Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death of women in all age groups from childhood to age 64. In autoimmunity, the immune system loses the ability to distinguish self from non-self and attacks the body’s tissues.
Chronic inflammation can lead to an imbalance in the immune system and contribute to auto-immunity or many other manifestations of an over-active immune system. Inflammation is linked with nearly every disease or condition. From autoimmunity, to chronic pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, autism, Alzheimer, and many other neurological conditions.
There are numerous environmental factors that trigger an autoimmune reaction, including food allergens, chemical toxicants, heavy metals, emotional stress, cigarette smoke, and drugs. “For example, adjuvants, such as aluminum hydroxide used in vaccines and medical silicones used in breast implants, can cause an autoimmune disorder known as Shoenfeld’s syndrome.”
Bacteria, viruses, fungi (yeast) and parasites contribute to the total burden of the immune system and with the other factors involved contribute to the overall picture of what creates autoimmune disease. Chronic stealth infections can be present in the body for years and decades, evading detection from the immune system, and at the same time the immune system becomes weakened due to it constantly attempting to neutralize the toxins released by the infectious organisms. These biotoxins affect the body’s physiology and generally weaken the body, allowing other organisms to invade opportunistically over time.Epstein-Barr virus, also known as mononucleosis or “Mono”, is present in 95% of the world’s population and is a prime example of an infectious agent that stays in the body. It increases the overall total burden on the immune system and is a common organism involved in many autoimmune diseases.“An infection can amplify an autoimmune disease by either exacerbating an ongoing disorder, including a relapse, or by leading to chronic progressive disease.”
Your gut epithelial layer (the lining or outmost part of your gut) is the major barrier between you and the outside world. Its integrity is essential in the function of the immune system. Many things can alter the integrity of the gut lining (barrier). The cells are held together by “tight junctions”. Triggers can break these tight junctions and make the gut more permeable to immunogens and allergens, which sets off cascades of immune and inflammatory responses.
“These tight junctions of the epithelial layer of the gut act as a highly regulated entry that open and close depending on signals, such as cytokines and bacterial components from the lumen, lamina propria, and epithelium. “Dysbiotic (infectious or opportunistic) organisms, pesticides, alcohol, gluten, stress, NSAIDS such as aspirin and ibuprofen, are among the triggers that break tight junctions. (That right it’s not just gluten!). Diet plays a large role in what organisms are present in the gut. A Western diet feeds dysbiotic organisms that contribute to immune activation while healthy gut bacteria can stimulate anti-inflammatory responses to heal from disease.
“The gut microbiome can also help the host. There are commensal gut bacteria that can ameliorate disease. For example, in immunocompromised mice, B. fragilis can lessen the colitis induced by Helicobacter hepaticus via its production of PSA, which stimulates the anti-inflammatory IL-10 production from CD4+ T cells and the downregulating of proinflammatory IL-10 production in the colonic tissues.”
Genetic variants can predispose us to certain immune system weaknesses that make our immune systems more reactive to environmental and infectious triggers, making us more susceptible to the development of autoimmune disease.
Detecting autoimmunity before it manifests into overt symptoms is the key to healing faster and avoiding the degeneration of the the body’s tissues and decrease in quality of life. Generally autoimmune blood markers are not tested for until overt symptoms are recognized. In the functional medicine model, autoimmune markers are tested initially to determine autoimmunity before symptoms manifestation and to prevent disease.“The clinician familiar with triggers for autoimmunity can order the right combination of laboratory analyses necessary to elucidate the type and stage of the patient’s autoimmune reaction. This in some cases may help the clinician initiate preventive therapies aimed at removing the offending triggers and thereby reverse the progression of the autoimmune disorder with the possibility of eliminating the autoimmune disease.”
Resource:Campbell, A. (2014) “Autoimmunity and the Gut” Autoimmune Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4036413/