Hippocrates stated, “All disease begins in the gut.” That was 2500 years ago! Since the modern
understanding of leaky gut, researchers have continued to explore the fascinating connection
between leaky gut and autoimmune disease.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, refers to the condition where the lining of the digestive tract becomes compromised. This allows harmful substances such as bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles to leak into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response. We will delve into the relationship between leaky gut and autoimmune diseases, shedding light on the potential implications and steps to support gut health.

The intestinal lining acts as a barrier, selectively allowing nutrients to be absorbed while
preventing harmful substances from entering the bloodstream. However, when the integrity of
this lining is compromised, it becomes permeable, leading to leaky gut. Several factors can
contribute to its development, including poor diet, chronic stress, infections, certain
medications, and imbalances in gut bacteria.

How does Leaky Gut Contribute to Autoimmune Disease?

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and
tissues in the body. There are currently over 80 types of autoimmune diseases! Common
examples are: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis,
and Type 1 diabetes.

Research suggests that leaky gut may play a significant role in triggering and exacerbating autoimmune conditions. When the gut barrier becomes compromised, the leakage of harmful substances stimulates an immune response. This can lead to chronic inflammation, which may contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases.

The gut houses approximately 70% of our immune system, making it a crucial player in
maintaining overall health. The gut-immune system axis refers to the bidirectional
communication between the gut and the immune system. When the gut barrier is
compromised, it can lead to immune system dysfunction, potentially increasing the risk of
autoimmune diseases.

Inflammation and Molecular Mimicry:

Leaky gut-induced inflammation can trigger a phenomenon called molecular mimicry. During
this process, the immune system may mistakenly identify certain proteins or tissues in the body
as foreign invaders due to their similarity to leaked substances. This misidentification can result
in an immune response against our own tissues, leading to autoimmune diseases.

Supporting Gut Health for Autoimmune Prevention:

While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between leaky gut and
autoimmune diseases, taking steps to support gut health can potentially have positive effects.
Here are a few strategies we consider at Inspired Health:

  1. Adopt a balanced and nutritious diet, rich in whole foods, fiber, and fermented foods.
  2. Manage stress through practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  3. Incorporate gut-friendly supplements like probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes.
  4. Minimize the use of medications that can harm gut health, if possible (NSAID’s, Steroids).
  5. Identify and address any underlying gut infections or imbalances – think bacteria, parasites.
  6. Identify food sensitivities, allergies, and evaluate leaky gut status through testing.

While the connection between leaky gut and autoimmune disease is a complex topic,
addressing gut health may have a positive impact on autoimmune prevention and
management. By understanding and implementing strategies to support a healthy gut, we can
potentially reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases and improve overall well-being!

Inspired Health - Integrative + Functional Medicine Center Natural Fertility Bend Oregon

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[1] “All disease beings in the (leaky) gut: role of zonulin-mediated gut permeability in the
pathogenesis of some chronic inflammatory diseases.”
[2] “What are common symptoms of autoimmune disease.” 2023.
[3] “If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut.” 2021.