Autoimmunity & Leaky Gut: The Final Autoimmune Frontier
Modern research, including the work of Alessio Fassano, the world’s preeminent researcher in Celiac disease is confirming what has been the suspected cause of autoimmunity – the Gastrointestinal Tract. Gastrointestinal problems can shatter the fine balance of the gut barrier and begin the process of “leakage” of undigested antigenic materials (foods, bacteria, etc) into the sub-mucosa and then bloodstream. The immune system’s job is to identify, tag, then eliminate invaders whether they are infectious or large protein molecules from undigested foods. This process of materials seeping into the circulation challenges the immune system and activates pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune system bullets) and our antibody system, which further exacerbates the intestinal barrier permeability (“leaky gut” syndrome).
The Past in Testing: Lactulose and Mannitol
The most current method for testing leaky gut has been through urinary testing using lactulose and mannitol. The absorption and excretion (a sugary substance is consumed and then you micturate into a container through the day) of Lactulose suggests a break in the gut barrier and therefore permeability. Unfortunately this may indicate there is a minor gap rather than a tear. Because of Lactulose’ small molecular size it may not actually indicate the transfer of larger inflammatory substances such as food particles or bacteria. Additionally, Lactulose/Mannitol testing does not test for transcellular (transfer of molecules through cells) passage. What is fascinating is that the new tests from Cyrex Laboratories actually test for the appropriate food and bacteria sized proteins that may signal a tremendous threat to our immune system.
Elie Metchnikoff won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908 for his groundbreaking work on the gastrointestinal immune system and one of his famous quotes was “Death begins in the colon”. Dr. Kuhne, a renowned naturopath in the early 20th century believed that a poor diet led to gastrointestinal toxicity while allowing bacteria to flourish and create disease. Over a century later we can begin to appreciate these insights into the importance of a harmonious gastrointestinal tract. In a 2008 paper titled “Celiac disease pathogenesis: the proinflammatory cytokine network”, the author explains that when large, antigenic molecules cross the gut epithelium they can create systemic, chronic inflammation through the action of cytokines. These proinflammatory “bullets” appear to be one of the required elements in the triad required for the onset of autoimmunity (environmental factors, intestinal permeability and genetics).
Fortunately a small amount of permeability is normal in our gastrointestinal tract but for some even the slightest amount of a dietary substance can initiate a vicious cycle of inflammation, leaky gut then antibody production (and then tissue attack). Gluten, a protein found in Wheat, Barley, Rye, Spelt and cross contaminated oats can immediately induce intestinal permeability in those genetically susceptible. Unfortunately for a large portion of Americans those genetics are present and they regularly consume large quantities of this refined grain for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Excessive exposure to this toxic protein will eventually cause activation of our intestinal immune system, with subsequent tears or breaks in the gut wall. This then allows for passage of still larger molecules, which can wreak havoc on our homeostasis. In fact, it is quite common to find overgrowths of candida, and to this date, unidentified bacteria in the guts of those who suffer from gut permeability (Celiac, Hashimoto’s, RA, etc…) because the normal defense system has become so impaired it cannot defend itself against these common invaders.
So how would a typical case manifest itself and does it require gastrointestinal symptoms? Increased permeability of the gastrointestinal barrier is correlated with a host of inflammatory conditions. Permeability by itself can create systemic inflammation which can then self-perpetuate itself through a vicious circle of positive feedback.
Determining how you or your loved one’s may be affected is actually determined by genetic predisposition and the environment. Some of these conditions are:
- Food Allergies
- Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s)
- Autoimmune disease (Rheumatoid, Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, Lupus, etc)
- Neurologic diseases (Guillain Barre, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebellar ataxia)
- Cognitive impairment (Depression, anxiety, Schizophrenia)
- Chronic fatigue synd
As you can see, numerous diseases associated and created by leaky gut may never have a gastrointestinal symptom. Or, symptoms of gas, bloating or flatulence may be passed off as “normal” when in fact it may just be “average”.
But how does Leaky gut lead to tissue damage?
Genetics, miscommunication between the acquired and innate immune system, environmental triggers and intestinal permeability from loss of intercellular tight junctions are critical components in the pathology of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders are characterized by increased translocation of toxins from bacteria through the gut wall. This process of bacterial movement and inflammation begins the degradation of tight junction proteins, which hold cells together closely and allow the unique monitoring of our gut contents. As the inflammation continues the immune system begins to mount an immune response against the corroding tight junction complex as they fail to keep the outside world from mixing with our internal milieu. In fact multiple researchers are now concluding that multiple chronic diseases are the result of increased antibody production against LPS (lipopolysaccharides, a protein made by gram negative bacteria) and other bacterial proteins. Therefore, the production of these antibodies against LPS and tight junctions (zonulin/occludin) indicate intestinal barrier permeability and the movement of large molecules through the gut wall, which results in inflammatory and autoimmune disease. This is why Cyrex Laboratories is so unique because they actually measure this antibody production which is most certainly either the preceding activity leading to autoimmunity or the process by which multiple organ systems become attacked in autoimmune disease.
Who is predisposed and who should be tested?
Any autoimmune condition must have these three factors: genetic predisposition, environmental trigger and leaky gut. Intestinal barrier function plays a crucial role in the overall homeostasis and health of humans. Anyone with a history of autoimmunity or signs of neurodegeneration (losing handwriting quality, forgetful memory, dementia, lack of maintaining brain power, etc.) should be thoroughly tested (and I would highly recommend testing them for gluten sensitivity and celiac disease). Additionally, anyone who is complaining of multiple symptoms or food allergies/intolerance may have leaky gut exacerbating their conditions. I would highly recommend Cyrex Laboratories Antigenic Permeability test (array 2) for:
- Suspected of having gastrointestinal symptoms or disease
- Any Autoimmune condition or strong family predisposition (have I mentioned 9 out of 10 hypothyroid patients are autoimmune?)
- Gut dysbiosis (imbalance of good to bad bacteria), including yeast infections
- Food allergy or intolerance to foods
- Multiple symptom complaints (chronic fatigue syndrome)
- Depression or other neuro-cognitive disorders
- Chemical sensitivities
- Overuse of antibiotics, steroids or NSAIDS
- Chemotherapy or radiation
- Standard American Diet (low fiber, high in refined products)
- Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption
Through technology and an advanced understanding of the bodies immune system Dr. Autoimmune offers a unique view into your health. We have the ability not only to identify, but treat the underlying condition, leaky gut. The National Institute on Aging, Annals of Internal Medicine says “Emerging findings suggest that dietary factors play major roles in determining whether the brain ages successfully or experiences a Neurodegenerative disease.”
Powerful words as they clearly indicate it is our actions which determine our future health, especially when it comes to the health of our brain and our ability to function at later ages. Shockingly, according to Health Affairs, September 23, 2010, the United States ranked forty-ninth (of 53 countries) for both male and female life expectancy combined.
Don’t be a statistic!
Take charge of your health, become empowered and live the life you always imagined. For more information or to schedule an initial visit with Dr. Hollaman, please contact the Dr. Autoimmune and begin to let your health soar!
Chiropractic – How does it work?
Are you well adjusted? Have you ever wondered how a chiropractic adjustment works? Perhaps you noticed that your back pain and headaches improved, or you get fewer colds, that kids have a better attention span and do better in school, that pregnancies are more comfortable, or your mood is improved.
Why is this? How can adjusting the spine affect your mood, improve your health, and decrease your pain?
In the 1890’s D.D. Palmer, a magnetic healer, theorized a connection between the spine and how the body functions. Palmer noticed a nodule along Harvey Lillard’s spine. Palmer adjusted that area of the spine, and Lillard, a hearing impaired man, noticed his hearing returned.
With this first adjustment, Palmer continued to study the human body, how it functioned, and he developed numerous theories which became the foundation for The Palmer School of Chiropractic which opened in 1897.
Chiropractic has developed into one of the most recognized alternative health care options available today. This is mostly due to popular demand for a comfortable, personal, and safe health care option. In fact, current research shows that chiropractic adjustments are safe for infants to the elderly.
An adjustment is a specific force applied by the doctor into a joint to restore the normal motion and therefore its function. Since every person is unique, every adjustment is personalized to meet your needs. These adjustments remove interferences or “subluxations” allowing neurologic signals to be processed more fully and therefore maintain balance or homeostasis.
This allows the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. Since every part of your body relies on neurologic signals, isn’t it imperative to have your nervous system working at its highest potential?
Because the whole body is wired with neurons, physical, mental, and emotional “ailments” affect your entire body. Maybe you’ve noticed you feel sick to your stomach, your palms get sweaty, and your mind races when your boss calls you into his office. This is a great example of how you physically manifest an emotional and mental stressor.
An adjustment can affect your whole body in a similar manner; however in a more positive way. For example, low back adjustments can not only affect how your low back feels, but also the abdomen, knees, feet, and even headaches and mental clarity. You are connected head to toe, and as a result an adjustment can affect you head to toe.
Thomas Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Many chiropractors practice exactly as Thomas Edison predicted. Addressing health needs prior to disaster and creating a healthy lifestyle with a body that functions optimally is a recipe for abundant health and a long life. So when you wonder what the most important change you could make in your health, maybe it’s deciding to see a chiropractor so that your health can soar!