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The Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease Connection

autoimmune disease

“You have an autoimmune disease.” The moment your doctor says those words, your life changes forever. It can be scary hearing about the symptoms, the side effects of the drugs, and the fact this disease will be a part of your life forever.

Your doctor is likely to offer you prescription medications to manage your symptoms, book a follow-up appointment, and send you on your way. There’s a very good chance she isn’t going to tell you reversing your symptoms without medication is possible. Or that it starts with restoring the health of your gut.

In my clinic, I saw the incredible progress and turnaround people with autoimmune disease can make by simply addressing their gut health. This is why repairing the gut is the first pillar of The Myers Way®. You can uncover all of the pillars in my Leaky Gut Breakthrough® Program! For now, let’s dive into how your gut health plays a part in the development of an autoimmune condition, and how you can repair your gut and take back your health!

Why the Gut is the Gateway to Health

The first thing to understand about autoimmune diseases is that they are diseases of the immune system.

Somewhere along the way your immune system went rogue and began attacking your own tissues. It could be your thyroid under attack, your intestines, your skin, your brain, your pancreas, or another organ. No matter what part of your body is under siege, the underlying problem is within your immune system. This means in order to treat, prevent, and reverse your autoimmune disease you’ll need to get your immune system back under control.

In order to do that, you must address your gut health. Your gut is the foundation of your whole body’s health because 80% of your immune system is located there. Without a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system. Without a healthy immune system, you’re open to infections, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.

The Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Connection - The Source of Your Autimmunity - Infographic - Amy Myers MD

What is Leaky Gut

Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions that hold your intestinal wall together become loose. You can think of your gut lining as a drawbridge. Teeny tiny boats (micronutrients in food) that are meant to travel back and forth are able to go under the bridge without a problem. This is an important system that allows vital nutrients from the food you eat to be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Certain aspects of our modern life, including toxic foods and stress, will cause increased intestinal permeability in your gut. This allows that drawbridge to go up, and bigger boats that aren’t meant to travel through will cross over. Your gut wall is your first line of defense — it’s meant to protect you from these substances. Yet now microbes, toxins, proteins, and partially digested food particles are passing under the drawbridge and escaping into your bloodstream.

Find out if you have a leaky gut with this free quiz!

What Causes Leaky Gut

The high prevalence of leaky gut in today’s society is a direct result of our modern lifestyle. The toxic and inflammatory foods we eat, medications, infections, and chemicals our bodies are exposed to and the chronic stress many of us are under every day are the cause.

Gluten is the number one culprit because it triggers the release of zonulin in your intestines, a chemical that tells your gut lining to “open up”. For some people, gluten contributes to a disease known as celiac disease. In others, gluten is an inflammatory food that can overstress your immune system. Other inflammatory foods such as dairy, grains, pseudograins, nightshades and eggs, along with toxic foods, such as, sugar, nightshades, alcohol and GMO’s are major contributors to leaky gut as well.

The most common infectious causes are Candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). When the bad bacteria, fungi and parasites take over the gut we this dysbiosis. If this imbalance is not addressed, over time it will lead to leaky gut.

Environmental toxins such as mercury, pesticides, and BPA from plastics also contribute to leaky gut. Toxins can also come in the form of medications, including NSAIDS such as Motrin and Advil, steroids, antibiotics, the birth control pill, and acid-reducing drugs. Chronic stress, both emotional and physical, also directly contributes to leaky gut and inflammation in your body. Over time, ongoing stress will weaken your immune system making it harder for your body to fight off bad bacteria and viruses, causing inflammation and leaky gut.

How Leaky Gut Leads to Autoimmunity

Once your gut is leaky and toxins, viruses, bacteria and food particles are flooding your bloodstream, your immune system marks them as dangerous invaders. As more and more particles escape into your bloodstream, your immune system attacks the invaders with white blood cells, and sends out wave after wave of inflammation. Eventually, it becomes overstressed and begins firing less accurately. This leads to autoimmunity and other health problems as your tissues end up in the crosshairs of the battle.

On top of this, you have an adaptive immune system that starts identifying the foreign substances as invaders, and makes antibodies to fight against these substances in your bloodstream. However, many of these foreign invaders look very similar to your own body’s cells, and your immune system can get confused and accidentally attack your own tissues. This process of mistaken identity is called molecular mimicry. Gluten and dairy are common culprits behind molecular mimicry, particularly autoimmune thyroid conditions (Hashimoto’s and Graves’).

Leaky Gut - Molecular Mimicry Infographic - Amy Myers MD

The autoimmune condition that manifests is determined by which tissues are being attacked. If it’s the joints, rheumatoid arthritis develops; if it’s the thyroid gland, the result could affect thyroid hormones and lead to Hashimoto’s or Grave’s; if it’s the gut lining itself, Crohn’s or colitis could develop. 

Dr. Alessio Fasano’s research has clearly shown leaky gut to be one of the preconditions for developing an autoimmune disease. Once you have any type of autoimmune disease, leaving your leaky gut untreated can cause your condition to progress and places you at higher risk of developing another autoimmune disease.

4 Steps to Repair a Leaky Gut

In my Leaky Gut Breakthrough® Program, I explain how I use a four-step approach to heal the gut. I’ve highlighted the steps below:

  1. REMOVE:
    Your goal is to get rid of anything that’s harmful to your gut. I can’t stress enough that a gluten-free diet is critical to your gut health. In addition to avoiding gluten, you’ll also want to ditch dairy, as most adults are lactose intolerant or sensitive to the casein proteins in dairy products. Other gut-destroying and inflammatory foods including alcohol, corn, soy, refined sugar, GMOs, and highly processed foods need to be removed from your diet. This may also help to identify any food sensitivities or food allergies that may be interfering with your gut health.

    You’ll also need to eliminate any gut infections you have, whether caused by Candida overgrowth, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), or parasites. Finally, learning to manage stress and avoiding toxins are pieces of the puzzle you’ll need to address.

  2. RESTORE:
    Restore what’s missing from your gut. Adding digestive enzymes and HCL to your regimen will help support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as assist your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses. Follow a nutrient-dense diet with plenty of organic greens, vegetables, and fruits, healthy fats, quality proteins.

  3. REINOCULATE:
    Repopulate the beneficial bacteria in your gut with the help of probiotic supplements to create a healthy gut flora balance that protects your gut wall and your immune system as a whole.

  4. REPAIR:
    To repair a leaky gut, I custom formulated Leaky Gut Revive® after working with thousands of patients with leaky gut. Leaky Gut Revive® is the perfect supplement for supporting a healthy gut lining.

Repairing the gut is the first, crucial step to better health for anyone with an autoimmune disease.

However, there is more you need to know. In the Leaky Gut Breakthrough® Program, I will tell you what you can do to reverse your symptoms and take back your life. Sign up for the workshop anytime, and empower yourself with the information your doctor won’t tell you.

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