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Autoimmune

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Jenny didn’t have much in the way of bowel symptoms, just bloating after meals and some constipation. She came in to see me because of severe fatigue, brain fog, thinning hair, and a history of infertility, and she wanted advice on what supplements might be helpful for these problems. As soon as I heard her rattle off this list of seemingly unrelated symptoms, however, I suspected an underlying autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases tend to travel in packs, since whatever is stimulating the immune system likely affects multiple organs, and are most common in women. I have lots of patients with autoimmune combinations like Crohn’s and psoriasis, or celiac disease and hypothyroidism. Jenny’s blood work came back showing slightly abnormal thyroid function consistent with an underactive thyroid, which could definitely explain some of her symptoms. So I sent her to my local go-to thyroid expert. He checked some additional labs that…

The placenta could be the surprising reason why so many women get autoimmune diseases – even in women who have never been pregnant. Women are diagnosed with 80% of all autoimmune diseases in the U.S. Humans in hunter-gatherer communities have an average of 8 to 12 children – a stark contrast to today’s U.S. average, which is less than 2 children. During these years of childbearing, the placenta sends signals to the immune system to weaken in order to prevent rejection of the fetus. This constant weakening of immunity could be dangerous for the mother, so it’s hypothesized that other aspects of the female immune system are programmed to ramp up during adulthood to compensate (women actually contain more immunity genes than men, possibly for this very reason). It’s possible that because our bodies have evolved to bear such large numbers of children over hundreds of thousands of years, the…

A new study shows a link between gut bacterial imbalances and life threatening forms of lupus for the first time. Blood and stool samples were analyzed in 61 women with systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) and compared to those of 17 healthy women of matched age and racial backgrounds. Results showed that women with the disease had on average 5 times more Ruminococcus gnavus in the gut. In addition, disease flares (and especially kidney flares) aligned with drastic increases in R gnavus as well as a prevalence of antibodies in the blood that are designed to attach to the bacteria. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases →Takeaway: Scientists who conducted the study believe that in some instances, bacterial imbalance may be a key player in lupus and its flare-ups. They also hypothesize that bacteria leaking from the gut could trigger the immune response that elicits the disease, and that imbalances in the gut microbiome may play a more critical role…

Stress and autoimmune disease are closely linked. An extensive study spanning 30 years and including over 100,000 study subjects found that individuals diagnosed with stress-related disorders were also 30 to 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder (including Crohn’s disease and celiac disease). Researchers also found that those patients diagnosed with PTSD and receiving antidepressant treatment soon after diagnosis were less likely to have subsequent autoimmune diagnoses when compared to those who did not receive treatment. JAMA →Takeaway: While this is an observational study and not one that confers a causal relationship between stress and autoimmunity, researchers state that it does illustrate a clear link between psychological stress and physical inflammation in the body. This study is a reminder that reducing stress is just as important as eating well and exercising. Spending time daily – even just 10 minutes – in meditation, prayer, or yoga has been proven to…

Intermittent fasting (typically defined as going 12 to 18 hours a day without food) positively impacts the gut microbiome and protects against central nervous system (CNS) autoimmunity.  A recent study in mice found that IF increases gut bacteria richness and diversity (resulting in an increase in Lactobacillaceae, Bacteroidaceae, and Prevotellaceae families), and positively alters gut microbiome composition and antioxidative metabolic pathways. When the gut microbiome from IF mice was transferred to mice who were immunized with a multiple sclerosis (MS) model, the MS mice were protected. Cell Metabolism →Takeaway: IF has shown in this study and in others to positively impact the gut microbiome, and therefore, could be a viable everyday practice to help improve microbial balance. Intermittent energy restriction (IEF – eating 500 calories per day 1 to 2 days out of the week) was proven in recent studies to help ameliorate MS in human subjects and may be an avenue to…