And there are plenty of them … and they range from the uncomfortable – to the downright debilitating.
The one thing that they all have in common is inflammation. Why am I not surprised therefore, that Dr Perlmutter cites a disrupted gut-biome as the main cause of auto-immune diseases.
We need a good immune system, it protects us from the things outside of us that will do us harm if they end up inside. However, an immune system must know what it is fighting. Without a functioning immune system then the simplest of infections can lead to trauma and even death. However, an over-active immune system can lead to other complications – allergies (some of which can also lead to death in an anaphylactic shock reaction) or to our immune system failing to recognise parts of our own body and starting to attack them. The classic auto-immune diseases (like Rhematiod Arthritis or Lupus) leave the sufferer in chronic pain – usually treated with drugs to suppress the immune system (leaving the patient open to other dangers and altering the gut-biome even further from the optimum) and strong medicines that often cause almost as much pain as the condition.
So where does the gut-bacteria come into all this? The fact is of our whole immune system 80% is created by our gut bacteria and lies within our gut. This makes sense when you acknowledge that the gut is the boundary between outside our body and inside. (As I said at the beginning of these articles – the mouth-to-anus gastrointestinal tract can be seen as being an extension of outside our body.) The gut immune system is also in touch with every cell in the remaining immune system, if it meets a problem within the gut then the message to be alert travels throughout the body. They are the body’s first responders. The right gut bacteria teach the immune system what is safe and what is not – so that the immune system become vigilant but not in full defence mode all the time. They educate the system to know that food stuffs are safe (not requiring an immune response).
It seems that pathogenic bacteria (very bad bacteria) can not just cause us upsets but they also interact with the immune system causing a release of inflammatory molecules and stress hormones. With the wrong balance of bacteria the protective layer to the inside of the ileum is not there – the tight-junctions are vulnerable to being crowbarred open by constituents found in substances such as Gluten (there are others – but gluten is by far the biggest culprit) and the pathogenic bacteria get in (along with the over-large proteins that also cause inflammation) This is called a leaky-gut.
On the other hand – the right bacteria can actually do the opposite – turning off the stress hormones, soothing the inflammatory responses, protecting the lining of the ileum and therefore the tight junctions.
So, if this is the case then it would seem possible – that by changing the balance of the gut bacteria and preventing the leaky-gut problem – an auto-immune disease could be reversed – or at very least made less chronic – less painful, less disruptive to the body.
I have already written about depression in an earlier blog – it is a fact that having and auto-immune disease and having depression has a very high correlation. Logically, I think if you are in chronic pain it would be depressing – however, the suggestion is not that the chronic pain causes the depression but that both the autoimmune condition and the depression my be caused by the same thing.
Because auto-immune conditions generally grow slowly in intensity (often in the run-up to being diagnosed) it is rare that anyone can pin-point when it started. If they could it would be interesting to know how often it was triggered by a life-event that required antibiotic treatment, or another treatment or experience that adversely affected the gut-biome.
I read with interest the reports from people who suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis, in particular, who had taken up the ‘Paleo’ life-style diet only to find that it also reversed their condition sufficiently to come off medication and to feel stronger and healthier than before. This Paleo diet would, inadvertently, have produced the same balancing of the bacteria – through the recommended foods to eat (organic veg, grass fed meats, pastured poultry, fermented foods, whole-foods) and the avoidance of gluten and many of the other inflammatory ingredients in the Paleo-diet. The aim was a different eating style – the result was a change in the gut-biome, a reduction in gut attack (leaky gut) … and a healing process.
The take- away again this week is, if you suffer from an auto-immune condition – cut out the gluten (and maybe some of the other main known irritants) and top up with the right type of bacteria and eat the fibrous fresh foods that sustain them, whilst cutting back on the carbs and sugar that encourage the wrong type of bacteria to grow. It certainly couldn’t do any harm and yet may just help your system to turn the corner and start to help itself recover to some extent.
Any experience of this out there?
Do share – I’d love to hear from you