Autoimmune Disease and Gut Health
Woman lying on the couch holding her stomach
Approximately 14-22 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disorder. Doctors and researchers are now looking into the gut microbiome as a key influencer in the recent rise of autoimmune diseases.
While the gut microbiome is known to enhance our health, if it is in a state of dysbiosis it can actually contribute to a decline in our health as well. Dysbiosis is when your gut microbe ratio becomes unbalanced.
The gut microbiome contains 70% of our immune systems. So it makes sense that doctors would look here for a way to take care of autoimmune disorders.
In this article we will cover:
- What are autoimmune diseases?
- How do autoimmune diseases develop?
- What is the role of gut health in the development and severity of autoimmune diseases?
- How to incorporate an autoimmune disease-friendly diet in your life
What are autoimmune diseases?
An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissues for being diseased and begins to attack them.
Doctors aren’t quite sure why this happens, however, there are a lot of factors that have been linked to being potential instigators.
There are over 80 known autoimmune disorders. Some are common and more simple for doctors to understand which means treatment is easier. Some of the more common autoimmune disorders are type 1 diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
Other autoimmune disorders are harder to understand and patients can go months or years without a definitive diagnosis.
Autoimmune diseases often attack:
- Joints and/or muscles
- Connective tissues
- Endocrine glands
- Blood cells and vessels
One of the most tedious parts of enduring an autoimmune disease is learning what triggers a flare-up and what possible ways you might deal with symptoms. These diseases make it difficult for the patient to experience a normal life. There is often a lot of anxiety and depression that goes along with being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
If you or someone you know has an autoimmune disease make sure you’re getting mental health support on top of the normal care necessary.
How do autoimmune diseases develop?
Like we stated above, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding autoimmune diseases — even to our doctors. But there are some things that science is starting to uncover that allow us to understand them more.
Often doctors will see symptoms begin after a traumatic life event happens. Some potential activators of a dormant autoimmune disease are:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Emotionally traumatic life event
Most autoimmune disorders seem to have a genetic component to them. While they won’t hit every family member, they often lie dormant until activated.
Genetic testing helps to predict if someone has the potential for developing an autoimmune disease. While this won’t help completely prevent activation, it can help to avoid the potential triggers.
They’re also more predominant in women. Approximately 78% of autoimmune disease cases are diagnosed in women. This appears to be related to lower testosterone levels.
Testosterone has immune-boosting effects, which is why we see a difference in men and women when they’re sick. The “man cold” is actually because men’s bodies aren’t as used to the inflammatory state caused when you’re sick making them more sensitive to the symptoms. Often the men who have autoimmune diseases are also low in testosterone.
Everything mentioned in this section (hormones, infections, stress, etc.) not only contribute to autoimmune diseases but also disrupt the delicate balance of microbes within our guts. Scientists aren’t sure which comes first the gut or autoimmune disease, but they’re absolutely seems to be a correlation.
What is the role of gut health in the development and severity of autoimmune diseases?
Many things can alter your gut microbiome. Everything from the way you were born (c-section vs vaginally) to your stress levels as an adult affects the delicate balance of microbes within your gut.
As they shape your gut microbiome, they’re also influencing the efficiency of your immune system.
Your gut affects all aspects of your health including mental health, organ function, and pretty much anything else you can think of. So it isn’t a huge surprise that it affects your immune system as well.
What we eat is turned into healthy chemicals through microbial fermentation. This helps to support our body and keep things running smoothly. But if you eat unhealthy foods then the chemicals released are dangerous and lead to inflammation and disease.
If our bodies are in a constant inflammatory state from poor lifestyle choices, our bodies aren’t as capable of fighting off true dangers to our health. That leaves us more susceptible to disease and autoimmune disorders.
One study found that there is a specific bacteria in the healthy human gut that seems to contribute to autoimmune disease activation.
Ubiquitin is necessary for normal cell function. But the protein (BuFubb) that is released from Bacteroides fragilis is able to mimic ubiquitin well enough that it confuses healthy cells and actually seems to trigger autoimmune diseases.
This phenomenon — known as molecular mimicry — is often initiated by an infection.
While this isn’t always the way autoimmune diseases happen, it is one of the areas doctors can now check to figure out the cause of each case individually.
How to incorporate an autoimmune disease diet in your life
Fortunately, there are ways to help keep our gut and bodies healthy that can help us be less at risk for these problems. Diet is a big one but anything that can help to keep your microbiome healthy is going to help big time.
Some of the best ways to support your gut, health, and manage flare-ups are:
- Regular daily exercise
- Having a good sleep schedule
- Avoiding stress
- Practicing mindfulness
- Eating a well-balanced diet that promotes anti-inflammation
To have a well-balanced diet you’ll want to eat a variety of healthy foods and avoid the unhealthy ones of course.
Make sure you’re eating from all areas on the food pyramid. Eating foods that have prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics (often fruits, vegetables, and wheat) is a great thing to focus on since they are exactly what your gut wants to stay healthy.
Atrantil is a great source of prebiotics, postbiotics, and anti-inflammatory polyphenols that help to:
- Nourish your microbiome
- Feed the good bacteria
- Reduce bloating, leaky gut, and inflammation
(Ask your doctor if Atrantil is right for you and grab yours here.)
Certain foods promote inflammation and tend to be triggers for some people. They often have natural sugars — like lactose and fructose — that cause the problems. If these foods seem to trigger you, then they’re best to avoid or find alternatives.
Remember to try and incorporate different foods into your diet. The more options your body has the better off it will be.
Diet and lifestyle changes won’t completely get rid of your problems, but they definitely help to keep you on a better track.
Want to learn more about autoimmune disorders? Check out some of our other articles on the subject!
The Gut Impact: Autoimmune and Neuroimmune Diseases
Poor Gut Health Can Cause Autoimmune Disease
Are Gut Bacteria Responsible for Your Lupus?
SIBO, POTS, and Dysautonomias: A New Gut Connection