Leaky Gut and Autoimmune conditions

Gut health has always been at the heart of nutritional therapy and research focusing on the intestinal lining, its ‘barrier function’ and its resident microflora, is giving strength to the argument that an overly leaky gut lining can both trigger and perpetuate autoimmune conditions.

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Heart shaped bowl of healthy vegetables

We now recognise that there are over 80 autoimmune conditions.  Their diagnostic label indicates which organ or tissue is being attacked, but many have an underlying bacterium or virus that has triggered the immune reaction, that for some individuals then goes awry.

Our mucosal tissues also have a critical role to play.  These moist tissues (think: nasal, lung, mouth, intestines, genital tract), have to interact with the outside world.  They have a dual purpose: giving passage to oxygen (in), carbon dioxide dioxide (out), fluids (both ways) and food nutrients (in), whilst also creating a barrier to bacteria, viruses, pathogens, air-born chemicals, undigested foods.

Our immune system, just the other side, stands guard to these tissues, sampling all that passes through, tolerating some, but reacting to others.  Exactly how the immune system reacts is partly determined by our genetics.  In terms of the gut, when properly digested food nutrients are absorbed in the intestines, they will be deemed harmless and well tolerated. But if the gut is inflamed or damaged, and therefore overly leaky, it may give passage to larger, only partially digested food particles, or even viruses, bacteria and their by-products, and these will trigger immune reactions.  In the genetically susceptible, this can raise risk of autoimmunity because if the protein structure of the invading particles are similar enough to the protein structure  of any host tissue – the immune system may play safe and attack both.

So looking upstream, the health of a person’s mucosal tissues and having effective digestion, are foundational when addressing autoimmune conditions, or looking to reduce the risk of them.  Nutritional therapy has a good evidence base for restoring gut mucosal health and a diverse healthy microbiome, which helps to stem the flow of triggering antigens, and if caught early enough can reverse the progression of some autoimmune pathology.

Functional testing can assess the health and diversity of an individual’s gut microbiome as well as the integrity of their gut lining. To find out more about how we can help investigate and support autoimmune health issues, please contact us or book an initial appointment.

Genova Lab G.I. Effects    Invivo Healthcare

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