If you suffer from progressively worsening symptoms that baffle your doctor, or if you’re diagnosed with a chronic or strange-sounding disease, then odds are it’s autoimmune related. In autoimmunity, your immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy cells. Autoimmune disease (AD) refers to a varied group of illnesses that involve every system; they are chronic, debilitating and even life threatening.
There are more than 140 types of AD that affect more than 50 million Americans, and 75 percent of them are women. According to a survey by the Autoimmune Diseases Association, more than 45 percent of patients with autoimmune diseases have been labeled chronic complainers in the earliest stages of their illness. In addition, another AARDA survey found that it takes most autoimmune patients up to 4.6 years and nearly 5 doctors before receiving a proper autoimmune disease diagnosis.
Here’s the empowering news. As leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability, described below, is a necessary precursor to AD, you can prevent or resolve an autoimmune condition by mending your gut. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, in her must-read book The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, details how you can accomplish just this.
But first, even if you say your digestion is good, please read on, because it’s possible to have leaky gut and not have gut symptoms. Yes, while your digestion and bowels may appear normal, leaky gut manifests in more than—I’m going to repeat the number—140 illnesses, including heart failure, colitis, Hashimoto’s disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, depression, skin problems, adrenal deficiency, mental illness, and chronic headaches.
On the Wikipedia list of ADs, note that while many conditions are majorly devastating (such as lupus, type 2 diabetes and Graves’ disease), some are quite commonplace (such as arthritis, dermatitis and gastritis).
Leaky gut happens when the normally tight junctions between the cells in the small intestinal wall loosen and allow undigested food particles and toxins to leak into the bloodstream. This breach triggers the immune system into an attack mode. Your best health prevention is to maintain tight (rather than loose) junctions.
So what causes the intestinal junctions to lose their tone? Genetics and environmental pollutants are contributing causes, as are the following factors that you can mitigate:
- Eating gluten, dairy and other food allergens
- Taking antibiotics, birth control pills, NSAIDs and some other meds
- Eating a diet high in carbohydrates and processed foods, including industrial seed oils (such as canola, corn and safflower oil)
- Drinking alcohol
- Being under stress
- Suffering from chronic infections
Plan C in my book Clean and Free details an elimination diet that removes the dietary causes of leaky gut. Or send your photo and diet log to receive a Facial and Dietary Report. In your report, I’ll provide you with an illustrated evaluation of your face revealing the condition of your digestive system, dietary recommendations specific to your condition and changes to look for in your face to discern how your new diet is reversing your autoimmune condition.
May you be well nourished,