A few weeks ago Angie and I attended the annual nutrition symposium, Glacierfest, near amazing Glacier National Park in Montana. Topics included Epigenetics, The Gluten Allergy-Autoimmune connection, Natural Medicine for Children, Hidden Causes of Obesity, the Stress-Hormonal Axis and others.
Of the many fascinating topics covered, the Gluten-Autoimmune discussion yielded many clinical pearls for us to bring back to the office, since we work with so many of you that have food allergies. It turns out that there is a very strong correlation between gut bacteria, food allergies and autoimmunity.
A study from the Mayo Clinic published in the PloS ONE in June of 2012 showed that the gut microflora (think probiotics) regulate the immune system. A disruption in their composition or balance may be directly related to autoimmune disorders such as ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, and Type 1 diabetes. It would make sense that the gut, which contains 70% of our immune system activity, has such a profound effect on autoimmunity.
Think of the gut, or digestive tract, as a long tube that provides a buffer between our inside world and the outside world. When the bacterial population is altered, due to antibiotic use, infection, steroids, or food allergies, it can lead to increased permeability of the gut lining. This condition is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (or Intestinal Hyperpermeability), and it can be the trigger for an auto-immune condition.
I cannot emphasize enough how common this condition has become, and how it can wreak havoc on our immune systems! We see this problem in the office every single day, and it is the first issue that has to be corrected before any other body system can be addressed.
So how can Leaky Gut cause autoimmunity? There are certain triggers that change the lining of the small intestine. An undiagnosed food allergy, such as to gluten or dairy, overuse of antibiotics or NSAIDS, steroids, or a chronic lack of quality proteins can all cause a breakdown of the gut lining. This allows small, undigested molecules of food proteins, which should stay in the gut, to “leak” out into the bloodstream .
When food proteins from the small intestine leak into the bloodstream, the body mounts an immune reaction, because food proteins should not be floating around in our blood! A specific type of antibody, called IgG antibodies, cause a delayed reaction, that can occur up to 48 hours after the food has been consumed. These antibodies flood to the site to eradicate the proteins. If this scenario continues over time, the body is effectively attacking “itself”. But not really! It is actually attacking “altered self” which are the immune complexes that are triggered by the food allergen. Thus, an autoimmune condition is created.
Over the years we have seen many clients who come in with positive ANA’a (Anti-Nuclear Antibodies) the marker for an auto-immune condition. Many times the ANA’s are reduced or reversed with our programs. Often the debilitating symptoms that were attributed to the auto-immune condition end up being caused by the food allergies and nutritional deficiencies and the difficult life altering symptoms clear up.
A thorough evaluation, which includes metabolic and food allergy testing ( such as our TRIAD) is the fastest way to make profound changes in someone who is dealing with an auto immune condition. We also now know that we should also consider stool testing in order to identify pa