Auto-immune diseases used to be rare. In the last five years, there has been a staggering 25% increase in the number of diagnosed auto-immune conditions globally.
An auto-immune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own healthy body tissue by mistake. The immune system becomes unable to to distinguish between healthy tissue and potentially harmful antigens. As a result, the body sets off an inflammatory reaction that destroys normal tissue.
The health and balance of the Gut is closely tied to our immune system. The gut influences multiple aspects in our body including gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) which has a significant influence on our Immunity; the neuro-endocrine network which relates to brain function and hormones (70% of the happy hormone serotonin is produced in the gut); and the intestinal epithelial barrier with its intracellular tight junctions that act as a protective filter for what may or may not pass from the gut into the bloodstream.
These are some of the reasons why the gut is also referred to as our ‘second brain’ and why it’s the key to preventing and fighting auto-immune conditions.
In a balanced, regulated state, our body is programmed to attack bugs or toxins it encounters by using our antibody ‘army’, the immune system. Auto-immune disease is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks various parts of our own body, creating auto-antibodies that now attack the body’s very own tissues that it is supposed to protect. When the body starts to attack it’s own tissue, an immune and inflammatory response occurs, and an auto-immune develops.
The health and balance of the gut is foundational in preventing and managing auto-immune conditions as the gut controls the equilibrium between tolerance and immunity to non-self-antigens such as toxins and bugs.
The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is not known yet, but it is believed to be triggered by the following:
In very simple terms: Our body’s immune system is made up of an ‘army of many soldiers’. Some are quick, non-programmed responders (innate immunity), while others are slow programming responders (adaptive immunity). When there is miscommunication and an imbalance between these two groups of ‘soldiers’, the body ends up attacking not only what it perceives to be a harmful intruder, but also its own tissues, now called self-antigens, leading to Autoimmune diseases.
Scientifically, molecular mimicry is often used to explain the development of an Autoimmune disease:
Leaky gut is a significant pre-disposing factor for the development of Autoimmune diseases in individuals who are genetically predisposed. It is through the loss of the protective intestinal barrier and dysfunction (increase) of intercellular tight junction modulator (Zonulin) associated with leaky gut syndrome, that an individual becomes exposed to macro-molecules, including undigested protein, bugs and toxins – that result in molecular mimicry.
Zonulin is a protein in the tight junctions of the gut lining that controls and regulates macromolecules (like undigested protein) entering the blood stream. When the intestinal barrier is compromised, Zonulin is elevated, making the intestinal wall more permeable (Leaky gut), resulting in food particles (macro-molecules) being able to enter the blood stream. This results in an immune reaction as the body identifies these as invaders and a threat.
Molecular mimicry occurs when these macro-molecules have a similar protein structure to body tissues. Certain macronutrients such as gluten have a similar molecular sequencing to for example the thyroid gland. When they pass through the intestinal barrier, the immune system attacks them. If this occurs repeatedly, it will eventually damage various organs and tissues such as thyroid (Hashimoto’s Syndrome), joints (rheumatoid arthritis) and brain (multiple sclerosis).
Gluten, the protein found in wheat, is structurally similar to Casein which is a protein found in milk. Both of these can result in molecular mimicry and a pre-disposition to Auto-immune conditions.
Endocrine glands (thyroid, pancreas)
Red Blood cells
Type 1 Diabetes
Systemic Lupus (SLE)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
WHAT ARE THE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES TO HEAL LEAKY GUT & TO PREVENT the DEVELOPMENT OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES?
Rebalancing the gut microbiota and healing leaky gut is one of the most effective and fundamental ways of preventing/managing an autoimmune condition. It is because, quite simply, when you heal the gut, you heal the body – lowering the body’s inflammatory set point and restoring 70% of the body’s immune system. Good gut health – it’s the key to preventing and fighting auto-immune conditions
Keep inflammation low by avoiding reactive inflammatory foods such as dairy, eggs, and gluten. Gluten is in any bread, pasta, crackers, and pastries made from wheat, spelt, rye, and/or barley.
Gluten is known to cause leaky gut and inflammation, even if you don’t have Celiac disease or a known gluten sensitivity.
Research has shown that supplementing with digestive enzymes can help with rebalancing the body during or after periods of heightened stress. The stress hormone cortisol decreases the body’s ability to adequately digest.
L-Glutamine powder is an amino acid that feeds and heals the intestinal cells and helps the body restore a healthy intestinal lining.
Fibre is a key substance needed for proper digestive health. Studies have shown a link between inflammatory bowel syndrome and lack of fibre. Some studies also show that when fibre is lacking, (or over consumed), there is a greater rate of dysbiosis and leaky gut. Eat more fibre!
Bone broth. Studies have found that organic bone broth reduces the symptoms of arthritis and other autoimmune conditions affecting the joints and bones. Bone broth contains several different kinds of collagen as well as various nutrients needed for repairing the intestinal lining.
Other nutrients and herbs that can help heal leaky gut include N-acetyl-cysteine, glucosamine, minerals, and many more. The gut health IV Vitamin drip at the DripBar is designed to restore intestinal health. Get dripped with an IV vitamin drip at the DripBar!
70% of the body’s immune system is in the gut. It is critical that when suffering from an autoimmune disease, or to prevent development of autoimmune in genetically predisposed individuals, a leaky gut and dysbiosis preventative protocol should be followed. Balancing dysbiosis encourages the ‘bad guys’ to go and the ‘good guys’ to stay, resulting in a healthy gut microbiome. For more information: Probiotics to heal your gut. Happy gut, healthy you!
By Chantal Du Chenne, Functional Medicine and Lifestyle Practitioner , Founder of the DripBar and owner of a Kombucha brewery.
Chantal is a B.Sc.Hons allied health with an international certification in Functional health & Lifestyle Medicine. Chantal is a passionate Gut Health advocate, specialising in the management of inflammatory conditions associated with leaky gut and dysbiosis (imbalance) of the gut microbiome. These include but are not limited to anxiety, depression, auto-immune conditions, cancer, type 2 diabetes etc.
Over her 25 year career, Chantal has held various positions within the health and wellness industry – including 10 years as the Executive Head of Vodacom’s corporate wellness & mobile health programs. Chantal is the owner/ founder of the DripBar which offers vitamin and mineral drip therapy in improving micronutrient deficiencies. She is also the founder/owner of a Kombucha brewery which produces the brand of ‘booch’ called theFarmacy.
Chantal is a competitive cyclist, a plant strong vegan and mom to two grown up girls.
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At the DripBar, we offer a range of vitamin and mineral IV drips designed to optimize health and well-being. IV nutrient therapy supports the active busy stressful lifestyles that are so common to 21st century living. At the DripBar, our IV vitamin drips have been specifically formulated to include combinations of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and amino acids that boost immunity, improve mitochondrial function & energy levels, increase vitality and facilitate detoxification.
This blog post contains information that is not designed to take the place of,
substitute, or replace any form and method of professional or medical advice
and treatment or medicine. All content is the author’s opinion and is not
intended to diagnose and remedy. The facts and figures contained in this
document are presented solely for informational and educational purposes