Functional medicine LupusThe connection between the gut and autoimmune disease is in the news again! Last month there was a journal article on the changes in intestinal barrier function (leaky gut) with Multiple Sclerosis. Researchers suggested that future drugs to treat MS should not only focus on the central nervous system, but also on the intestines by repairing and restoring the intestinal barrier. The gastrointestinal tract is 80% of our immune system. Whenever you have inflammation present, the tight junctions and intestinal mucosa can become damaged causing gaps or “pores” in the lining of the GI tract. Then toxic byproducts in the digestive tract can be absorbed into the bloodstream and transported on to the liver. The molecules of food and toxins are “leaked” through the GI lining and then eventually they affect systems throughout the body causing inflammation in our joints, expressing toxins in skin disorders, autoimmune conditions, and food sensitivities.

There has been a significant increase in the incidence of autoimmune disorders over the past several decades. Why has there been such a sharp increase of autoimmune disorders? The answers may be found in the current medical research, but you would probably never know it by visiting a doctor. This study is a perfect example between the big disconnect between medical research, which is often outstanding, and the practice of traditional medicine, which often leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to the management of chronic disorders.

The typical allopathic clinical approach to autoimmune diseases focuses on the management of symptoms with various anti-inflammatory medications and often the use of chemotherapeutics, and very potent immuno- suppressive agents with serious potential side-effects like leukemia and lymphoma. These approaches certainly can provide substantial relief to the patient, but do not really get to the cause of these conditions and some research suggests that these approaches may result in a furthering of the pathological process.

Gut bacteria has been identified as an important environmental factor in overall health and autoimmune disease. This recent study demonstrated the role of the gut microbiota in Lupus. According to research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Lactobacillus species were shown to reduce the severity of lupus symptoms, while Lachnospiraceae, a type of Clostridia, correlated with a worsening of symptoms.

In this study, researchers presented that mouse models of lupus had higher levels of Lachnospiraceae and lower Lactobacillus than control mice. In addition, they compared male and female mice, and found that the differences were present only in females. These results suggest that the gut bacteria may contribute to lupus. Also, the gut microbiota was monitored over time in both lupus and control mice. As a result, they found that Clostridia was increased in both early and late stages of the disease.

In further experiments, the team treated the symptoms in the lupus mice with either retinoic acid alone or vitamin A with retinoic acid. The latter worsened the symptoms, which was surprising since it had been expected to reduce them. In these mice Clostridia increased and Lactobacillus decreased. However, retinoic acid alone did improve the symptoms and the dysbiosis.

The research suggests that altering the gut microbiota could cause remission of lupus. Patients with lupus should eat Lactobacillus-containing probiotics to reduce lupus exacerbations. The use of probiotics, prebiotics, and antimicrobials can improve the microbiota and reduce lupus symptoms.

The team was inspired to perform this research based upon a study on type 1 diabetes, which found that was dependent on gut microbiota. Type 1 diabetes and lupus are autoimmune diseases that may be different but all autoimmunity has the same common environmental triggers. Every patient with autoimmune disorders need a comprehensive digestive stool analysis in my opinion, which modern research supports. There are several other factors that play a role in autoimmunity such as, gluten intolerance, food sensitivities, gastrointestinal infections, and heavy metal toxicity, vitamin D deficiency, etc.

Source: H. Zhang, X. Liao, J. B. Sparks, X. M. Luo. Dynamics of gut microbiota in autoimmune lupus. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2014; DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02676-14

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