Autoimmunity – Food For Thought
Autoimmunity is loss of ‘self tolerance’ caused by the immune system attacking the body’s own tissues. There are over 80 autoimmune diseases. Common conditions that are classified as autoimmune include type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, Hashimoto’s (accounts for over 90% of low thyroid conditions) and Raynaud’s and their incidence across the World continues to explode. Why is this happening? It is now estimated that over 600 million people globally are presenting with an autoimmune disease and women are 2.7 times more likely to present with such a condition than men.
It is now over ten years since the concept that autoimmunity develops via a complex interaction between our genetic base and our environment was first postulated. The single largest point of interaction between our environment and our genetic base takes place in the gut – the small intestine has the surface area of a tennis court. It is interesting to note that digestive dysfunction is a very common symptom with individuals presenting with autoimmunity.
Our genes are set at conception, however the environment is to a large extent and depending on individual circumstances controllable, as is the health and permeability (leakiness) of the gut. Current thinking is that by modulation of both the environment and intestinal permeability (leakiness of the gut), it might be possible to not only arrest the development of autoimmunity, but also potentially even reverse it.
‘……..once the autoimmune process is activated, it is not self-perpetuating; rather, it can be modulated or even reversed…..’
Professors Fasano and Shea-Donohue – Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2005
So by modulating the health of our digestive tract (using dietary and lifestyle interventions) in conjunction with removing specific triggers from our environment (removing/reducing – toxins/stress/bacterial and viral infections), we might be able to alter the outcome of these devastating diseases…….now that’s quite a thought.