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Are Autoimmune Diseases, Food Sensitivities and Leaky Gut All Related?
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC,DACBN,DCBCN

Patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), or Sjogren's disease, are typically given protocol-driven treatments with limited success because an acute care model is given to a chronic problem while the underlying causes are never investigated.

The problem with this is everyone has their own unique biochemical individuality. This is a common problem with almost all autoimmune diseases. There is endless research on intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). The gastrointestinal tract is 80% of our immune system. When inflammation is present, the tight junctions and intestinal mucosa can become damaged, causing gaps or "pores" in the lining of intestinal mucosa. Toxic byproducts in the digestive tract are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. The molecules of food and toxins are "leaked" through the GI lining and then eventually affect systems throughout the body, causing inflammation in our joints and expressing toxins in autoimmune conditions and food sensitivities.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often have an association between food intake and rheumatoid disease severity. In 2008, in looking at this immunological link between gut immunity and RA, food IgG, IgA, and IgM antibodies were measured. These food antibodies are indicators that the body is sensitive or allergic to specific foods. In the intestinal fluid of many RA patients, all three immunoglobulin indicators showed increased food-specific activities, meaning they had food sensitivities or food allergies.

There are some tests to consider if you have an autoimmune disease, as great strides have been made in regards to what labs can test for today. There are labs that assess food sensitivities, which is different than the typical IgE RAST test that you would get from a traditional allergist. There is also a lab that can test for intestinal permeability to see if you have leaky gut. In addition, a comprehensive digestive stool analysis is essential to determine the intestinal environment and what can be taken to heal the gut. It is also very important to check vitamin D levels (low D levels are associated with autoimmune disease) and to test for gluten sensitivities and crossreactive foods as they play a large role in inflammatory and autoimmune processes.

You will need to find a doctor who can run these lab tests. They are not standard lab tests and not all physicians are aware of them or understand them.

Andrographis paniculata
Once these underlying areas of your health are explored, nutritional and lifestyle support would be used to address any dysfunctions, deficiencies, toxicities, etc. For symptomatic relief, Andrographis paniculata may be considered. This plant has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and in studies has been shown to support a healthy immune response in patients with autoimmune conditions. In a randomized, double blind, and placebocontrolled study published in Clinical Rheumatology(2009), 60 patients with rheumatoid arthritis were given 100 mg of Andrographis paniculata or placebo three times a day for 14 weeks. It was found to be effective in reducing the number of swollen joints, total grade of swollen joint, and total grade of tender joints. Andrographis paniculata helped normalize blood tests that indicated rheumatoid arthritis, such as rheumatoid factor, hemoglobin, and immune cells immunoglobin IgA and IgM. The reduction in IgA and IgM is significant because higher scores indicate cartilage damage.

In another clinical trial published in 2013, eight patients with various rheumatoid conditions were given 300 mg of Andrographis paniculata daily for three-and-a-half years. Treatment showed significant improvement in number of swollen joints, total grade of swollen joint, total grade of tender joints, and improvement in quality of life. In addition, taking Andrographis paniculata resulted in significant reductions in lab tests, including rheumatoid factor, erythrocytes sedimentation rate, pain, and C-reactive protein (indicating a reduction in inflammation).

ImmunoMod-A, from Designs for Health, is non-GMO and has been formulated to help balance a healthy inflammatory response, which is necessary in order to help maintain optimal immune function in the body. It features ParActin®, an extract of the herb Andrographis paniculata, which, as described above, has been shown to modulate immune, inflammatory and oxidative pathways. This product also contains the monosaccharide n-acetyl glucosamine along with curcumin, a polyphenolic compound extract from the spice turmeric. Both of these compounds help to support a healthy inflammatory response.

References:
European Journal of Inflammation. Vol. 6, no. 2, (2008).
Innovative Rheumatology, January 2013 247-270 Clin Rheumatol. (2009), 28(8), 931-46.
Immunomodulatory activities induced by Andrographis paniculata. Studium Press LLC; (2009)


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