by Nicola Schuler, CNTP, MNT and Dr. Miles Nichols
This week we continue to look at autoimmunity and gut health. This article focuses on possible ways of predicting autoimmunity by looking at specific gut bacteria.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, whom we wrote about last week, has said that the reason someone develops autoimmunity or AI later in life is due to gut bacteria and a change somehow in the composition of the gut bacteria (Fasano A., 2019).
Gut health has been found to affect the possibility of developing an AI disease (Felix KM, 2017). Dysbiosis (an imbalance between good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria) is the key culprit as it can lead to leaky gut. Leaky gut is a significant contributing factor to Autoimmunity.
In our functional medicine clinic, we focus on testing for and resolving causes for dysbiosis. Examples of important tests we do include SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) Lactulose Breath Testing and a comprehensive stool analysis looking for parasites, helicobacter pylori, candida, viruses, worms, and more. To find out more about becoming a patient, click here.
Most autoimmune diseases progress gradually over time, often without symptoms (Rose, 2016). During this time, serious tissue damage may occur (Rose, 2016). Ideally, it is important to diagnose autoimmune diseases as early as possible, to avoid irreversible tissue damage.
After genetic factors, autoantibodies are the best predictors of impending autoimmune disease, at this time (Rose, 2016). Autoantibodies are an antibody (a protein) produced by the immune system that is directed against one or more of the person’s own tissue or organs. These autoantibodies are the hallmark of autoimmune disease.
While autoantibodies are known to be a predictor of AI, research is also currently looking to specific gut bacteria to try to predict AI.
Because studies show blood markers can detect autoimmune tendencies before symptoms arise, testing for autoantibodies, even when free of symptoms, can be helpful. In our clinic, we do preventive and predictive comprehensive blood screening for autoimmune diseases. We measure what are called antibodies (molecules that tell us the immune system is attacking something) to different body tissues, like the thyroid as one example, to find out if there is a possible issue with autoimmunity. The common tests that we do for most patients to look for autoantibodies include Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies, Thyroglobulin antibodies (TGA), Antinuclear antibodies (ANA), Antiparietal cell antibodies (APCA), Rheumatoid Factor (RF), Anti-CCP3 (related to rheumatoid arthritis that can cause joint issues) and sometimes several ENA markers as well.
Have you been screened for antibodies? Do you have family history of autoimmune disease or unexplained symptoms but no one has thought to test for autoimmune issues? If so, get in touch with us to find out more about working with our clinic.
Different AI Conditions and Predictive Factors:
Many studies have found that people with various AI conditions (such as Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus or SLE, Celiac Disease, Autoimmune Arthritis, Asthma) have some degree of gut dysbiosis. Often, they will not have enough specific good gut bacteria and / or they will have too much specific bad gut bacteria. This is precisely what dysbiosis is. As we have mentioned, this state of dysbiosis will lead to leaky gut, which is one of three factors that contribute to autoimmunity, along with genetics and an environmental trigger. Please refer to our articles on AI, AI #1, AI #2 and AI #3, if you would like a deeper explanation.
It is clear that dysbiosis exists in the gut of AI patients. More information is needed in order to use these findings for future diagnoses and therapeutic approaches.
One huge challenge ahead is to differentiate cause from effect: is the gut bacteria the cause of AI disease or a result of the disease itself?? (Felix KM, 2017). Is the presence of certain bacteria a predictor of AI or a result? Future research will have to focus on this question as the answer is not entirely clear at this time (Felix KM, 2017).
What is clear is that the importance of diet and the composition of the gut microbiome play a critical role in health (Rose, 2016). This is why we always look at gut health in our clinic and in functional medicine. You can review some of our approaches to gut health here and here or you can read the whole Gut Brain Axis Series of blogs, starting here, that we have been working on for the past several months.
Or better yet, get in touch with us today! Book a free 15-minute discovery call to see how we can help you with any active or potential AI conditions.