the link between healthy digestion and autoimmune
Are you on of the 5% people living with autoimmune disease in Australia? That might not sound like a lot, but when you do the math it’s around 1,250,000 people, which is a staggering number.
The exact cause of auto-immune disease is not clear, but what we do know is that there seems to be a combination of genetic, pathogenic (meaning exposure to a “bad bug” like a virus) and environmental factors (like what you eat and toxins around you) that set the stage for the immune system to get confused and start attacking your own healthy cells.
Given that exposure to pathogens is a risk factor, it makes sense that we would want to ensure that the population of bugs in our gut are predominately the “good bugs” and not the pathogenic type associated with autoimmune disease. Klebsiella is a good example of this, where research has shown a strong association between overgrowth of Klebsiella in the gut and Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Did you know that over 80% of your immune system resides in the gut?
Not surprising when you consider that we are dumping a load of microbes into our gut every time we eat and that’s before we even start to consider the quality of food that’s going down there and how that will favour the survival of certain bacteria over others. Just the fact that over 80% of the immune system is located in the gut already provides some insight into the strong connection between a healthy gut and a healthy immune system. So, if pathogens are part of the trigger for autoimmune disease, it makes sense to ensure that we do everything we can to maintain a gut with plenty of “good bugs”, or put more scientifically, to maintain a healthy microbiome.
How do I make sure that my gut has a healthy microbiome?
Ultimately this really comes down to diet. Getting enough vegetables and fibre in the diet can really help. This is where a good naturopath can help you a lot to sort out your diet. If you get symptoms after eating like bloating, diarrhoea or gas, then this is a sure sign that things are out of balance. Your body letting you know that something or some food is not right for you.
A great way to scientifically check on the state of your gut health is to take a snapshot of the microbiome with GI Mapping. GI Mapping uses the latest advances in genetic technology to verify the type and quantity of microbes in the gut, as well as providing insights into digestive function. It’s a powerful tool for understanding the health of your digestive system.
Did you know that some foods can trigger low grade immunological reactions?
Most people don’t realise how complex our immune systems are. It’s like an orchestra of different cell types and antibodies that activate depending on what provokes the immune system into activity, which in turn dictates the type of symptoms you’ll experience. A simple example is anaphylaxis, when somebody gets a severe reaction to peanuts, which is an IgE reaction. It’s severe and can be life threatening. Then there are more subtle immunological responses, like an IgG reaction which is usually a delayed, making the trigger more difficult to pinpoint.
Naturopathy is well suited to investigating this type of low grade immune response and trigger foods can be identified with the aid of IgG food sensitivity testing. Some common symptoms associated with an IgG response include:
As you can see, getting help with your digestion and diet is a key strategy in addressing autoimmune disease and the best thing is that, by improving your gut health, you’ll no doubt be improving your overall wellbeing at the same time.
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Cindy Morris has been working as a naturopath for over 15 years, she is currently adding to her clinical skills with further study at Griffith University. Her clinical focus is around chronic fatigue, thyroid health and auto-immune conditions.