How poor digestion can cause autoimmune disease
This blog looks into how a compromised digestive system and leaky gut, caused by a poor diet comprising of too many refined carbohydrates and sugar, along with stress are key contributors to autoimmune disease.
What is autoimmune disease?
Autoimmune disease arises from an overactive immune response of your body against substances and tissues normally present in your body. Your immune system mistakes some part of your body as a pathogen or invader and attacks its own cells as if they were foreign. In the US, one in five people suffer from an autoimmune disease, and in Australia it’s becoming more common. It is possible to develop an autoimmune attack on anything in the body.
Weakening of the immune barriers such as in the gut, the respiratory system and at the blood brain barrier, are key contributors to autoimmune disease. Poor diet (too many refined carbohydrates and sugar, and poor fats), blood sugar dysregulation, chronic gut infections, toxicity and adrenal stress weaken these barriers.
Digestion is your immune system
Digestion and diet are especially important to proper immune function as the gut is the location of 70 to 80% of your immune system. The lining of the small intestines is full of lymph nodules called Peyer’s Patches. If the mucosal lining of the intestinal wall becomes weak or has never fully developed, foreign invaders can easily pass through this epithelial tissue into the body. Leaky gut contributes to autoimmune disease as well as allergies, inflammation and progressive degeneration.
How do you get leaky gut?
If digestion is functioning optimally, hydrochloric acid in your stomach digests bacteria, viruses, parasites, prions and so on, the same way it does any other protein. The break down of food is completed in your small intestine where 90% of the nutrients are absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and remaining microbes are destroyed by the immune cells in the Peyer’s Patches. The remaining food then moves into the large intestine where healthy bowel flora offset the effects of any ‘bad’ bacteria. Remaining nutrients are absorbed through the intestinal wall and are filtered by the lymphatic system and Peyer’s Patches.
If you have insufficient HCl, proteins are left partially digested or undigested and microbes survive and reproduce. Undigested proteins and microbes then move into the small intestine, damaging the intestinal wall and causing leaky gut. Furthermore, the surviving pathogens can move through these microscopic holes directly into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut triggers autoimmunity
When the gut is leaky, undigested nutritional proteins that are larger than optimal in size appear foreign to the body, and over time will trigger an immune response.
A leaky gut provides both the trigger to your body to produce antibodies and the extra stimulus to your adaptive immune system to attack. These are two of the three necessary ingredients in the recipe for autoimmune disease, with genetic susceptibility being the third.
Poor digestion also impacts immunity in the colon
When the partially digested or undigested microbes move into the large intestine or colon they can overpower the healthy bowel flora, leading to an overgrowth of Candida, parasites, fungus, and bad or out of balance bacteria.
Insufficient good bowel flora means that viruses and pathogenic bacterial invaders such as viruses, toxins bacteria, fungus and various dead tissues in the digestive system aren’t swallowed up and destroyed. It also means the gut lining won’t regenerate.
A deficiency of good bacteria leading to an increase in pathogenic bacteria also diminishes IgA numbers (the antibody that that plays a crucial role in the immune function of mucous membranes) and reduces neutrophils and macrophages, which re critical parts of the immune system system’s first line of defence.
Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it. Josh Billings