Your Gut is Your Prime Source of Immunity

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

January 19, 2022

In the January 10th issue of Advanced Natural Wellness, you learned how low levels of vitamin D reduce your immune response. However, while vitamin D supplementation can do a lot to prevent infections and tame autoimmune disorders, there are other factors that can influence the onset and severity of them.

For example, I recently had a patient diagnosed with RA. She had joint pain and swelling in the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles; everywhere!

When she came to see me, we did a comprehensive digestive stool analysis. This is a stool test that looks at a lot of things. This includes markers of digestion, absorption, gut permeability, inflammation and immune function.

The results of the test showed she was grossly inflamed, with a very high level of increased intestinal permeability – or leaky gut. It turned out she was sensitive to a lot of the foods she was eating, especially gluten.

The food particles were getting through her leaky gut into her bloodstream, and settling in the joints. This put the immune response into overdrive, attacking her joints to fight off what the body saw as foreign matter.

Just the simple act of removing gluten from her diet for a month improved her symptoms by about 50%.

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You see, we’re finding that food sensitivities, gut bacteria and leaky gut syndrome can all trigger flare-ups in RA and other autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

They can also reduce your immune response to every day viruses and bacterial infections. So what you put in your gut is extremely important to your good health.

Your Gut is Your Prime Source of Immunity

One thing people with autoimmune disorders have in common are lower concentrations of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are produced by certain bacteria and have unusual names like butyrate, acetate and propionate.

Lower levels of SCFAs impair the intestinal barrier. When this occurs, it allows bacteria, toxins, toxicants, previously tolerated foods and other exogenous material to enter your bloodstream. This, in turn, causes your immune system to go into attack mode.

On the other hand, SCFAs are a primary energy source for cells of the colon’s lining and help to strengthen the intestinal barrier. They also promote a healthy inflammatory response and have a positive effect on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

These intestinal bugs make up 70% of your immune system. So it makes a lot of sense that they are involved in autoimmune conditions.

And don’t forget that your gut is your prime source of immunity against ANY type of infection – viral, bacterial, fungal or whatever happens to invade your body. So it’s extremely important to keep your immune system in tip-top shape these days.

SCFAs are primarily produced by the fermentation of plant-based carbohydrates. That’s why higher levels of SCFA producing bacteria are seen in vegans, vegetarians and people who consistently follow a Mediterranean diet.

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In other words, eating a mostly organic, vegetarian-based diet  can work wonders when it comes to protecting your gut health, safeguarding intestinal permeability and optimizing your immune response.

Some foods that are especially good at promoting SCFA producing bacteria include green bananas, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and foods that are fermented. So are grain products. However, I personally recommend sticking with gluten-free grains such as millet, quinoa and buckwheat.

Give Your Immune System Some Extra Protection

In addition to eating a healthy, plant-based diet and supplementing with vitamin D, which we talked about on January 10th, I also recommend the following:

  • Avoid antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary. They decimate certain populations of bacteria. This can change the balance of your immune system and increase intestinal permeability.
  • Stay away from processed foods. The excessive sugars combined with “dead nutrients” will feed bad bacteria in your gut.
  • You probably aren’t getting enough pre- and probiotics from the foods you eat. So I recommend finding a good probiotic formula. 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.
  • I also like green-lipped mussel extract. It helps generate the production of SCFA metabolites, particularly butyrate. I especially like a green-lipped mussel extract to support a healthy inflammatory response against conditions that produce pain or swelling.

Remember, most of your immune response lies in your gut. So the better you feed your gut, the less chance you have of an autoimmune condition, viral infection or other types of chronic gut ailments.

SOURCES:

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Binder HJ, O’Brien WM, Spiro HM, Hollingsworth JW. Gluten and the Small Intestine in Rheumatoid Arthritis. JAMA. 1966;195(10):857–858.

Bruzzese V, Scolieri P, Pepe J. Efficacy of gluten-free diet in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Reumatismo. 2021 Jan 18;72(4):213-217.

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Kirby TO, Ochoa-Repáraz J. The Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis: A Potential Therapeutic Avenue. Med Sci (Basel). 2018;6(3):69.

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Alwarith J, Kahleova H, Rembert E, et al. Nutrition Interventions in Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Potential Use of Plant-Based Diets. A Review. Front Nutr. 2019;6:141.

Fang Y, Zhang C, Shi H, Wei W, Shang J, Zheng R, Yu L, Wang P, Yang J, Deng X, Zhang Y, Tang S, Shi X, Liu Y, Yang H, Yuan Q, Zhai R, Yuan H. Characteristics of the Gut Microbiota and Metabolism in Patients With Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults: A Case-Control Study. Diabetes Care. 2021 Dec;44(12):2738-2746.

Zhang L, Qing P, Yang H, Wu Y, Liu Y, Luo Y. Gut Microbiome and Metabolites in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Link, Mechanisms and Intervention. Front Immunol. 2021 Jul 15;12:686501.

Kirby TO, Ochoa-Repáraz J. The Gut Microbiome in Multiple Sclerosis: A Potential Therapeutic Avenue. Med Sci (Basel). 2018;6(3):69.

De Filippis F, Pellegrini N, Vannini L, Jeffery IB, La Storia A, Laghi L, Serrazanetti DI, Di Cagno R, Ferrocino I, Lazzi C, Turroni S, Cocolin L, Brigidi P, Neviani E, Gobbetti M, O’Toole PW, Ercolini D. High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome. Gut. 2016 Nov;65(11):1812-1821.

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