• How Does Leaky Gut Lead to Autoimmune Disease?

    by Danica Cowan, MS, RD
    on Mar 7th, 2018

Though the gut is one of the most important parts of the human body, it's something that people typically do not think about until they begin exhibiting symptoms. A condition called leaky gut can occur because of the foods that people eat and because of the environmental toxins and pollutants that surround them every day. As this condition can lead to an individual suffering from an autoimmune disease, it's important that people learn more about the condition and its link to the immune system.

The Basics of Leaky Gut

One of the first things that people should consider is the symptoms of leaky gut. The most common symptom is any type of digestive issue. Many sufferers find that they have a difficult time digesting certain types of foods and that when they eat those foods, they experience bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and other digestive problems. Some people even develop a food intolerance or a food allergy that requires they avoid certain foods or ingredients.

One of the best ways for individuals to find out if they have leaky gut is to make an appointment with a nutritionist — such as Danica Cowan at our Advanced Health clinic. Talking to a professional lets people discuss and understand symptoms. Patients can then get help deciding what to do before the issue evolves into an autoimmune condition, which requires more care and treatment.

The Basics of Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases refer to any conditions that cause the immune system to attack the body. The immune system is important because it wards off infections and helps fight viruses.  Common autoimmune conditions include Type I diabetes and lupus. With diabetes, the body stops regulating and processing the sugars that the person eats. Many patients need to take daily doses of insulin to treat the condition. Other conditions can cause the body to view any abnormality as a threat and attack healthy cells and organs.

Fatigue is a common symptom of autoimmune conditions. Some people feel tired because their bodies do not produce enough hormones, but others feel tired because they keep waking up at night due to their conditions. People should talk with their primary care physician about any unusual symptoms they experience, especially if they have a family history of these autoimmune diseases.

The Link Between Autoimmune Disease and the Gut

It's important that people understand the link or connection between autoimmune disease and leaky gut. Problems in the gut often occur when the intestinal walls loosen. This increases the size of particles that can move through the gut and can cause more bacteria to move through, as well. As the wall loosens, it also allows some of those particles to move through the gut and into the bloodstream. As those particles move to other parts of the body, the immune system will view the particles as threats and send out cells to fight back, which is the main cause of an autoimmune condition.

The reason this is so dangerous is that it can lead to a lot of swelling. Inflammation can worsen over time and create a new host of symptoms that make the immune system think it needs to do more. This can lead to the body literally attacking itself. The immune system often has a hard time distinguishing between healthy cells and particles and the unhealthy particles moving through the body. It can attack healthy organs and cells, which will take even more time and care to treat.

Working with a Nutritionist in San Francisco

The most important reason to work with a nutritionist who has experience in autoimmune disease treatment is that it provides a patient with help following and creating a restrictive diet. These diets also go by the name of elimination diets because the patient removes certain foods from his or her diet. Most start out with a fairly bland diet that only uses a few things. The patient keeps a food journal to keep track of everything eaten and how the patient feels at the end of the day. That individual will slowly incorporate new foods into the diet plan daily and record his or her thoughts and feelings.

Nutritionists use this information to get an idea of which foods cause flare-ups. For example, gluten is one of the top ingredients that can lead to a leaky gut issue. A nutritionist can also do a stool test to see the ratio of good to bad bacteria in each patient. Though many people think all bacteria is bad, the human body needs some good bacteria. A nutritionist can also help a patient increase the number of good bacteria in his or her body.

Make an Appointment with a Nutritionist

Danica Cowan, MS, RD, is a nutritionist working in San Francisco who can help patients suffering from these conditions. She offers personalized care for each patient she sees. After talking with a patient about his or her symptoms and running tests, she can create a treatment plan designed just for that individual. Her treatment plans include long-term care and may include lifestyle changes that the patient can make at home. Make an appointment to learn more about leaky gut and treating that condition before it progresses into an autoimmune disease.

Author Danica Cowan, MS, RD Danica Cowan, MS, RD is a Holistic Nutritionist located in Pacific Heights, San Francisco.

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