Autoimmune conditions are on the rise. Autoimmunity can affect any part of the body, from the skin to the thyroid, the gut to the connective tissue. But one aspect that is overlooked is the role that the gut plays in immunity.
An unhappy gut can lead to autoimmune disease, but a happy gut can support a happy immune system.
Can Gut Health Affect Autoimmunity?
The link between the gut and immunity is undeniable. A massive part of the immune system is located in the gut – around 70-80%, in fact. There are many immune cells that are located in the middle layer of the gut. So if you don’t look after your gut, you are going to experience immune problems.
Poor gut health can increase inflammation within the gut and throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger autoimmunity, especially if there is already a family tendency. But looking after the gut can slow down the autoimmune process, and may even reverse symptoms.
Nutrition as a trigger
Autoimmunity is not inevitable. You might have a family history of autoimmune conditions that increases your risk. But generally, autoimmune conditions are triggered by lifestyle factors. And one of the most common triggers is the food that you eat.
For example, you might have inherited genes that make you more vulnerable to poor absorption or leaky gut. But if you then eat a lot of sugar, gluten, dairy, and other foods that can cause inflammation and gut bacteria imbalances, you can tip yourself into an autoimmune condition.
On the other hand, nutrition can also be one of your most powerful weapons against autoimmune disease. If you focus on foods that calm inflammation, repair the gut lining, balance bacteria, and are nutrient-dense, you are less likely to develop autoimmunity. And if you already have autoimmunity, you can reduce your flares and severity of symptoms.
How to support autoimmune conditions naturally
Every autoimmune condition has different needs in terms of nutrition and lifestyle. But to get you started, here are three simple ways to support your body when you have autoimmunity.
Cut the junk
Foods that contain sugar, gluten, and dairy can all induce inflammation in an autoimmune situation. To start with, you want to avoid anything that causes inflammation in the body. Don’t worry – you can work on reintroducing them down the track if you tolerate them.
Focus on wholefoods
Although the specific foods can vary, a wholefood diet is always the best choice for supporting the gut and immune system. The closer to nature, the better. Fruit, vegetables, good fats, and proteins should make up the majority of the food you eat.
For extra support, make sure you’re getting a variety of fresh produce. The more colours that you consume, the greater the variety of antioxidants you’re eating. Antioxidants are fantastic at reducing inflammation and supporting a healthy immune response.
Your mental and emotional health is just as important as your nutrition. Stress can increase inflammation, damage the gut flora, and trigger the gut-brain axis.
But stress also plays a role in your nutrition as well. Think about it – when you were about to take a test or go to an interview, how did your tummy feel? Most people experience digestive symptoms of some kind.
When we’re under stress, the nervous system doesn’t want to waste time on digesting food. Instead, it wants to run away. So when you are stressed out, you won’t absorb as much nutrition from the food you eat. Even if your diet is good, you can still become deficient in nutrients – and that’s bad news when it comes to autoimmunity.
Disclaimer: This blog post is an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.
image: Glamour Magazine UK