By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
July 30, 2018
- Why aren’t autoimmune diseases getting more attention?
- Leaky gut syndrome may be destroying your health
- 5 ways to restore gut health to prevent (and reverse!) autoimmune disorders
Autoimmune diseases are continuing their rise these days. However, they don’t get nearly the same amount of attention as heart disease, diabetes or cancer.
Well let me fill you in on a few facts.
- Somewhere around 16.5 million U.S. adults have coronary heart disease.
- It’s estimated that 15.1 million people here in America are living with cancer.
- 23.4 million American adults are dealing with type 2 diabetes.
These are horrible numbers. And we hear about them all of the time. But the number of people with autoimmune disease may be much higher than any of these very real threats to your health.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 23.5 million are suffering from autoimmune disorders. But an independent organization, the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, says those numbers are wrong. They estimate that as many as 50 million Americans are living with some sort of autoimmune disease…50 million people.
Why aren’t media outlets talking about this? What’s the big mystery? And what can you do to protect yourself from a lifetime of debilitating pain, fatigue and illness? If you chose to believe the unending commercials on evening television, everyone knows someone who could benefit from one or more of a steady stream of miraculous drugs (albeit with potential horrific side effects). Maybe even you.
Autoimmune Diseases May not be as Mysterious as You Think
An autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system begins to lose tolerance to its’ environment, and attacks its’ own cells by mistake. And today, somewhere around 100 disorders are classified under the category of autoimmune disease.
This includes many health conditions that you hear about every day, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and Hashimoto’s thyroid. And while the symptoms associated with each one can be as different as night and day, many of these diseases have one, single thing in common.
In particular, a syndrome called “leaky gut” is associated with the development of many of today’s most common autoimmune disorders. This includes most of the ones I’ve already mentioned.
Leaky gut is a condition where the tight junctions that seal your intestinal lining become dysfunctional. When this occurs, it allows bacteria, toxins, toxicants and previously tolerated foods and other exogenous material to enter your bloodstream. This, in turn, causes your immune system to go into attack mode.
While it is true that genetics play a role in your susceptibility to autoimmune disease, environment and a maldigestive/leaky gut lifestyle, by far, is a much larger factor.
Certain drugs such as NSAID pain relievers, proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics all contribute to the development of dysfunctional gut issues, with leaky gut a common but reversible endpoint.
Eating a Western style diet whether here in the U.S. or wherever the Western diet has settled in also has links to autoimmune disease and leaky gut. This style of eating has an extremely negative affect on the delicate balance of your gut microbiota, which is your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your gut barrier.
Food additives such as sugar, salt, emulsifiers and modern gluten are horrible for you. They trigger gut permeability, promote inflammation and have a strong association with autoimmune disorders. Many experts believe that these unnatural changes to our diet may be why the incidence of autoimmune disease is on the rise. I can’t help but agree with that assessment.
Seeds for genetically altered foods are often developed to be “Round-Up Ready”. This means the crops are often liberally drenched with this popular weed killer, which contains a poison called glyphosate. So when you eat these foods, you are also getting a hefty dose of this chemical.
Guess what happens next? It destroys healthy strains of intestinal bacteria and encourages the overgrowth of those that damage the lining of your gut.
Healing a Leaky Gut
The best way to prevent – and reverse – symptoms of autoimmune disease is to heal the lining of your digestive tract. This means removing inflammatory triggers (most commonly food triggers) and toxins from your life to restore your good health.
- Make eating natural, whole foods with high antioxidant activity an important part of your daily lifestyle. You can get plenty of these foods by eating a Mediterranean style diet. It includes an extremely wide variety of plant-based foods. A lot of fish and plenty of olive oil. Very little red meat and virtually no packaged, processed, sugary and refined foods.
- Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a safe and effective form of licorice that soothes and heals the mucosal lining in the digestive tract. It can also help ease heartburn symptoms (which can also help you ditch those gut damaging proton pump inhibitors). Simply chew two DGL tablets before meals.
- Glutamine is a major fuel for the intestines. It helps tighten the junctions that seal your intestinal lining to reduce leakage. I recommend six to 10 grams daily during the healing process.
- Include more fermented products in your diet, such as miso, sauerkraut, kimchee and kombucha. You can also supplement with probiotics to re-colonize your gut with the healthy gut bacteria necessary to safeguard intestinal permeability. Look for one that includes a prebiotic and multiple strains of friendly bacteria. The higher the colony count and number of strains, the better off you will be.
- Supplement with a digestive enzyme about 30 minutes before meals to encourage digestion of proteins down to the absorbable amino acids your body uses. They also help the healing process and improve absorption of nutrients. You’ll want to choose a formula that contains a good mix of enzymes, including:
- Amylase for carbohydrate digestion
- Protease to help digest proteins
- Lipase for the digestion of fats
- Maltase to convert complex sugars in grain foods to glucose
- Cellulase to break down fibers
- Sucrase to help digest sugars
If you’re over 60, I would look for one with small amounts of pepsin and betaine added too.
Opazo MC, et al. Intestinal Microbiota Influences Non-intestinal Related Autoimmune Diseases. Front Microbiol. 2018; 9: 432.
Konig J, et al. Human Intestinal Barrier Function in Health and Disease. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2016 Oct; 7(10): e196.
Lerner A, et al. Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease. Autoimmun Rev. 2015 Jun;14(6):479-89.
Swanson, N, et al. Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of health in the United States of America. Journal of Organic Systems, 9(2), 2014 ORIGINAL PAPER.
Achamrah N, et al. Glutamine and the regulation of intestinal permeability: from bench to bedside. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Jan;20(1):86-91.
Qinghui Mu, et al. Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Front Immunol. 2017; 8: 598.