Natural Medicine Causes & Treatment of Autoimmune Disease

Natural Medicine Causes Treatment of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases result from the failure of an organism to recognise its own constituent parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells & tissues.

 The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen & attacks it. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells.

Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances & tissues normally present in the body.

The treatment of autoimmune diseases is typically with immunesuppression, most often steroids. The most well known autoimmune diseases are asthma, eczema, hay fever, Chron's Disease and ulcerative colitis, Coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves' disease, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, lupus eryhtramatosis, vasculitis, vitiligo, raynaud phenomenon, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis. From a naturopathic perspective the causes of autoimmune disease are modern living. Herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation, dietary and lifestyle advice can help retrain your immune system so it learns not to overreact and attack itself.

Full List of Autoimmune and Autoimmune-Related Diseases

  • Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)
  • Acute necrotizing hemorrhagic leukoencephalitis
  • Addison's disease
  • Agammaglobulinemia
  • Allergic asthma
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Alopecia areata
  • Amyloidosis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Anti-GBM/Anti-TBM nephritis
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)
  • Autoimmune angioedema Autoimmune aplastic anemia
  • Autoimmune dysautonomia
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Autoimmune hyperlipidemia
  • Autoimmune immunodeficiency
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED)
  • Autoimmune myocarditis
  • Autoimmune pancreatitis
  • Autoimmune retinopathy
  • Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (ATP)
  • Autoimmune thyroid disease
  • Autoimmune urticaria
  • Axonal & neuronal neuropathies
  • Balo disease
  • Behcet’s disease
  • Bullous pemphigoid
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Castleman disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Chagas disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome*
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
  • Chronic recurrent multifocal ostomyelitis (CRMO)
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Cicatricial pemphigoid/benign mucosal pemphigoid
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cogans syndrome
  • Cold agglutinin disease
  • Congenital heart block
  • Coxsackie myocarditis
  • CREST disease
  • Essential mixed cryoglobulinemia
  • Demyelinating neuropathies
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Devic's disease (neuromyelitis optica)
  • Discoid lupus Dressler’s syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Eosinophilic fasciitis
  • Erythema nodosum
  • Experimental allergic encephalomyelitis
  • Evans syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia*
  • Fibrosing alveolitis
  • Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis)
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Goodpasture’s syndrome
  • Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) see Wegener's Graves' disease
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Hashimoto's encephalitis
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Hemolytic anaemia
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura
  • Herpes gestationis
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
  • IgA nephropathy
  • IgG4-related sclerosing disease
  • Immunoregulatory lipoproteins
  • Inclusion body myositis
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes (type1)
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Juvenile arthritis
  • Juvenile diabetes
  • Kawasaki syndrome
  • Lambert-Eaton syndrome
  • Leukocytoclastic vasculitis
  • Lichen planus
  • Lichen sclerosus
  • Ligneous conjunctivitis
  • Linear IgA disease (LAD)
  • Lupus (SLE)
  • Lyme disease
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Microscopic polyangiitis
  • Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)
  • Mooren’s ulcer Mucha-Habermann disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Myositis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Neuromyelitis optica (Devic's)
  • Neutropenia
  • Ocular cicatricial pemphigoid
  • Optic neuritis
  • Palindromic rheumatism
  • PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus)
  • Paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
  • Parry Romberg syndrome
  • Parsonnage-Turner syndrome
  • Pars planitis (peripheral uveitis)
  • Pemphigus Peripheral neuropathy
  • Perivenous encephalomyelitis
  • Pernicious anemia
  • POEMS syndrome
  • Polyarteritis nodosa Type I, II, & III autoimmune polyglandular syndromes
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Polymyositis
  • Postmyocardial infarction syndrome
  • Postpericardiotomy syndrome
  • Progesterone dermatitis
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Pure red cell aplasia
  • Raynauds phenomenon
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Reiter’s syndrome
  • Relapsing polychondritis
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Retroperitoneal fibrosis
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Schmidt syndrome
  • Scleritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Sperm & testicular autoimmunity
  • Stiff person syndrome
  • Subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE)
  • Susac's syndrome
  • Sympathetic ophthalmia
  • Takayasu’s arteritis
  • Temporal arteritis/Giant cell arteritis
  • Thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
  • Tolosa-Hunt syndrome
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD)
  • Uveitis
  • Vasculitis
  • Vesiculobullous dermatosis
  • Vitiligo
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis (now termed Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA)

*NOTE Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue are listed, not because they are autoimmune, but because many persons who suffer from them have associated autoimmune disease(s)

Low-level autoimmunity is healthy

While a high level of autoimmunity is unhealthy, a low level of autoimmunity is beneficial. Firstly, low-level autoimmunity aids in the recognition of neoplastic (cancer) cells by CD8+ T cells, and therefore reduces the incidence of cancer. Secondly, autoimmunity has a role in allowing a rapid immune response in the early stages of an infection when the availability of foreign antigens limits the response (i.e., when there are few pathogens present).

Genetic Factors

Certain individuals are genetically susceptible to developing autoimmune diseases. Genetically-predisposed individuals do not always develop autoimmune diseases however. Three main sets of genes are suspected in many autoimmune diseases.

These genes are related to:

  • Immunoglobulins
  • T-cell receptors
  • The major histocompatibility complexes (MHC)

Female Sex

Nearly 75% of people who suffer from autoimmune disease are women, although it is less-frequently acknowledged that millions of men also suffer from these diseases. The reasons for the sex role in autoimmunity are unclear. Women appear to generally mount larger inflammatory responses than men when their immune systems are triggered, increasing the risk of autoimmunity. Involvement of sex steroids is indicated by that many autoimmune diseases tend to fluctuate in accordance with hormonal changes, for example, during pregnancy, in the menstrual cycle or when using oral contraception.

A history of pregnancy also appears to leave a persistent increased risk for autoimmune disease. It has been suggested that the slight exchange of cells between mothers and their children during pregnancy may induce autoimmunity. This would tip the gender balance in the direction of the female.

Environmental Factors

An interesting inverse relationship exists between infectious diseases and autoimmune diseases. In areas where multiple infectious diseases are endemic (ie. in developing countries), autoimmune diseases are rare.

The hygiene hypothesis

The hygiene hypothesis states that pathogens that cause disease simulate the immune system. The proposed mechanism is that the parasite attenuates the host immune response in order to protect itself. According to some studies, parasite infection is associated with reduced activity of autoimmune disease.

On the contrary, however, there is a strong association of certain microbial organisms with autoimmune diseases. For example, Klebsiella pneumoniae and coxsackievirus B have been strongly correlated with ankylosing spondylitis and diabetes mellitus type 1, respectively.

Please read more on the Hygiene Hypothesis under Naturopathic Causes of Autoimmune Disease below.


Certain chemicals and drugs are also be associated with autoimmune conditions, or conditions that simulate autoimmune diseases. The most striking of these is the drug-induced lupus erythematosus. Usually, withdrawal of the offending drug cures the symptoms in a patient.

Cigarette smoking is now established as a major risk factor for both incidence and severity of rheumatoid arthritis. This may relate to abnormal citrullination of proteins, since the effects of smoking correlate with the presence of antibodies to citrullinated peptides.

Pathogenesis of autoimmunity

In both autoimmune and inflammatory diseases the condition exists due to abnormal reactions of the adaptive or innate immune systems.

  • In autoimmunity, the patient’s immune system is activated against the body's own proteins.
  • In inflammatory diseases, it is the overreaction of the immune system, and its subsequent downstream signalling (TNF, IFN, etc.), which causes problems.

Several mechanisms are thought to be operative in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, against a backdrop of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.

T-Cell Bypass

A normal immune system requires the activation of B-cells by T-cells before the former can produce antibodies in large quantities.

T-Cell-B-Cell discordance (conflict)

A normal immune response is assumed to involve B and T cell responses to the same antigen, even if we know that B cells and T cells recognise very different things ie. conformations on the surface of a molecule for B cells and pre-processed peptide fragments of proteins for T cells.

Molecular Mimicry

An exogenous antigen may share structural similarities with certain host antigens; thus, any antibody produced against this antigen (which mimics the self-antigens) can also, in theory, bind to the host antigens, and amplify the immune response. Please read more on molecular mimicry in Naturopathic Causes of Autoimmune Disease below.

Others mechanisms

  • Idiotype Cross-Reaction
  • Aberrant B cell receptor-mediated feedback
  • Cytokine Dysregulation
  • Dendritic cell apoptosis

Classification of autoimmune disease

Autoimmune diseases can be broadly divided into systemic or localised ie organ-specific.

Systemic autoimmune diseases include SLE, Sjögren's syndrome, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and dermatomyositis.

Local syndromes which affect a specific organ or tissue:

Endocrinologic: Diabetes mellitus type 1, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Addison's disease

Gastrointestinal: Coeliac disease, Crohn's Disease, Pernicious anaemia

Dermatologic: Pemphigus vulgaris, Vitiligo

Haematologic: Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura

Neurological: Myasthenia gravis


Diagnosis of autoimmune disorders largely rests on accurate history and physical examination of the patient, and high index of suspicion against a backdrop of certain abnormalities in routine laboratory tests (example, elevated C-reactive protein).

In several systemic disorders, serological assays which can detect specific autoantibodies can be employed. Localised disorders are best diagnosed by immunofluorescence of biopsy specimens.

Autoantibodies are used to diagnose many autoimmune diseases. The levels of autoantibodies are measured to determine the progress of the disease.

Western Medical Treatment of Autoimmune Disease

Treatments for autoimmune disease have traditionally been;

  • immunosuppressive
  • anti-inflammatory (steroids)
  • palliative

Non-immunological therapies, such as hormone replacement in Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Type 1 diabetes mellitus treat outcomes of the autoaggressive response, thus these are palliative treatments. Dietary manipulation limits the severity of celiac disease. Steroidal or NSAID treatment limits inflammatory symptoms of many diseases. IVIG is used for CIDP and GBS.

Specific immunomodulatory therapies, such as the TNFα antagonists (e.g. etanercept), the B cell depleting agent rituximab, the anti-IL-6 receptor tocilizumab and the costimulation blocker abatacept have been shown to be useful in treating RA. Immunotherapies are associated with increased risk of adverse effects, such as increased susceptibility to infection.

The Natural Medicine Approach to Autoimmune Disease

From a naturopathic perspective the causes of all autoimmune diseases are the same. Where the autoimmunity manifests is down to genetics and lifestyle. The question is why are autoimmune diseases on the rise? What is it that causes your own immune system to zealously attack itself? Why can the immune system no longer recognise self cells from foreign cells (antigens)?

Natural Medicine Causes of Autoimmune Disease

  1.  An untrained immature immune system due to the Hygiene Hypothesis and Molecular Mimicry AKA Major Histocompatability Complex Dysfunction including vaccines
  2.  Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability).
  3.  Excess inflammation due to excess consumption of inflammatory forming foods and specifically in relation to autoimmune disease, C Reactive Protein

Natural MedicineTreatment Principles in Autoimmune Disease

  1. Retrain your Immune system
  2. Treat Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability) using 4 Rs
  3. Reduce inflammation specifically Lowering C-Reactive Protein

1. Retrain your Immune system

The Hygiene Hypothesis and Molecular Mimicry (AKA Major Histocompatability Complex Dysfunction)

Hygiene Hypothesis

The hygiene hypothesis states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites, increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system. The rise of autoimmune diseases and other diseases including acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in young people in the developed world, have been linked to the hygiene hypothesis. There is also some evidence that autism is caused by an immune disease, with one study implicating the hygiene hypothesis as a cause of autism.

Mechanism of action

Allergic diseases are caused by inappropriate immunological responses to harmless antigens driven by an over zealous Th2 (T helper cells)-mediated immune response. Many bacteria and viruses normally encountered elicit a Th1-mediated immune response. This down regulates Th2 responses to keep the immune system in check. The hygiene hypothesis states that insufficient stimulation of the Th1 arm leads to an overactive Th2 arm, stimulating the antibody-mediated immunity of the immune systems, which in turn leads to both allergic and autoimmune diseases.

The hypothesis suggests that the developing immune system of a child needs to come into contact with common childhood diseases, either bacterial, viral or parasitical in nature, in order to train the immune system to be able to recognise self cells from foreign cells and to down regulate overactive immune cells so that they don’t get out of control and attack their own body or elicit an overactive response. This lack of down regulation leads to the immune system being unable to recognise its own cells from a foreign cell (MHC dysfunction) therefore attacking its own cells resulting in autoimmune disease. See molecular mimicry below.

Supporting evidence

The hygiene hypothesis is supported by epidemiological data. Studies have shown that various immunological and autoimmune diseases are much less common in the developing world than the industrialised world and that immigrants to the industrialised world from the developing world increasingly develop immunological disorders in relation to the length of time since arrival in the industrialised world.


Breastfeeding is necessary to inoculate the child’s bowel with beneficial gut flora and to introduce the child’s immune system to food antigens through the mother’s diet. This is why it is important NOT TO omit potential allergenic foods when breastfeeding as this is how your child develops antibodies to food antigens. Breasts are also not sterile.

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)

The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a large genomic region that encodes MHC molecules. MHC molecules play an important role in the immune system and autoimmunity. Proteins are continually synthesised and destroyed in the cell. These include normal proteins (self) and microbial pathogens (nonself). The MHC proteins act as "signposts" that serve to alert the immune system if foreign material is present inside a cell. They achieve this by displaying fragmented pieces or antigens on the host cell's surface. These antigens may be self or nonself.

The presentation of MHC:peptide on cell surfaces allows for pathogen surveillance by immune cells, usually a T cell or natural killer (NK) cell. If activating T or NK cells, surface receptors recognise MHC:peptide through binding interactions, it can activate the immune cell and lead to the development of an immune response against the presented antigen. When this MHC function is disturbed the body is no longer to recognise self cells for foreign cells and autoimmunity can occur. The reasons proposed for MHC dysfunction are the hygiene hypothesis.

Molecular mimicry AKA Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) dysfunction

Molecular mimicry states the body is unable to identify foreign and self-peptides as the look similar in size and shape molecularly, which can lead to autoimmune disease. The reason the immune system is unable to recognise its own cells and unable to downregulate is because it has been untrained due to lack of exposure in childhood to childhood diseases. Vaccination is obviously a big issue from a naturopathic perspective.

T Helper cells and B cells are lymphocytes (immune cells) that fight antigens (pathogenic proteins). T helper cells, when presented with an antigen generate cytokines to kill the antigens. The principal functions of B cells are to make antibodies against antigens. Upon the activation of B or T cells, it is believed that these “peptide mimic” specific T or B cells can cross-react with self-antigens, thus leading to autoimmunity.


From a historical perspective children were meant to get diseases such as skin rashes.

Historically the common skin rashes were;

  1. Measles
  2. Scarlet fever
  3. Rubella Duke's disease (Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome)
  4. Erythema infectiosum (slap face)
  5. Roseola

Nowadays, with an ever increasing vaccination schedule, children are not coming into contact with illnesses that would normally train their immature immune systems to be able to recognise self cells from foreign cells including cancer cells. Vaccines prevent disease undoubtedly but there are links to the westernisation of society and an increase in the prevalence of autoimmune disease and allergy.

Benefits of the fever and the danger of suppressing it

The fever is a necessary part of growing up. Fever is not a disease but a sign that you are healthy.

From a physiological process fever;

  • Increased mobility of leukocytes
  • Enhanced leukocytes phagocytosis
  • Endotoxin effects decreased
  • Increased proliferation of T cells

Fever in children

Fever in children trains the immune system and prevent asthma and other diseases involving excess inflammation or autoimmune diseases.

Childhood diseases such chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella, school sores, worms, slap face etc, have fever as part of the symptom picture. It is the acquisition of these normal illnesses, particularly the occurrence of a fever, that train the immature immune system of an infant into becoming a mature immune system that is able to recognises self cells from foreign cells (antigens).

Childhood diseases are known as self limiting. That is, they can be allowed to run their own course without treatment. Most people recover without specific medical attention. Fever should not necessarily be treated. Although it is unpleasant, fever rarely rises t o a dangerous level even if untreated. Damage to the brain generally does not occur until temperatures reach 42 °C (107.6 °F), and it is rare for an untreated fever to exceed 105 °F (41°C). Suppression of the fever is not necessary and in fact detrimental. Healthy people throw a healthy fever.

Don't get fever phobia

Fever phobia is the name given by medical experts to parents' misconceptions about fever in their children. Many parents incorrectly believe that fever is a disease rather than a medical sign, that even low fevers are harmful, and that any temperature even briefly or slightly above the oversimplified "normal" number marked on a thermometer is a clinically significant fever. They are also afraid of harmless side effects like febrile seizures and dramatically overestimate the likelihood of permanent damage from typical fevers. Unfortunately there is no education on fever management and our kids don't come with instructions.

Natural Medicine fever management

The ability to throw a good fever is an example of the strength of what naturopaths term, the Vital Force. In my experience, patients with chronic autoimmune conditions, allergic disorders and cancer do not get fevers. Many patients have taken fever suppressing medications their whole lives.

The fever is a natural response and should not only not be suppressed but actually encouraged. The ideal fever in an adult is between 38-40°C. When the fever is between 38-40°C cancer destroying immune cells are activated. The fever is inhibiting toxins and clearing waste from the tissues, lymph and blood, on which bacteria feed and multiply. Killer T-cells are being increased, as are neutrophils and macrophages, which are the white blood cells responsible for destroying invaders. Fever IS NOT DANGEROUS unless the temperature is over 101°F (38.3°C) in an infant, 103°F (39.4°C) in a child or 104°F (40°C) in an adult.

The treatment principle is to encourage and support the fever. These diseases need to be treated in a natural way and from a naturopathic perspective, this means increasing fluid intake, bed rest, chicken soup. Next time you get sick do not take paracetamol or aspirin (lemsip is the big offender here). Lose the soldier on attitude. The best advice is to keep adequately hydrated with water, as the most significant risk of complications is dehydration.

Most importantly from a naturopathic perspective, DO NOT SUPPRESS THE FEVER. If the child is uncomfortable old school treatments such as tepid baths are useful but in general, a fever must be encouraged as it is a sign your child’s immune system is working. Of course you can always have paracetamol on hand in the unlikely event that the fever will reach a dangerous level.

I use herbal medicine and acupuncture to reduce temperature quickly. For fever management I recommend Yarrow Elder and Peppermint (YEP) tea. YEP tea is a blend of diaphoretic herbs, which promotes sweating to lower temperature. Made with honey and lemon it is very palatable and kids love it. Please note herbs are amphoteric meaning that they can increase the temperature in a low-grade fever or increase temperature in a high-grade fever. This means that if someone is throwing a low grade fever, ie < 38 °C a warm YEP tea will increase the body temperature. The same advice applies to adults.

Get dirty, return to Mother Nature

Get dirty, allow your children to get dirty. Encourage normal play on the beach or in the dirt. Remember, the development of specific immunoglobulin antibodies to environmental allergens encountered early in life is a normal, healthy physiological response to develop tolerance to the environment.

Examples of these allergens include not only surface and airborne bacteria and viruses but also foods, in particular and cows’ milk or egg. However, if there is an abnormal response and large numbers of antibodies are generated, this may cause an allergic reaction. Bring up your children naturally and boost natural immunity by avoiding the overuse and abuse of antibacterials in your home, avoiding the overuse and abuse of antipyretics to suppress fever, avoiding the overuse and abuse of antibiotics and arguably, in the same vein, avoiding the overuse and abuse of vaccines, and finally, by avoiding unnecessary and harmful suppression of symptoms using western medical drugs will lower the risk of food allergy in your child.

For a herbal tincture that boost your immune system please see, Carahealth Immune Tonic

2. Treat Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability) using 4 Rs.

Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability)

Leaky Gut Syndrome is also described as increased intestinal hyperpermeability. Tight junctions (TJs) represent the major barrier between intestinal epithelial cells that line the digestion tract. Damage to the TJs leads to intestinal hyperpermeability ("leaky gut") which is part of the causes behind acute and chronic diseases such as systemic inflammatory response syndrome(SIRS), including autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) including Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC), and cardiovascular disease, type 1 diabetes, allergies including eczema and asthma and even autism.


Three mechanisms are proposed;

  1. Dysbiosis
  2. A "leaky" intestinal mucosal barrier
  3. Altered intestinal immune responsiveness.

1. Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis refers to a condition with microbial flora imbalances in the digestive tract. It has been associated with different illnesses, like inflammatory bowel disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. A leaky bowel wall leads to bacteria and endotoxins building up in the bloodstream creating an immune response. This is an important stimulus for inflammatory cytokine activation

2. A "leaky" intestinal mucosal barrier

The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients and electrolytes, and to maintain water homeostasis. Another important function is its ability to keep pathogens from the environment that enter through the gut from the host through this barrier mechanism. The intercellular tight junctions of the intestinal epithelial barrier, together with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the neuroendocrine network, controls the balance between tolerance and immunity to nonself-antigens. Whilst this tight junction should allow absorption of essential nutrients and ions, intestinal tight junctions that are “leaky” allow substances, which should not be absorbed into the blood stream.

Select enteric viruses, bacterial pathogens and parasites modulate intestinal tight junction structure and function and these effects may also contribute to the development of chronic intestinal disorders. Physiological, pharmacological, and pathophysiological stimuli all cause changes in the barrier properties of the tight junctions. Enteric pathogens such as E. coli, Giardia, and TNF disrupt tight junctions function of epithelial cells. Alcohol consumption induces a state of "leaky gut" increasing plasma and liver endotoxin levels, leading (in excess) to liver diseases.

3. Altered intestinal immune responsiveness

Kupffer cells are macrophages located in the liver. When Kupffer cells become activated they produce a variety of substances including cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase metabolites, and reactive oxygen species such as superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and nitric oxide that damage the TJs and lead to increased intestinal hyperpermeability.

Four Rs

1.Reduce Food Antigens

Food allergy Non-IgE Mediated (Delayed) Food Allergy

These are allergic reactions that are delayed and are mediated by the cells of the immune system called immune complexes (antigen-antibody complexes), which circulate in the bloodstream. This is opposed to histamine release in immediate reaction food allergy.

These circulating antigen-antibody complexes can lodge in tissues creating all sorts of problems in particular, asthma, eczema and hayfever, but also can develop severe autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (children can get juvenile arthritis) and insulin dependent diabetes. There is a strong relationship between the antibody for bovine protein found in milk and the similarity of this protein to the pancreatic Islets of Langerhans for example as an immature immune system fails to recognise the difference in the cells due to the hygiene hypothesis and molecular mimicry.

Delayed reactions to food may take several hours or days to develop. Foods causing reactions of these types include cows’ milk, eggs, fish, wheat, other cereals, yeast, soya, pork, chocolate and citrus fruits are the main offenders. Please note the advice is to reduce and rotate your grains and milks rather than completely eliminate as complete elimination often increases sensitivity. For more information contact Carina This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Including saliva, stomach acid and bile flow using herbal bitters which are naturally;

  • Sialogogues (promote saliva)
  • Cholagogues (promotes bile)
  • Orexogenics (promotes stomach acid)

Short-term use of digestive enzymes such as bromelain and papain may be advisable, alternatively eat pineapple or papaya after meals as these fruits contain the proteolytic enzymes. Chew your food 32 times. Avoid liquid with meals as this dilutes hydrochloric acid.

A herbal tincture to help improve digestion, absorption and elimination try Carahealth Digestive Tonic

3. Repair gastrointestinal lining

Nutritional supplements specifically for leaky gut

L-Glutamine for gut repair

Glutamine is important for a large number of bodily functions. It is one of the most important nutrients for healing leaky gut syndrome because it is the preferred 'fuel' for the cells lining the mucosa of the small intestine (enterocytes). Glutamine is also required for the production of both intestinal mucus and Secretary Immunoglobulin Type A (SIgA). Glutamine will help repair and maintain a healthy small intestinal lining. The suggested dosage for moderate-severe leaky gut syndrome is in the range of 5-20g per day.

Vitamin A

An essential nutrient for the production of the GI tracts protective antibodies (SIgA). Vitamin A also helps to maintain a healthy intestinal mucosa and soothes inflammation. Vitamin A can be used safely in doses of up to 20,000-25,000 IU's per day. Vitamin A is also involved in immune function, skin and cellular health and displays antioxidant activity.


Zinc is required for growth and healing and is essential to cells with a rapid turnover. The cells of the small intestinal mucosa have an extremely rapid turnover, being replaced about every four days, so zinc is extremely important to the integrity of the intestinal lining. Small intestinal permeability is often increased in patients with Crohn's disease and may be pathogenic for clinical relapses. Clinical studies have shown zinc supplementation can resolve permeability alterations in patients with Crohn's disease in remission. Improving intestinal barrier function may contribute to reduce the risk of relapse in Crohn's disease. Dosages in the range of 50-80mg per day are usually taken to correct deficiencies of zinc. Sturniolo GC., Di Leo V., Ferronato A, D'Odorico A., D'Incà R Zinc supplementation tightens "leaky gut" in Crohn's disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis.2001 May;7(2):94-8.


Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans. GAGs form an important component of connective tissues and is essential for the secretion of the mucus that creates a protective lining on top the cells of the gut.

4. Re-inoculate bowel flora


Effect of Lactobacilli on Paracellular Permeability in the Gut

A rat study showed the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum can reduce paracellular permeability in the gut resulting from cytokines, chemicals, infections, or stress. There have been few human studies focusing on the effect of lactobacilli on intestinal paracellular permeability but recently it has been shown that they could influence the tight junctions.

More precisely, short-term administration of L. plantarum WCSF1 to healthy volunteers increased the relocation of occludin and ZO-1 into the tight junction area between duodenal epithelial cells. Siv Ahrne and Marie-Louise Johansson Hagslatt Effect of Lactobacilli on Paracellular Permeability in the Gut, Nutrients 2011, 3(1), 104-117.

Lower C-Reactive Protein and reduce inflammation

C-reactive protein (CRP) is an inflammatory biomarker. In healthy amounts the physiological role of CRP is to bind to the surface of antigens dead or dying cells (and some types of bacteria) in order to activate the complement system and encourage phagocytosis by macrophages. It is also known, however, for its ability to bind autoantigens and presumed capacity to promote clearance of apoptotic cells. This latter properties of CRP are suspected to contribute to its role in autoimmune disease.

C-reactive protein (CRP) test

Measuring CRP level is a screen for infectious and inflammatory diseases. Rapid, marked increases in CRP occur with inflammation, infection, trauma and tissue necrosis, malignancies, and autoimmune disorders.

The C-reactive protein (CRP) test can be used to monitor inflammation, which is associated with autoimmune disorders. A high or increasing amount of CRP in the blood suggests that the patient has an acute infection or inflammation. In a healthy person, CRP is usually less than 10mg/L. Most infections and inflammations result in CRP levels above 100mg/L.

Mediterranean diet and C-reactive protein

Levels of C-reactive protein can be decreased by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and by taking certain supplements such as vitamin C. Sticking to a Mediterranean diet, high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, lowers levels of inflammation as reflected by lower levels of C-reactive protein. This effect should, in turn, lead to a lower risk of autoimmune disease.

Fibre and C-reactive protein

Foods high in fibre lower C-reactive protein. In a study of 524 healthy adults, investigators found that those with the highest fibre intake had lower blood levels of C-reactive protein CRP than those who ate the least fibre. The findings support the general recommendation that adults get 20 to 35 grams of fibre per day in the form of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Both of the main forms of fibre, soluble and insoluble, were related to lower CRP levels. Soluble fibre is found in oatmeal, beans, berries and apples, while whole grains and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fibre.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2006.

Flavonoids and C-reactive protein

Intake of dietary flavonoids is inversely associated with serum CRP concentrations in U.S. adults. Intake of flavonoid-rich foods reduces inflammation-mediated chronic diseases. Food sources of flavonoids include, tea, green tea, apples, apricots, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans and tomatoes.

Vitamin C and C-reactive -protein

Vitamin C treatment significantly reduces C-reactive protein.

Omega-3 fatty acids and C-reactive protein

Higher intake of n–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from marine or fish is inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations. Therefore, eating more fish or taking fish oil capsules can reduce C reactive protein levels.

Dark chocolate and C-reactive protein

Consuming dark chocolate can reduce C-reactive protein levels.

General Anti-inflammatory Diet

Certain foods contain compounds which are naturally anti-inflammatory. Examples of such compounds are omega 3, curcumin, resveratrol and flavonoids. Eat plenty of berries and cherries and fruits and vegetables.

  • Minimise saturated and trans fats.
  • Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements, walnuts and flax.
  • Reduce intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains such as oats, brown rice and bulgur wheat.
  • Cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
  • Eat lean protein sources such as chicken.
  • Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
  • Ginger, curry, and turmeric have an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Green tea and tea are rich in flavaoids.

For further details contact Carina This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.

Immune Tonic

Brand Carahealth

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