Updated: Sep 29, 2019
Autoimmune diseases result from an inappropriate response from your immune system where it mistakenly attacks your own body. Conditions such as:
· Type 1 diabetes,
· Hashimotos Thyroiditis,
· Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
· Rheumatoid Arthritis
· Inflammatory Bowel Disease
· Multiple sclerosis
are caused by this faulty immune response.
Autoimmune disease affects approximately 8% of the population with 78% being women. The reason for this is unclear, however, it appears that women have an increased antibody response to antigens resulting from infection, vaccination and trauma, and this may increase the incidence of autoantibodies being produced.
Our gut is made up of a single layer of cells whose function is to allow nutrients and water to be absorbed into our blood stream and protect us from toxins, antigens and other microbes that may be present in the intestinal lumen. The cells are held together by ‘tight junctions’ that form a type of meshwork that fuses the cells together and helps with the transport of selective substances into the cell. This intestinal epithelium has a surface area of 400 square metres. Intestinal permeability occurs when this meshwork becomes impaired or loses its integrity allowing for toxins and pathogens to enter circulation and trigger an immune response. Over a long period of time this increases the risk of triggering an autoimmune disease.
The gut microflora plays a key role in regulating the environment in the gut with certain bacterial strains being associated with an increased inflammatory response including the increase of zonulin, a protein involved in the regulation of intestinal permeability. Increased zonulin degrades the tight junctions causing the space between the cells to open up. As well as allowing microorganisms and toxins to pass into our circulation, the damage caused to the intestinal barrier can also impair our ability to absorb nutrients from our food.
Treatment with probiotics and prebiotics has been found to reverse intestinal permeability as well as inflammation and several recent trials using particular strains of probiotics in autoimmune conditions have reported beneficial results.
As is always the case with naturopathic medicine, each person is different, and treatment is based on their individual circumstances. If you would like more information about the role of the gut in the development of autoimmune conditions, please contact Larissa Jane Naturopathy.