Autoimmune disease. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, is known to have said “all disease begins in the gut.” After that, it seems the Western world had a sort of Medical Middle Ages. However, the profession is shifting towards (I hope) a more whole body-oriented way of diagnosing and treating people. Just a few years ago, routine testing for Vitamin D was unheard of; it is now commonplace.  The same is true for the VAP test, a comprehensive cardiovascular check that is much more thorough than the standard “bad cholesterol, good cholesterol, total cholesterol” test. Same goes for the more and more commonplace recommendation of taking probiotics along with antibiotics.

Now on to autoimmunity, and back to the gut. When a person is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Grave’s Disease, Celiac Disease, or one of many others, there are a few elements that absolutely have to be considered.

Determining Autoimmune Disease Factors

  1. Determining and regulating immune function at the level of the intestinal epithelial barrier is key to diagnosis and treatment.  In this age of poor dietary habits and strong, often toxic medicines, many of which directly and indirectly trigger leaky gut (which will the be the topic of another post) and mucosal inflammation, the risk of dysregulating the fine balance of GI flora and cellular structure and function increases.
  2. There are now some excellent predictive autoantibody tests that can determine one’s chance of acquiring specific autoimmune illnesses, sometime decades before symptoms present themselves.  This is a medical breakthrough. My opinion is that these tests should be selectively conducted during preventive visits. An ounce of prevention…
  3. Chronic infections can over activate and in a way confuse the immune system, which may then attempt to go after its own proteins, hence predisposing to autoimmunity.
  4. Pro-inflammatory dietary & lifestyle triggers can severely interfere with proper balanced functioning of the immune system, especially when repeated offenders enter the body on a daily basis.
Two of the four stated points underlying the initiation of autoimmunity have to do with the gut.  My lovely grandmother told me when I was a child: “food is your best medicine.”  I remember those words every day when seeing patients, feeding my children, shopping for groceries. There is a simple trick which I encourage my patients to implement. It can make a world of difference to the gut, and thereby can help the whole body move towards better health and reduce autoimmune triggers. Here’s the trick: When about to eat or drink something, ask the simple question: “Is this good for me OR bad for me?”  It really is that simple. But it gives the body that one second to recalibrate away from mindless eating and towards thoughtful dietary choices.
Where to start? I recommend the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis, which tests for a number of inflammatory, digestive, infectious, and other elements in the stool, thereby giving a clear and objective measure of gut health. I also highly recommend testing for specific predictive antibodies. And eating your veggies.