lack of less, minimal movement, and environmental toxins – and genetics play a significant role in the dysfunction of the immune system.
And while the genes we inherit from our parents are largely out of our control, environmental factors such as lifestyle and diet are prime targets for intervention, prevention, and relief.
What does an autoimmunity look like?
If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease, you know that the symptoms can be quite painful. A lot of the common symptoms can be felt in your joints and skin, which the immune system mistakes as being foreign.
Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ, such as Type 1 diabetes attacking the pancreas or rheumatoid arthritis attacking the joints. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus, affect the whole body.
There are 14 different commonly known forms of autoimmunities. These include, but are not limited to:
- Addison’s Disease
- Autoimmune Vasculitis
- Celiac Disease
- Graves’ Disease
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Pernicious Anemia
- Psoriasis/Psoriatic Arthritis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Sjögren’s Syndrome
- Type 1 Diabetes
Epigenetics: Why Your Autoimmunity Isn’t Only Genetic
Oftentimes, we write off autoimmunity as something we inherit from our family lineage but what we’re learning through epigenetics is that isn’t the whole story.
There are three things that need to happen for an autoimmunity to occur:
- There needs to be genetic susceptibility, meaning you have to have the gene in your system.
- There needs to be an antigen that sets off the alarm in the immune system that something isn’t right. This gets the attention of the body and says “hey! This guy wasn’t invited. Let’s kick him out!”.
- The antigen must interact with the immune system, so, there needs to be a breach in the lining of the gut to allow the pathogen to enter into the bloodstream.
That being said, just because something is in your genes does not guarantee that you are going to inherit it. Your lifestyle choices and the love you give to your gut bugs are in the conductors of the show.
The Gut and Autoimmunity
Your gut is home to 85% of your immunity and is responsible for which genes get turned off and on. So, if you’re having an immune dysfunction it most definitely means you’re having gut dysfunction.
The lining of the intestine forms a barrier that is crucial for maintaining balance in the body. This barrier is responsible for keeping the bacteria in the gut. If the lining is breached, due to poor diet and lifestyle choices, and a gut microbe is able to get into the bloodstream and nearby organs, it can cause disease. This is a term called “leaky gut”.
As we just covered above, if you have leaky gut you then make a pathway for the antigen to enter into the body and send off the alarm. This alarmed system is what ultimately leads to the body attacking its own tissues or organs, thus resulting in an autoimmune disease.
What the Gut To Do to Make Yourself More Resistant from Autoimmune Disease?
Attacking the infection alone through a single-focused medication only approach does not address the underlying reasons that your immune system was unable to fend off the infection in the first place. This is why taking a holistic approach is a must!
Repairing the gut lining is the first step. This is why when working with clients in the G(u)t Happy Bundle, we work together in finding out your trigger foods that set off the inflammatory response and leaky gut in the first place.
There are certain foods that have been shown to increase intestinal permeability. Gluten, for example, is a component of wheat, barley and rye that has been shown to activate a specific protein linked to increased intestinal permeability.
The autoimmune protocol diet, or AIP diet, is a style of eating that was created to help those with an autoimmune disease. It’s focus is on healing the gut by eliminating foods that cause inflammation to reduce symptoms.
The main thing you want to focus on is eliminating processed, sugar-rich foods and adding in nutrient-dense foods that are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids to help fight inflammation.
Finally, you want to tap into your lifestyle choices. Managing stress levels, getting movement everyday, surrounding yourself in a supportive community, and enjoying nature whenever you can.
Are you someone that’s suffering from an autoimmune disease? You can start healing today with what you're putting into your body.