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Autoimmune conditions: What you really need to know!

Updated: Feb 29

If you have been following my blog for a while you will know that my inspiration for researching and writing a blog comes from common queries from clients or from the blog requests.

Over the last few months I have seen an increase in clients who have tried conventional treatment with Autoimmune conditions to no avail and have come and seen me (probably initially more as a last resort) when steroids and other medications haven't changed their situation.

I wanted to put together some information that I think is vital to understand around foods and lifestyle in relation to Autoimmune conditions. I have to say that the results I've seen speak for themselves but it is not an overnight fix.

Did you know there are over 100 Autoimmune diseases and they classified by this definition:

"One of the functions of the immune system is to protect the body by responding to invading microorganisms, such as viruses or bacteria, by producing antibodies or sensitized lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). Under normal conditions, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one's own body. In some cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases"(1).

Hippocrates, is famed for the saying, “All disease begins in the gut.”

Several thousand articles and studies now exist discussing our increasing understanding of immunity, gut function and how our modern way of eating and lifestyle negatively contribute to overall health by damaging our digestive system. This is referred to as Leaky gut syndrome or “Intestinal hyperpermeability.” (2)

(I just want to note that this topic is huge and I am giving a very condensed version of a lot of information so am not going to go hugely into the scientific breakdown but rather focus on some basic points that should be understood and then a practical aspect of healing the gut).

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Did you know that the lining of your intestines is only one cell thick in many places but its surface area is the size of a tennis court!!! (3)

This single layer of specialized epithelial cells are linked together by tight junction proteins. Its a huge job for a single line of cells to protect this huge border as well as absorb minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids and sugars. You are an incredible creation!!!

Frontiers of Immunology report describe Leaky gut as "The intestinal epithelial lining, together with factors secreted from it, forms a barrier that separates the host from the environment.

In pathological conditions, the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream creating a ‘leaky gut.’" (2)

In simple terms, a leaky gut means certain proteins, bacteria and lipopolysaccharides that should NEVER be able to enter your bloodstream can sneak through the loose tight cell junctions. This triggers antimicrobial molecules, immunoglobulins and cytokine activities which creates a major problem, as the majority of your immune system is found inside the gut.

The result? Acute inflammation that leads to chronic inflammation if left unchecked, which can result in autoimmune reactions. A normal part of your immune response that is designed to fight infections and diseases winds up over-performing, leading to chronic inflammation, which is at the root cause of most illness/diseases (3)

So what causes the gut lining to become weakened so that the proteins, bacteria and lipopolysaccharides (LPS) can get through into the bloodstream?

The main disruptor's are:

1. Broad spectrum anti-biotics.

While necessary in certain cases, their over prescription in modern times is concerning. If you find yourself or your kids at the doctor for colds, UTIs, repeat sore throats I highly encourage you to look into some natural options to have on hand at home so you can get on top of the initial symptoms.

Your gut microbiome should be like a mature rainforest - a wonderfully complex ecosystem where one species depends on several others for survival. Just like Agent Orange can't target one species of plant in the rainforest neither can a broad spectrum anti-biotic target one bacteria.

It essentially carpet bombs your microbiome - the good and bad bacteria. It can take 2-4 years to regrow your microbiome after a round of antibiotics (4).

Another point to note is that its not just antibiotics from a doctors prescription that you need to watch. If you are eating meat you need to be aware that all caged animals and most free-ranged animals are given antibiotics that are still present in the meat when its brought.

Remember it is quality over quantity when it comes to meat. Home-kill or organic free range meat from reliable sources is the option.

2. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)

Reaching for the ibuprofen or similar regularly for period pain, headaches or a teething baby. Its time to think again! Yes these medicines can be used as a crutch at times but they are not ideal for frequent use.

According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "All the conventional NSAIDs studied were equally associated with small intestinal inflammation apart from aspirin and nabumetone which seem to spare the small bowel." Another study concluded, "NSAIDs are thus shown to disrupt intestinal integrity and long-term treatment leads to inflammation of the small intestine." (5)

3. Endocrine Disruptors

Low dose estrogen-like substances are diverse groups but encompass chemicals found in standard cosmetics, sunscreens, cleaning products, plastics, preservatives etc and can disrupt our hormones which can lead to numerous health problems. They are tricky because we can absorb these disruptor's though our skin, breathe them in or they can be absorbed though a compromised gut lining.

If you haven't switched to natural alternatives for cleaning, sunscreen and body products I really encourage you to take that leap now. There so many great companies out there whose products are affordable and a whole better for the environment and your health. If you need some suggestions in this area feel free to contact me.

4. Herbicides and Pesticides

These powerful poisons make it easy to grow crops without labour intensive practices.

However if you are trying to eat more fruit and vegetables to 'be healthy' and just buying them off the supermarket shelves you will be taking in a host of chemicals that do your hormones and gut no good. To get around this seek out your local farmers market, join a co-op that purchases certified organic foods or just grow your own!

There are a few tips and tricks to reduce your exposure to herbicides and pesticides see this BLOG for more details.

5. Artificial Sweeteners

Trying to trick the body is never a good idea - products like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose can all alter the gut microbiome supporting the growth of bacteria that doesn't do us any good.

If you want something sweet take it from a natural source like raw honey, 100% pure maple syrup or a date. The body recognizes what this is and can deal with the sugar accordingly.

OK now to the practical element. If you are suffering from chronic inflammation, ongoing digestive discomfort or an autoimmune condition, firstly consult a holistic health practitioner or medical practitioner. Your unique body and situation needs to be assessed thoroughly. Specific blood tests need to be done and often practitioner grade supplements need to be included with the following advice for the best result.

Here is some dietary advice that has worked wonders for a number of my clients that have come in for conditions such as Psoriasis, Crohns, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Celiac. Please note there are specific foods that may need to be avoided or eliminated these are typically processed foods, vegetables oils, sugars, gluten and dairy foods.

WIthout an individual's full case notes and testing I feel for the purposes of this blog it is best to focus on what foods and lifestyle options to include more of

Increase these Nutrient Dense Foods

Leafy Greens – Romaine, red & green leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, mesclun, spinach, endive, butter lettuce, parsley, fennel, and seaweed/sea vegetables. They are high in nutrients and incredible for your health. Drizzle olive, hemp or avocado oil on them and serve with options below.

Cooked tubers – Purple sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, and taro root are a great source of vitamins and minerals. That’s because their roots have strong absorption abilities and draw water and minerals from the soil for nourishment.also, They’re also high in resistant starch that feeds your good gut bacteria.

Cruciferous & other great vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts, asparagus, garlic, leek, celery, mushrooms, and onion. They are full of fiber and polyphenols and prebiotics for the good bacteria (probiotics)

Avocado – Avocado is a fruit, but it’s essentially sugar-free and full of good fat and soluble fiber – key when trying to reduce inflammation and absorb antioxidants.

Bone broth - Amino acids present within bone broth are very helpful for digestion and healing the gut lining. A 2017 study in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care notes, glutamine supplementation helps heal the intestinal barrier in human and animal models.This may help with conditions such as leaky gut, which irritates the mucosal lining in the intestines and interferes with the body's ability to digest food (6). People with inflammatory bowel disease tend to have lower levels of some amino acids in their bodies. For these people, getting additional amino acids into their diets may help with some symptoms of the condition. Drinking bone broth daily is a simple way to get anti-inflammatory amino acids into the body.

Olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Olive oil is filled with essential vitamins and minerals containing vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Furthermore, olive oil contains polyphenols and fatty acids. It’s an all-around superfood.

Olive oil can contribute to the reduction of inflammatory activity in those suffering from autoimmune disorders. And, it’s an incredible source of polyphenols, especially oleuropein – a.k.a. the longevity polyphenol. The Mediterranean cultures have got it right with copious olive oil on everything!!

Stay Hydrated with Water and Herbal Tea

Make it a goal to consume at least 2 liters of filtered water and other fluids each day to support gut repair. Adequate hydration aids in the elimination of toxins and waste while promoting healthy peristalsis. Hydration is crucial for maintaining the health of the gut lining and intestinal mucosa. Consider replacing soft drinks and caffeinated beverages with herbal teas or water infused with lemon or mint leaves for added benefits.

Stay Active Every Day

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine offers a multitude of benefits. It enhances mood, supports the cardiovascular system, bolsters the immune system, and boosts energy levels. Moreover, exercise stimulates gut function and promotes healthy motility. Research indicates that it can also positively impact gut microbiota (7).

Reduce Stress and Embrace Relaxation

Stress is often linked to inflammation and can heighten gut permeability. Prolonged periods of stress can adversely affect gut flora (8)

While it may seem challenging to achieve, prioritizing stress management is vital for maintaining optimal gut health.

Start with simple practices, such as elevating your legs against a wall and breath slowly in and out through the nose for a minute or two in the evening. Additionally, consider incorporating activities like nature walks, breathing exercises that focus on increasing the length of exhale, or restorative yoga sessions to alleviate stress and promote relaxation

If you have any questions about what has been shared in this blog please feel free to leave a question or contact me directly if you would like to create a game plan to support your personal health goals.


1. American Autoimmune Disease List. (2018) [Accessed 22/05/2023]

2. Frontiers of Immunology. 2017. Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases [Accessed 22/05/2023]

3. Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. 2016. About the Small and Large Intestines. [Accessed 22/05/2023]

4. Blaser, M.J. 2014. Missing Microbes. How the overuse of Antibiotics in Fuelling our Modern Plagues. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company

5. Bjarnason I, et al Effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the human small intestine. Drugs. 1986;32 Suppl 1:35-41. doi: 10.2165/00003495-198600321-00007. PMID: 3780475. [Accessed 22/05/2023]

6. Achamrah N, Déchelotte P, Coëffier M. (2017) Glutamine and the regulation of intestinal permeability: from bench to bedside. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. DOI: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000339. PMID: 27749689. [Accessed 22/05/2023]

7. Dalton, A., C. Mermier, and M. Zuhl. (2019) Exercise influence on the microbiome-gut-brain axis. Gut Microbes 10 (5):555–68. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2018.1562268 [Accessed 26/05/2023]

8. Aleman RS, Moncada M, & Aryana KJ. (2023) Leaky Gut and the Ingredients That Help Treat It: A Review. Molecules. [Accessed 26/05/2023]

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