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Lupus – Could a Leaky Gut be the Cause?

ESTIMATED READING TIME 5 MINUTES

Lupus affects over 50,000 people in the UK today, 90% of them women. The disease is caused by a fault in the immune system. Rather than attacking invaders, it turns on your tissues and organs, causing damage and inflammation. This is why lupus is classed as an autoimmune disease.

But you’re probably wondering what causes this malfunction in your immune system? The answer is often found in the gut. In this article you’ll discover the close link between lupus and leaky gut.

What are the Symptoms of Lupus?

Lupus can affect various organs including your liver, kidneys, joints, skin or heart. Unlike most autoimmune diseases which attack a single organ, lupus can strike more than one at the same time. This means its symptoms can be very wide-ranging, and it often takes a long time for a diagnosis.

The most commonly encountered signs of lupus include fatigue, joint pain and stiffness, facial rash, headaches, shortness of breath, kidney problems and hair loss.

What Causes Immune Dysfunction?

The immune system doesn’t suddenly decide one day to crash. Many different factors play a role, but one major influence on your immune health is your gut. Scientists have noticed a leaky gut is closely linked with autoimmune diseases, and lupus is no exception.

The lining of your intestines must be permeable to let nutrients through. However, it should be impervious to toxins and any other substances likely to cause damage if they enter your bloodstream. Minute holes called tight junctions sit along the gut lining to perform this gatekeeping role. However, if the lining becomes inflamed, these gaps can become too wide and your gut will become leaky.

Once this happens, particles that should never be allowed access to your bloodstream can make their way there. They include environmental toxins, bacteria originating from the gut and from outside, and incompletely digested particles of foods. These are unfamiliar to the immune cells patrolling around in your bloodstream, so they’re put on red alert. The result is a massive increase in inflammation. This continual activation of the immune system in this way can make it malfunction and mistakenly attack healthy tissues, thinking they are invaders.

The population of bacteria living in your gut, called your microbiome, has the job of nourishing your digestive lining and keeping it healthy. If this ecosystem becomes unbalanced, certain disease-producing strains of bacteria can damage your gut lining, meaning it becomes inflamed and permeable 1 .

In fact, researchers noticed lupus patients had different dominant strains of bacteria in their microbiome compared to healthy people 2. They also had antibodies to these bacteria in their blood. Tellingly, levels of one specific strain of bacteria increased during lupus flare-ups.

Leaky gut, microbiome dysbiosis and immune system dysfunction can all worsen one another in a vicious cycle.

Other Causes of Leaky Gut

leaky gut and lupus

Gluten, the protein in wheat and some other grains like rye and barley, triggers the release of a substance in your intestines called zonulin. This tells the tight junctions in your gut lining to open up and become wider.

Many food additives found in processed food, like some emulsifiers, food-grade organic solvents, and microbial transglutaminase (a kind of protein binder) also increase the size of tight junctions 3. Meanwhile, some medications including aspirin and NSAIDs can damage the intestinal lining, causing inflammation. Alcohol is yet another culprit.

Leaky gut is also connected with food intolerances. Because of this, many people with lupus can’t tolerate certain foods. 

Help for Lupus with Functional Medicine

As you can see from the above, an autoimmune disease like lupus is not simply down to your immune system being too active. Instead, it’s become less selective than it should be and is reacting to the wrong stimuli. Therefore, suppressing the activity of your immune system using drugs won’t fix the cause of the problem, it will simply mask the symptoms.

Functional medicine practitioners prefer to support the immune system so it no longer reacts inappropriately to perfectly harmless parts of your body. By looking closely at your health history, lifestyle, genetics, nutritional status and diet, we’ll discover what exactly is causing your immune system to malfunction. Only when the root causes are determined can they be put right.

Healing the gut will be a first step. However, other factors may need to be addressed like nutritional deficiencies, excess stress, toxins, infections or hormonal imbalances.

We will work with your body to reverse lupus and achieve lasting health results. Contact us today and start your journey to a healthier future.

References

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Do you need personalised support for Lupus or Leaky Gut? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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