Autoimmune disease and the leaky gut link
Updated: Apr 3
I have seen 5 new clients this week, all suffering with leaky gut syndrome and an autoimmune disease. I touched on leaky gut in a previous blog post, but thought it worth writing another post on the link between leaky gut and autoimmune diseases.
Leaky gut is a condition that millions of people are struggling with and worryingly, they aren’t even aware they have it. Leaky gut affects the digestive system, but it may also be the reason you are experiencing joint pain, decreased energy, a slow metabolism, thyroid issues, food allergies and autoimmune diseases. Another problem with leaky gut is that it can cause malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals, such as: vitamin B12, iron and zinc.
Think of the lining of your digestive tract like a “mesh” with very small holes in it, which let certain specific substances to pass through. One of your digestive tract lining’s job is being a barrier, to make sure bigger particles that can damage your system ate kept out. If you have a leaky gut (also known as increased intestinal permeability) the "mesh" in your digestive tract gets damaged, and this leads to even larger holes to develop in your “mesh”, so things which normally couldn’t pass through, are now able to. Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, harmful bacteria and undigested foods particles. Also, toxins can leak from the inside of your intestinal wall, and into your blood stream – this then causes an immune system reaction.
If leaky gut is left untreated, it can lead to IBS, IBD, chronic fatigue, migraines, arthritis, mood issues, and muscular pain. And, the Journal of Diabetes has also demonstrated that there is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that leaky gut is a major cause of autoimmune diseases.
What are the symptoms of having a leaky gut?
Digestive problems and bloating
Skin issues, like rosacea
If you are experiencing several food intolerances this could be a big warning sign that you may have leaky gut. Partially-digested protein and fat can squeeze through your intestinal lining, and enter your bloodstream – this then can lead to an allergic response.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are 4 main causes of leaky gut which include:
Diet (sugar, gluten, un-sprouted grains, conventional meat, conventional dairy, GMO foods)
Dysbiosis (gut bacteria imbalance)
Toxin overload (tap water, pesticides, NSAIDS and antibiotics)
Sugar causes havoc on your digestive system, and feeds the growth of yeast, candida - this bad bacteria then can damage your gut even more. Bad bacteria form toxins called exotoxins, which can damage healthy cells.
Un-sprouted grains contain significant amounts of phytates and lectins. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that are a natural defence system for plants, and they protect them from mould and parasites.
GMO foods are very high in lectins, as they have been modified to resist insects.
For us humans, when lectins attach to our digestive linings, they wreak havoc on our guts, resulting in inflammation. Foods which contain significant amounts of lectins, include: rice, wheat, spelt, and soy. Fermenting and sprouting grains decreases levels of phytates and lectins, which allow these foods to be easier to break-down and digest.
Conventional cows’ milk can also be a cause of leaky gut, as the protein, A1 casein, can damage your gut. Additionally, the process of pasteurisation wipes out enzymes, which makes lactose (a milk sugar) very difficult to digest. Choose milk and dairy made from A2 casein (e.g. Jersey cow milk) or goats and sheep’s milk and dairy (feta, Manchego cheeses etc.)
This is a leading causes of leaky gut, and is an imbalance between the “good” and “bad” species of gut bacteria. The overuse of prescription antibiotic drugs, tap water, and the lack of pre and probiotic-rich foods contribute to this imbalance of good and bad bacteria.
Toxins such as pesticides, unfiltered tap water, antibiotics, and NSAIDS can cause leaky gut.
Chronic stress wreaks havoc on your immune system over, and this reduces how well you can fight viruses and bacteria, which then may result in leaky gut. It is so important, to keep stress to a minimum.