What do lupus, Sjogren syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves disease, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile (type 1) diabetes, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, and asthma have in common? They are all autoimmune diseases. According to Wikipedia, autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. Why would your body attack itself?
In order to understand autoimmunity, we need to understand how the immune system works. In a healthy person, the immune system will launch an attack on foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc.) to protect you from disease.
There are, however, people whose immune system doesn’t work properly. Instead of attacking foreign invaders, the immune system attacks healthy tissue. Why does this happen?
All Disease Begins in the Gut
Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut. Certainly, some diseases, like genetic diseases, don’t start in the gut, but for just about everything else, the gut is where it all begins.
The reason for this is the different gut bacteria residing in our digestive tracts, as well as the integrity of the gut lining. According to numerous studies, the lining of the small intestine can become porous and unwanted bacterial products called endotoxins can sometimes “leak” through the lining and enter the bloodstream.
Additionally, undigested proteins can also leak out into the bloodstream. Proteins that many people can’t digest such as gluten (from grains) and casein (from dairy products) can end up in the blood stream.
This is called intestinal permeability or leaky gut. For many years, the traditional medical community did not recognize this disease, but now it is known to them as Hyperpermeable Intestines.
Autoimmune Disease Begins
Once these “foreign” objects enter the bloodstream, the body chooses to store them in an organ, gland, or other tissue. When enough of these foreign particles are stored in the same area, our immune system takes notice and mounts an attack against them and the organ/gland/tissue in which they reside.
If, for example, these foreign invaders are stored in the thyroid (a gland), the immune system attacks the thyroid. Then we have symptoms of thyroid disease and we call it Hashimoto’s (hypothyroid) or Graves disease (hyperthyroid). If the invaders are stored in the fascia (a system of connective tissue), the symptoms are called fibromyalgia. If the symptoms manifest themselves in a rash, it is called psoriasis or eczema.
If autoimmunity is left unchecked, multiple glands/organs/systems will be filled with foreign invaders and attacked by the immune system, which then manifests in many different autoimmune diseases. It can take years of attacks before one recognizes what is happening. For myself, the attacks have spread to my thyroid (Hashimoto’s), fascia (fibromyalgia), skin (psoriasis and eczema), lungs (asthma), and joints (rheumatoid arthritis).
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut can be caused by:
- What you eat
- Processed food
- Cow’s dairy
- Unsprouted grains
- GMO foods
- Not enough probiotics and fiber
- Hydrogenated oils
- Prescription drugs, especially OTC pain relievers, birth control pills, antibiotics, and steroids (these cause bacterial imbalance by killing the natural good bacteria in your gut)
- Chronic stress
- Yeast (or candida)
- Lack of zinc
According to research published in the International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2006, leaky gut may cause Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, MS, lupus, depression, and anxiety.
How to Heal Leaky Gut
The traditional medicine answer to autoimmunity is immunosuppressants, such as steroids. Unfortunately, while suppressing the immune system may lead to some relief of symptoms, it can also leave one open to other infections. Suppressing the entire immune system indefinitely is not recommended.
Fortunately, there is a way to heal leaky gut that is simple and inexpensive. It does, however, require a change of mindset. It requires you to change what you eat.
This is the simplest, yet the most difficult, part. Eat whole food. Real food. Non-processed food. Food without additives. This is what I ate to regain my health:
- Simple carbohydrates: vegetables, fruits, and raw, local honey
- Easily digestible fats: ghee, coconut oil, and egg yolks
- Easily digestible protein: wild-caught fish, organic chicken, and 100% grass fed beef
- Bone broth
- Probiotic rich foods (like kefir and sauerkraut)
It’s simple because this food doesn’t come in boxes or cans. It comes from the farmer and the rancher, the fisher and the gatherer. This food comes in a rainbow of colors. It is full of flavor and nutrients that your body recognizes.
It’s difficult because most people didn’t grow up eating real food and aren’t used to it. Our taste buds have been adulterated by sugar and processed foods, so real food doesn’t taste good (until your body purges the sugar; then it’s delicious). Processed foods are more readily available and our culture likes to eat on the go. When we go out or visit with others, they offer processed foods. So it does take a resolve to change the way you eat.
Here are some recipes to get you going, however, I’ve found that keeping it simple is best. For breakfast, I make my Super Duper Restoring Smoothie. For lunch, I usually have a baked sweet potato (with ghee, Himalayan salt, Ceylon cinnamon, and some walnuts or pecans) and a mug of bone broth. For dinner, I’ll pick a protein and a veggie (salmon and asparagus; scrambled eggs and green beans; taco salad). My go-to snack is homemade applesauce.
What to Avoid
The list of what not to eat grows every day as new, fake foods come on the market seemingly daily. Here are the top foods to avoid:
- GMO food
- Food additives like MSG
- Pasteurized food
- Anything you’re allergic to or intolerant of
Why You Should Change What You Eat
Many people never connect how they feel to what they eat, yet food is fuel for your body. You wouldn’t put water in your car’s fuel tank and expect it to run properly, would you? Our bodies were made to withstand a lot of punishment, but at some point, they can’t handle any more abuse and they break down. Just because you’re not sick doesn’t mean you’re healthy.
Most of the food available to us is unhealthy, and the government is making it more difficult for us to know what’s in the food we eat. As more and more people demand healthy food, the more this will change. But it will take people who care about what they eat.
Changing the way you eat is the most important thing you can do to heal leaky gut, and thus, autoimmunity.
Learn more in my new book, Be in Health: Bible-Based Health Restoration: Living in Harmony with God’s Ways Regarding Health. Available now.