7 Steps to Improve Autoimmunity and Eye Health
We are surrounded by pathogens like infectious bacteria, viruses and toxins that threaten our health. In our increasingly globalized community we must assume additional safeguards against these pathogenic invaders. Within us there are special immune cells that are constantly patrolling, prepared to detect and eliminate these immune challenges. Once the immune system finds a threat it initiates the commensurate immune response to overcome the challenge and bring balance back to the body (2).
However, that is only the case when things are working appropriately.
Our immune system can be thrown off balance by an ever-increasing number of influences and environmental factors and this can lead to autoimmunity. A huge piece of our immune defenses reside in the gut microbiome – the tiny microbes that outnumber our bodies cells by trillions and without which we would be defenseless. Our immunity wouldn’t exist without the microbes in our guts. And it doesn’t take a lot to shift this delicate balance from one which supports our immune defenses to one that has an unhealthy overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
The Gut-Immune Alliance
According to research published in 2020 70% of your immune system is found in the gut, and those microbes have a direct impact on the responsiveness of the immune system. When the gut microbiome is healthy, probiotics (friendly bacteria) outnumber the pathogenic bacteria and fungus, which has innumerable benefits for our bodies(3).
The beneficial bacteria break down the food particles in the gut into compounds and supportive nutrients that the body can use. Hydrogen, methane, and other gases are also produced. However, when unhealthy microbes outnumber the beneficial bacteria inflammatory processes begin to have negative impacts on the health of the entire system. This starts with the immune system.
This state of gut dysbiosis can lead to tiny particles of food slipping through the gut barrier into the bloodstream. This is called “leaky gut”. This can trigger an immune overreaction and even more inflammation, potentially becoming an autoimmune condition(4). This can also lead to a suppression of the immune system as it mounts such a huge response to the food particles in the bloodstream that there aren’t any resources left for other pathogens. This opens the door for worse conditions like eye diseases, infections and even cancer.
The gut microbiome was created by our ancestors to address a barrage of normal assaults on a regular basis. Today, however, these normal assaults have become overwhelming and they are pointing to increasingly common health challenges like diabetes, alzheimer’s, eye diseases and cancer. If you understand how the new threats effect the delicate balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut you can adopt therapeutic and supportive strategies to benefit your health and immunity long-term.
7 Ways to Support your Gut Microbiome and Your Immune System
Many seemingly innocuous factors can overlap to create an opening for gut dysbiosis to take hold. Once this balance is altered it can require effort to rebalance leaving you vulnerable to infections in the meantime. In my practice we work very hard to help our clients assume the lifestyle changes and habits that support microbial health, so that major interventions aren’t necessary.
1. Restful Sleep. The body rebuilds when we sleep, get acupuncture, do meditation, yoga, etc. Without it we can lose the ability to replenish ourselves and can tip into an inflammatory state that reduces immune resilience (14-16).
2. Vigorous Exercise. Breaking a sweat everyday can help release toxins and pathogens via the skin. Too much sitting and the subsequent lack of blood flow to the entire body can contribute to increased populations of harmful bacteria (13).
3. Avoiding Environmental Toxins. Heavy metals in deodorants, chemical laden cleaning products, perfumes can all harm the microorganisms in our gut. Avoid breathing or exposure to chemical pollutants as much as possible (13).
4. Maintain a Stress Free Life. Stress and anxiety can contribute to gut dysbiosis, which leads to inflammation and emotional stress initiating a destructive cycle (11).
5. Eat Whole Foods. White foods like sugar, wheat, dairy, as well as trans fats in processed foods encourage pathogenic overgrowth in the gut (9).
6. Eat Organic. Pesticides, Roundup in our wheat, herbicides all destroy the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Eat as much organically as possible (8).
7. Avoid Anti-depressants, Antibiotics. Proton-pump inhibitors, and Beta-Blockers. These drugs are all shown to alter the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, even after a single dose (6).
Focus on adopting these principles to support your gut microbiome and your immune health. My advice is to pick one area and focus on it and then move on once you have attained success.
How the Imbalance in the Gut Can Lead to Immune Dysfunction and What To Do About It
An unhealthy balance of good bacteria and pathogenic bacteria can harm the immune system in many ways. The pathogenic bacteria create toxins which erode the integrity of the gut barrier. This can lead to “Leaky Gut.”
The pathogenic bacteria also prevent the beneficial bacteria from doing their job and supporting the body by:
1. Disabling the proper breakdown of food particles into essential nutrients (18)
2. Reduce the creation of B Vitamins and Vitamin K (19)
3. Inhibit the production of Short-Chain-Fatty-Acids which support immune function (20)
4. Over-producing inflammatory compounds (21)
5. Inhibit the body’s ability to protect itself from an overgrowth of pathogens and fungi (22)
6. Degrade the gut barrier and the strength of the lining in the large intestine (23)
By rebalancing the flora in the gut and allowing beneficial bacteria to thrive you can help your immune system revert to its naturally vibrant and resilient state. You will also experience a multitude of health benefits including increased vitality and potentially increased longevity.
Your Path to Reversing Autoimmunity
Let’s recap the most important and beneficial aspects of gut repair.
1. Exercise – movement will help open the pores and flood the body with endorphins. So you will feel good as the body releases toxins via the skin. This helps improve healthy bacterial populations and speeds the recovery from pathogens. (27)
2. Herbs to support the Gut – constantly supporting beneficial bacteria and removing the non-beneficial bacteria ensures that the gut will remain strong and the immune system primed for any pathogens that invade the body(24)
3. Detoxification – once the non-beneficial bacteria have been eradicated binding the toxins for removal is key. In my office we use a binder made of clay that has no heavy metals and doesn’t disrupt the digestive system. It binds to the toxins and leads them out of the system via elimination.
4. Prebiotics – feeding the beneficial bacteria with foods like artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks and onions helps ensure that the gut has the support it needs to produce beneficial compounds, nutrients and short-chain-fatty-acids. (25)
5. Diet – eating whole grains and unprocessed foods helps scour the non-beneficial bacteria from the internal intestinal tract, provides essential nutrients to the beneficial bacteria in the gut and prebiotic fiber to keep the system in a healthy state(26)
A healthy gut and a fully-functioning immune system provide you with a foundation for long-term health and vitality. This in turn protects your eyes and the entire body from chronic disease and infections. If you would like help implementing these changes for long-term health please feel free to contact our office.
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