Autoimmune disease is a pretty common problem these days. According to the CDC, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some autoimmune disease, and those numbers are increasing.
The link between autoimmune disease and your gut is well-known: the bacteria that live in your gut have been shown to play a significant role in immune function, including autoimmunity.
What Is Autoimmunity?
The immune system is one of the most complex systems of the human body. It’s designed to protect us from harmful invaders (bacteria and viruses). But sometimes, it gets the wrong message and begins to attack the body as if it were a foreign invader. This can cause a variety of symptoms, which can be debilitating.
Autoimmune diseases are caused by something going wrong with your immune system, which is responsible for defending your body against infections and diseases. When your immune system attacks its own healthy tissue or organs (as opposed to foreign invaders), this is known as an autoimmune disorder or disease.
Conventional Medicine Vs. Functional Medicine Approach To Autoimmunity
When it comes to autoimmunity, conventional medicine has a one-size-fits-all approach: medication. This approach to autoimmunity is a little like trying to fix a leaky roof with a sledgehammer.
The problem is that the roof is leaking (autoimmune disease), and you want to fix it quickly. However, conventional medicine’s only solution is to blow up the entire house (your immune system) to stop the leak. And while that may temporarily stop the leak, it leaves you vulnerable to an attack from bacteria and viruses—and that’s not quite as effective as fixing the roof.
Medication will often help the autoimmune symptoms, but they don’t cure the disease. Moreover, they have intense side effects and weaken the immune system.
In functional medicine, we don’t just treat the symptoms of autoimmune disease. We look for what’s causing it and remove the trigger, then work to strengthen the immune system to fight off future attacks.
Root Cause Of Autoimmune Issues
Autoimmune issues can be triggered by many things, but one root cause stands above the rest.
It’s your gut.
We’re not talking about the kind of gut you use for your instinctive feeling; we mean your intestinal tract and all of its microorganisms. Your immune system relies on these good bacteria, or probiotics, to keep itself healthy and run smoothly. Any disturbance in their balance can lead to an autoimmune issue.
So where should you start? ALWAYS START WITH THE GUT! Because 70% of your immune system is in the gut, it will be the first place that needs attention if you are experiencing an autoimmune issue.
Bacteria Is Important
We can’t have a conversation about autoimmunity without talking about bacteria. Because, let’s face it, you’re basically just a giant walking colony of microorganisms.
Yes, you are! You’ve got bacteria living on your skin, in your nose and ears, and most of all in your gut—which is where most of them live. We call that collection of microbes our microbiome. In fact, there are more bacteria in and on your body than there are cells! And as it turns out, they’re pretty important for keeping us healthy.
If something goes wrong with our gut microbiome— we get dysbiosis—then the immune system turns against itself and starts attacking our own cells. This is what happens when you have an autoimmune disease. So, a healthy microbiome means a happy immune system.
The Key Is In Your Gut
The gut is the key to your health.
The gut is the hub of the immune system, so it makes sense that the key to healing your body is by healing the gut. To heal the gut, we use the four R’s (remove, repair, replace, re-inoculate). The order is important! You need to start by removing the bad stuff from your diet first to repair the damage before adding more good stuff back in.
The first step in healing the gut is to remove the offenders. The Standard American Diet, or SAD, is full of high sugars, fructose, alcohol, refined starch, and artificial sweeteners. Consuming these types of food causes a leaky gut and triggers the immune system to attack your own body!
You can’t build a house without a solid foundation. And you can’t fix your gut without repairing the deficiencies that are critical to intestinal health. There are a few vitamins and minerals that can help:
Vitamin A, which is important for immune function and skin health, is critical to intestinal health.
Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and inflammation reduction, both of which are important for a healthy gut barrier.
Zinc supports the immune system, especially in its ability to fight off infections that could compromise your gut health.
Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps flush out toxins and improve overall immunity by fighting off bacteria and viruses that could cause inflammation or other issues in your intestines.
Now, it’s time to replenish what is missing. You might notice after removing certain foods from your diet that it leaves a vacancy in your stomach where those foods used to be! You can fill that vacancy with short-chain fatty acids or digestive enzymes, which will help restore the proper balance of bacteria in your belly and improve digestion.
Last but not least, add probiotics. Probiotics are the good guys in your gut. They keep your microbiome healthy and help you digest food properly. They’re also great for immune function and overall health.
Once you’ve started re-inoculating your gut with good bacteria, it’s important to continue with probiotics. This will help your microbiome get back to normal, and it can also prevent future food intolerances from developing.
You have a lot of power to heal yourself, but it can be challenging to take the first step. If you’re ready to start taking steps toward being the game changer for your health, we’ve got you covered! We believe in empowering people to take control of their health, and we’d love to help you on your journey! Book an appointment with us today to get started!