According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, “approximately 50 million Americans, 20% of the population or one in five people, suffer from autoimmune diseases. Women are more likely than men to be affected; some estimates say that 75 percent of those affected, 30 million people are women.”
An autoimmune condition develops when your immune system (which defends your body against disease) starts to recognize healthy cells as foreign. As a result, your immune system begins attacking healthy cells of various tissues depending on what type of autoimmunity you have.
Along with autoimmunity, either as a result of it, or trigger for it, there are also a number of inflammatory conditions that correlate with being on an autoimmune spectrum such as:
- Excess Weight
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Meaning, if you have any of these inflammatory conditions listed above and don’t have autoimmunity then these conditions increase your risk for it. Or if you have autoimmunity then these conditions can aggravate your autoimmune symptoms even more.
How does one wind up with an autoimmune condition?
Three factors must be in place in order for autoimmunity to show up in the body:
- The gene for it = hereditary component
- Leaky gut = a suppressed immune system
- Environmental trigger(s) = things that inflict chronic inflammation
As Dr. Amy Myers points out in her book The Autoimmune Solution, twin studies have shown that only 25% of autoimmune disease is inheritable, meaning that 75% of it is related to the environment and leaky gut.
Researchers estimate that approximately 70% of your immune system resides in the intestinal lining of your gut.
Autoimmune issues are directly related to the health of your immune system, which is in your gut. Therefore, the health of your gut is the key to preventing, reversing, and healing autoimmunity.
As a person with a history of Hashimoto’s, maintaining my gut health has been a huge focal point in my journey toward reversing it. In fact, supporting the health of my gut to boost my immune system and to reduce inflammation played a big part in allowing me to ween off my thyroid medication after just 4 months and get into remission in just 6 months.
When I work with autoimmune clients, gut and digestive health are two of the very first things we address. The health of your gut greatly impacts your risk for autoimmunity and your ability to reverse or heal it for three main reasons.
3 reasons why gut health can prevent, reverse, and heal autoimmune conditions.
#1 – Nutrient Absorption
When gut health is impaired, that means digestion and absorption of nutrients are also impaired. Without adequate nutrient absorption, the body is not receiving all the valuable resources and support it needs to boost immunity, fight off inflammation, or to heal and repair. You could be eating the healthiest foods in the world and taking the best high-quality supplements, but if your gut is leaky or damaged then you are not getting all of the preventative or healing benefits that you think you are. When gut health is improved, nutrient absorption goes up, allowing for prevention and healing to happen.
#2 – Gut Invaders
It’s normal to have a small amount of bacteria, yeast, and even parasites living in your intestines, in fact, it’s part of what keeps your gut flora balanced. However, when certain species of gut invaders grow too much, they pose a problem. They disrupt the normal balance and function of the gut, causing increases in inflammation and toxic waste. Additionally, some species, such as Klebsiella and H. Pylori bacteria, are known triggers for autoimmune disease, putting you at higher risk for developing one OR aggravating the autoimmune process if you already have a condition. Checking for gut invaders and eradicating them can prevent potential triggers or reduce factors contributing to autoimmune issues.
#3 – Inflammation
Chronic stress and inflammation are the roots of all diseases, and the catalyst for autoimmunity (as mentioned earlier). A leaky or damaged gut results in chronic inflammation and a depressed immune system. The more damaged your gut is, the more inflamed it becomes, and the more sensitive it will be to other inflammatory variables such as food and environmental toxins. By improving gut health, inflammation is reduced, and proper immune function can be restored.
5 things you can start doing right now to help improve your gut health:
#1 – Green Tea
Green tea has an active ingredient called polyphenol EGCG which helps to modulate genes and produce an anti-inflammatory effect. Having one cup of green tea per day can help to keep inflammation at bay and your gut happy.
#2 – Collagen Peptides
Collagen peptides provide the amino acids necessary for the body to repair the intestinal lining when damage does occur. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides are flavorless and can be added to your everyday drinking water for a powerful healing punch.
#3 – Deep Breathing
When we adopt the deep rhythmic breathing patterns of a relaxed person, our body automatically switches from the stressed, fight or flight, response and into a relaxed state. When we are relaxed, our body directs all of its resources inwards for digesting and healing. Try a few rounds of inhaling, holding, and exhaling for a count of 5 seconds.
#4 – Bone Broth
Bone broth is rich in minerals for the immune system (which lives in your gut!). Plus, it has healing gut health properties such as glutamine, collagen, glycine, and proline. Consider sipping on a cup of bone broth a day or incorporating it into soups and other recipes for its gut healing goodness.
#5 – Abdominal Massage
Abdominal massage is not only relaxing, but it also can help with peristalsis for improved digestion and to soothe the smooth musculature of the digestive tract. Place both of your hands near your belly button with slight pressure, move in a counterclockwise direction starting as a small circle and gradually making larger circles.
Remember Autoimmune Sister, you’ve got this. It is possible to prevent, reverse and heal autoimmunity so you can live your best life! Autoimmune Sisters like me are doing it every day.
Share your progress and success below to let other Sisters know what’s possible!