Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease: How Are They Linked?

Man preparing home food to illustrate managing gut health and autoimmune disease integratively
Medically Reviewed
January 29, 2024

You’ve probably noticed the rise in gut health topics in the media. Research continues to improve understanding of how your gut affects your overall wellbeing. One important aspect of this understanding is the intricate relationship between gut health and autoimmune disease.

So – in this post we’ll explore

  • the importance of gut health,
  • the connection between your gut health and autoimmune diseases,
  • how impaired gut health can trigger or worsen autoimmune diseases, and
  • how you can improve both your gut health and autoimmune conditions with functional nutrition and an integrative approach to your health.

Understanding Gut Health: The Microbiome’s Role

Your gut is not just responsible for digesting food; it’s also home to trillions of microorganisms that make up your gut microbiome. This complex ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes plays a crucial role in maintaining your overall health via:

  • digestion and nutrient absorption
  • vitamin and hormone production
  • metabolism, appetite, and detoxification
  • infection protection and immune modulation
  • influencing mood and brain function

To achieve optimal gut health, your gut microbiome needs to be diverse and balanced so your digestive system can function smoothly and efficiently.

However, when your gut health is less than optimal, you give autoimmune diseases a foothold in your body. Let’s look at how that happens.

The Link Between Gut Microbiome and Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions that occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own tissues and organs, causing inflammation and damage.

Scientists don’t fully understand the exact causes of autoimmune diseases, but a variety of factors is likely to influence the development of these conditions. For example:

  • genetics
  • hormonal changes
  • age
  • exposure to infections, toxins, or stress
  • diet and nutrition

You can see how all the above factors have some connection to your gut health. And your gut health is deeply connected to your immune system.

For example, imagine your gut lining as a barrier that separates your digestive tract from your bloodstream. This barrier is crucial in defending your body against illness. When your gut health is sub-par, your gut lining is weakened and undigested food particles or germs can slip into your bloodstream. This leads to inflammation and harmful immune responses.

Here are a few of those autoimmune diseases in more detail, noting the connection to your gut health.

Common Gut-Related Autoimmune Conditions

The most common autoimmune and gut-related conditions are:

  1. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  3. Celiac disease
  4. Autoimmune gastritis
  5. Microscopic colitis

Accurate diagnosis of these conditions often involves comprehensive evaluations – including a blood test for autoimmune diseases – to understand the extent of immune system involvement in the condition and its symptoms.

1 Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD is a group of chronic inflammatory conditions that affect your digestive tract, such as:

  • Crohn’s disease, which can affect any part of the digestive tract but most commonly affects the ileum and the colon.
  • Ulcerative colitis, which only affects the colon and the rectum and causes inflammation and ulcers in your colon’s inner lining.

Traditional treatment for IBD focuses on medications that suppress the immune system or reduce inflammation. But, as we shall see, healthy nutrition can play a part in relieving some of the symptoms.

2 Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS affects your colon and causes chronic or recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between both.

Is IBS an autoimmune disease? While IBS is not strictly an autoimmune condition, it can be influenced by gut health and immune function. It’s not a life-threatening condition, but it can have a significant impact on your quality of life.

Doctors usually treat IBS with medications that control bowel movements or reduce pain. Again, there are dietary adjustments you can take under the guidance of a Clinical Nutritionist.

3 Celiac Disease

Celiac disease affects your small intestine and causes inflammation and damage to its lining. The ingestion of gluten triggers it, and this can cause an immune reaction in celiacs.

There is no cure for celiac disease, but you can manage it successfully with a strict and lifelong gluten-free diet to heal the inflammation and the damage to your small intestine. For example, by

  • avoiding all foods containing gluten,
  • avoiding cross-contamination, and
  • supplementing any nutritional deficiencies.

4 Autoimmune Gastritis

Autoimmune gastritis affects your stomach and causes inflammation and damage to the parietal cells. These are the cells that produce stomach acid and intrinsic factors – intrinsic factor is a protein necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12 in your small intestine. Doctors usually treat autoimmune gastritis with medications to reduce inflammation or increase your stomach’s acid production.

5 Microscopic Colitis

Microscopic Colitis is a condition where inflammation occurs in the colon but is not visible through standard colonoscopy. It’s diagnosed microscopically when laboratories examine tissue samples from your colon.

The conventional treatment of microscopic colitis typically involves medications that reduce inflammation or control the symptoms of diarrhea.

An Integrative Approach to Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease

Traditional treatments for gut-related autoimmune conditions focus on symptom relief and inflammation reduction. However, they often overlook the root causes and can have significant side effects.

At Nava Health, we integrate diagnostic testing and functional nutrition into your integrative treatment plan because our experience proves this can be transformative for your health.

The Nava Method manages symptoms and addresses underlying causes, improving your gut health and immune balance. We customize the approach for each person.

Elements of our approach to gut health and autoimmune disease include:

  • Avoiding the worst foods for autoimmune disease, which often contain gluten, dairy, and processed sugars.
  • Rebalancing your gut microbiome with healthy nutrition, including probiotics.
  • Reducing stress because stress affects your hormone balance and therefore your gut.
  • Cutting-edge gut health assessments that allow for personalized strategies.

We’ll look at two of these diagnostic tests now.

Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease: Advanced Testing for Gut Health

GI-MAP offers a comprehensive look at your gut microbiome. By analyzing the organisms present in your gut, the GI-MAP provides detailed insights into your gut environment, including:

  • microbial imbalances
  • inflammation markers
  • digestive function
  • immune response

Metabolomix: Comprehensive Nutritional Assessment for Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease Problems

Metabolomix evaluates your gut health through advanced biochemical and nutritional tests, including urine and bloodspot testing. It identifies key biomarkers to detect nutrient imbalances or deficiencies – essential for diagnosing various health conditions.

Nava Health Addresses Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease

The relationship between gut health and autoimmune disease underscores the importance of an integrative, whole-body approach to treatment. At Nava Health, we’re proud to help improve your gut health and address autoimmune conditions through our integrative approaches and advanced testing. Call us today and let’s talk!

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A Medical Director, and one of the first physicians to join the Nava Health & Vitality Center, Dr. Douglas Lord has made significant contributions to our Center and its founding principles. Dr. Lord has helped develop and implement the Nava Method™—Nava’s proprietary approach to total body wellness. He has also been instrumental in liaising with other expert practitioners to successfully implement Nava’s range of therapies, treatments, and products.

Article Name
Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease: How Are They Linked?
Learn how to improve your gut health and autoimmune disease by understanding the link to functional nutrition and integrative medicine.