Autoimmune Disease and the Gut

As we continue to grow in depth of knowledge about gut health, let’s further our investigation about the immune system as it relates to autoimmune disease. 

We should begin with the definition of autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is when the body seemingly spontaneously recognizes the native cells of the body as foreign invaders. Because of this false alarm, the immune system produces antibodies that inappropriately attack cells of the body. Entire systems of the body are made up of similar cells, so the antibodies typically end up attacking the entire system. Examples of systems that are most commonly targeted by autoimmune diseases include glands (such as thyroid/pancreas/adrenal), nerves, joints, muscles, connective tissues, GI, and even the heart or brain. autoimmune disease

Autoimmune diseases can affect anyone; however, certain people are at higher risk. Let’s look into some examples.

Women of childbearing age

More women than men have autoimmune diseases and they often start during childbearing years. pregnant mom with autoimmune disease

People with a family history of autoimmune diseases

Inheriting certain genes make it more likely to develop an autoimmune disease. It may be a combination of factors that trigger the disease to develop.  Reumatoid Arthritis

People who live or work around environmental risk factors such as sunlight, solvents, or some types of infectious viruses and/or bacterium

This factor closely relates to the gene expression seen above.  

People of certain races or ethnic backgrounds

For example, Lupus is more severe for African-American and Hispanic people, while type 1 diabetes is more common in white people. 

As science and technology advance, research continues to affirm the connection between the gut, gut bacteria, and the immune system. One recent study in mice found evidence that certain gut microbes can trigger autoimmune disease in mice that are prone to those a particular disease. The same microbes have been found in liver biopsies of individuals with autoimmune diseases but not in biopsies of individuals with healthy liver transplants. 


Written by Lorilyn Van Dyke