Autoimmune Specialist Melbourne – Gut, Thyroid And The Immune Connection
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease is a genetic predisposition, which runs in families but can skip one or more generations and affects more women than men. When Autoimmune Disease is diagnosed, a patient can be affected with more than one symptom. – Thyroid Foundation
If you have a thyroid condition, it is 90% likely to be an autoimmune disease.
This means that your own immune system is attacking the thyroid gland.
Autoimmune Specialist Melbourne – As with any autoimmune disease, the immune system turns against one’s own body parts – in the case of rheumatoid arthritis it’s the joints, Coeliac’s it’s the gut, Type 1 diabetes it’s the pancreas, multiple sclerosis it’s the nerves, lupus it’s the joins and muscle tissue, and the list goes on.
In the case of thyroid autoimmune diseases, it’s called thyroiditis – it can either be Hashimoto’s which is an autoimmune disease that makes the thyroid hypo (slows it down) or Graves’ Disease which causes hyperthyroidism (or an overactive thyroid).
It’s well known now that people with one autoimmune condition are more likely to develop two or three other, more debilitating autoimmune conditions.
Statistics show that 50% of people with Hashimoto’s Disease will develop other autoimmune diseases, many of which can be far more debilitating.
It is therefore essential to restore the functioning of the immune system in order to manage the state of the immune system and hence your thyroid challenges. To restore the immune system one must, of course, restore the health of the gut.
It has been estimated that the gut wall contains about 80—85% of the immune system. The good bacteria in the gut engages the lymphoid tissue, a very important part of the immune system.
There are tons of lymphocytes and other immune cells in the gut, which protect the body from viruses, bacteria, and other invaders. If the bacteria in the gut is damaged or abnormal, there are far fewer lymphocytes, and the immune system is compromised.
This can lead to the person developing chronic viral infections, allergies, chronic colds, autoimmune disorders, and the like.
What you need to know about the gut.
Everyone has bacteria in their digestive tract, or gut, that is essential to the function of the human body. A healthy adult has about 1.5 – 2 kg of bacteria in their gut, both good and bad.
The different types of bacteria live in harmony, with the good bacteria keeping a tight control on the bad. Normal levels of bacteria, or flora, in the gut protects against invaders, undigested food, toxins, and parasites. It keeps the gut wall protected, takes an active part in the digestion and absorption of food, and is essential to the immune function.
It helps to transport vitamins, minerals, water, gases, and other nutrients through the gut wall into the bloodstream. The bacteria also actively synthesizes various nutrients.
When the good and bad bacteria in the gut get out of balance also called a dysbiosis (i.e. more bad than good), a whole host of negative reactions can occur in the body.
Undigested foods can leak through into the bloodstream causing food allergies and intolerances, vitamins and minerals may not be absorbed, leading to deficiency, causing the bad bacteria to produce a whole host of toxins, and the immune system to not function properly.
Bloating, constipation, gas, diarrhea, acid reflux, pain, burping?
It’s NEVER “normal”.
Do you often experience bloating, gas, constipation, acid reflux, burping or bouts of diarrhoea?
It is so common for so many people that we have grown to believe that it’s “normal” to have frequent or chronic digestive issues. It’s very important to understand that it is not only “not normal” but it’s detrimental to your immune system (remember, this is where the immune system starts) and therefore also your thyroid health.
If you look at the picture on the left you see villi; these are hair-like projections located in the ileum – which is a part of the digestive tract.
The villi are instrumental in digesting carbohydrates, proteins, and fats without causing irritation of the intestinal walls.
The villi are also responsible for the absorption of the vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. The picture on the right is showing you a damaged form of the villi which is common in people with chronic digestive issues.
When we say “chronic” it does not have to mean you must be in a constant and debilitating pain – it just means you are frequently (say minimum twice per week) challenged with any of these: constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, acid reflux, burping or intestinal pain.
What is “leaky gut” and why does it matter.
The intestinal walls are often irritated in those with intestinal permeability also known as “leaky gut”.
The term “leaky gut” is a non-medical yet very real and descriptive way of saying that the lining of the intestines is damaged and undigested food particles “leak out” to the blood stream and create havoc in the body.
This havoc is largely created by the immune system launching an attack on one’s own body parts when there is food “leaking out”.
Some of the food particles, like gluten, are said to look very similar to the thyroid gland cells and this is why so many people with thyroid conditions do well when they stop ingesting gluten.
Autoimmune disease and a compromised gut create a vicious cycle.
A person suffering from an autoimmune disease invariably has gut issues.
The more inflammation in the autoimmune system, the more severe the gut issues. In a self perpetuating vicious cycle leaky gut flares up autoimmune conditions, which in turn further damages the gut lining.
Diagnosing leaky gut is not easy and the list of symptoms can be very long. It includes conditions like constipation, intestinal pain, diarrhoea, headaches, skin problems (acne, eczema), frequent colds, stubborn weight gain, urinary tract infections, insomnia and the list goes on.
Things that have a negative effect on gut flora:
Antibiotics and other drugs.
Diet, especially sugar and processed food.
Other: physical exertion, age, alcoholism, pollution, etc.
Why do I need to change my diet?
Diet is an important component of a person’s health. The food that one consumes affects the type and amount of bacteria in the gut, the functioning of the immune system, and vitamin and mineral levels, among other things.
Poor diets can lead to improper digestive system functioning, food allergies and intolerances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and toxins leaking into the bloodstream and therefore, into the brain and nervous system.
All of these things can lead to a plethora of different health problems ranging from autism, depression to thyroid dysfunction.
When we change our diet, we start to cleanse the body. We begin to repair the gut lining, dispose of built up toxins, restore immune system function, and we see our health starting to shift.
Symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, constipation, difficulty concentrating, diarrhea, insomnia and so on start to disappear. Once the immune system is repaired, the thyroid is no longer under any attack and our body can heal.
A stricter diet is often necessary.
If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s or Graves’ Disease, it’s very likely that a simple diet improvement might not be enough at this point.
Generic advice dispensed by mass media, like “eat whole food”, “unprocessed” and “local” might not be enough.
Food allergies and intolerances may be simmering away which need to be uncovered so digestive issues can be resolved.
That’s what I’m here for your Naturopath Autoimmune Specialist Melbourne – to decode it all and formulate a plan that works for you! So, CLICK HERE to book in for a face-to-face or phone/skype consult to get you started today.