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GI Upset and Autoimmune Disease
The leaky Gut-Autoimmune Disease Connection
 

Maybe it’s not a panacea but your digestive health should be considered in all GI disturbances and autoimmune disease. Reflux, diarrhea, bloating, lethargy, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, MS, etc., can all be caused by problems in your GI tract.

For issues such as reflux, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, Crohns disease, diverticulitis, it’s easy to see that digestive issues can and most likely are the root cause of the problem. As we get older our digestive juices get weaker including our stomach acid leading to less efficient breakdown and absorption of the foods we eat. We often need to supplement with digestive enzymes and even betaine HCl (acid) to normalize digestive function (see my article: Digesting Your Food with Ease and Comfort @www.drneillevin.com for more on this). Sometimes this can simply cause GI upset; but often the problem can become much worse.

Many of us (me included) run into a more significant problem when we end up with what is known as a "leaky gut." This "leaky gut" syndrome happens when wheat, processed foods, pesticides, herbicides, residues from plastics and Styrofoam etc., begin to break down the normal healthy lining of our intestinal tract creating gaps. Studies are showing that the “Lectins”(protective molecules in all plants) from wheat and other grains are may be the primary factors in most people causing this “leaky gut.” The gaps caused by these irritating molecules allow larger food molecules to "leak" through our normally tight intestinal lining and into our blood stream before they are completely digested.  This can lead to severe health problems as our immune system reacts to these large food molecules as if they are foreign invaders, just like a bacteria or virus, creating antibodies to them. Often the foods you eat most are the ones that you become most reactive to (for me it was coffee – love the stuff).
---- fresh fruit kozzi (large)

We now run into a very significant problem; for the antibodies we create to attack the food particles (which leaked into our blood stream through these gaps) can confuse our own body tissues for these foods. In other words, your own immune system warriors (white blood cells and the like) are now confused.  They think that tissues of your own body, the very tissues they're designed to protect, are now the enemy (huge problem). This is because amino acids and identifying substances on the surfaces of certain tissues in your body can resemble the molecular identity of the foods that leaked into your blood stream. The very foods your immune system warriors are now on high alert to fight and destroy! So what happens next? You guessed it…Your body is now attacking itself (also known as autoimmune disease).

In essence, the same antibodies which you might create to attack the gluten from the bread/wheat products you’ve been eating may also attack your cartilage. In this example the person might be diagnosed with rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis and given all kinds of drugs to blunt his immune system; when the reality is, if he cut out the offending foods and healed his gut, the problem would most likely resolve on its own. Other examples of this autoimmune – food reactivity connection might be the person with MS whose immune system is attacking the myelin sheaths around nerve tracts in his spinal cord.  Lupus, Psoriatic arthritis, Crohns, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Sjögren's Syndrome and any other autoimmune disease you can think of can be caused by an immune system that is activated to fight against itself due to foods it is reacting to.

 Unfortunately, most physicians have not studied leaky gut or food reactivity so they will never explore this avenue with you. Instead your doctor prescribes strong drugs with strong side effects that reduce your immune system, opening you up to infection and never solving the problem.  This slows down but doesn’t stop the reactive damage, and your body continues to destroy itself, albeit at a slower pace. We all know what happens to these unfortunate people in the end. Their disease gets worse over time, they get sicker and sicker, put on more drugs, spend more time at the doctor’s office, make frequent trips to the hospital and feel miserable way too often.  The symptoms are being masked by the drugs but the cause of the problem was never found and fixed.

---- Healthybody (large)With this concept in mind, the question becomes…Which foods do I need to stop eating and how do I heal my gut? Years ago this was an arduous process. One would eliminate families of foods such as dairy, night shade vegetables or wheat/gluten to see if they improved. If they did they would stay away from those foods for about a year and then reintroduce them on a rotation basis (once every 4 days). If that family of foods didn’t help they would try another… and another. These days thanks to the folks at Alcat Labs (www.alcat.com) the process is much easier. Now with a simple blood test (which may or may not be covered by your insurance) you can find out exactly which foods you are reacting to and to what extent (I only reacted severely to 2 foods: cloves (who cares) and coffee-Yikes). 

Excluding these foods from your diet can have a profoundly positive impact on your health, fast. I went from having significant allergy issues, mild diarrhea, poor breath and mild afternoon reflux to having normal bowel activity, nice breath and complete digestive comfort. In addition, I almost never need to use Flonase for allergies any more, while previously I was using it once or twice a week. 

Now of course my problems were relatively mild. Others are suffering with much more severe issues and making excellent progress. For instance, my patient Geri L. just had her ALCAT blood test about 6 weeks ago. Unfortunately she suffers with Psoriatic Arthritis. She discovered several food intolerances and is doing a great job removing the offending foods from her diet. Prior to this her low back pain was so bad that she would get an epidural steroid injection once every 3 months. The good news is she was just in the office yesterday. It has been 3 months since her last injection and she feels very good with only mild to moderate lower back pain and no need or desire for an epidural steroid injection.

Once you take this test and determine that you do indeed have a leaky gut, and are reacting to certain foods; in addition to removing them from your diet, you will want to take certain nutrients to heal your leaky gut. For a list of these nutrients and ideas to follow see my article: Leaky Gut Healing Protocol @www.drneillevin.com.  In most cases you will want to remove wheat from you diet completely for several months reintroducing it slowly while monitoring symptoms.

If you are interested in having the ALCAT blood test to determine your food sensitivities, simply get in touch with my office. We will send you pricing, a blood draw kit and get the ball rolling so that a technician can come to you to do the blood draw. It will take about 10 days to get your results at which time I will review them with you. Don’t worry if you’re not close by. A kit can be sent to you and we can review your results over the phone. Another good idea is to perform a follow up test 8-10 months later so that you can see which foods you can now safely eat and which foods will still cause problems.


Article by: Dr. Neil Levin Chiropractor, Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer – 4/5/12
Dr. Levin practices in East Northport, Long Island, NY.  www.drneillevin.com
He can be reached for questions or comments at:
drneil@drneillevin.com , 631-651-2929