Research & Education

Study suggests altering gut bacteria may put lupus into remission

The connection between the gut and autoimmune disease is in the news once again. Just this past month (Sept. 2014) a journal article was published on the changes in intestinal barrier function (leaky gut) with multiple sclerosis. Researchers suggested that future drugs to treat MS should not only focus on the central nervous system but also on the intestines by repairing and restoring the intestinal barrier. It's important to remember that the gastrointestinal tract is 80% of our immune system. Whenever inflammation is present the tight junctions and intestinal mucosa can become damaged causing gaps or pores in the lining of the GI tract. Then toxic byproducts in the digestive tract can be absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the liver. The molecules of food and toxins are leaked through the GI lining and eventually they affect systems throughout the body causing joint inflammation toxins expressed in skin disorders autoimmune conditions and food sensitivities.

There has been a sharp increase in the incidence of autoimmune disorders over the past several decades. Why is this occurring? The answers may be found in the current medical research but you would probably never know it by visiting a doctor. The above mentioned study is a perfect example between the big disconnect between medical research which is often outstanding and the practice of traditional medicine which often leaves quite a bit to be desired when it comes to the management of chronic disorders.

The typical allopathic clinical approach to autoimmune diseases focuses on the management of symptoms with various anti-inflammatory medications chemotherapeutics and also very potent immunosuppressive agents with serious potential side-effects like leukemia and lymphoma. These approaches certainly can provide substantial relief to the patient but they do not really get to the cause of these conditions and some research suggests that these approaches may result in a furthering of the pathological process.

Gut bacteria has been identified as an important environmental factor in overall health and autoimmune disease. A recent study demonstrated the role of the gut microbiota in lupus. According to research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology Lactobacillus species were shown to reduce the severity of lupus symptoms while Lachnospiraceae a type of Clostridia correlated with a worsening of symptoms.

In this study researchers presented that mouse models of lupus had higher levels of Lachnospiraceae and lower Lactobacillus than control mice. In addition they compared male and female mice and found that the differences were present only in females. These results suggest that the gut bacteria may contribute to lupus a disease which is much more common in women. Also the gut microbiota was monitored over time in both lupus and control mice. As a result they found that Clostridia was increased in both early and late stages of the disease.

In further experiments the team treated the symptoms in the lupus mice with either retinoic acid alone or vitamin A with retinoic acid. The latter worsened the symptoms which was surprising since it had been expected to reduce them. In these mice Clostridia increased and Lactobacillus decreased. However retinoic acid alone did improve the symptoms and the dysbiosis.

The research suggests that altering the gut microbiota could help lead to a remission of lupus. Thus patients with lupus should consume Lactobacillus-containing probiotics to aid in reducing lupus exacerbations. The use of probiotics prebiotics and antimicrobials can improve the microbiota and reduce lupus symptoms.

The team was inspired to perform this research based upon a study where type 1 diabetes was found to be dependent on gut microbiota. Type 1 diabetes and lupus are different diseases but all autoimmunity has the same common environmental triggers. It would be beneficial if every patient with autoimmune disorders underwent a comprehensive digestive stool analysis (in my opinion and which modern research supports). There are several other factors to consider that play a role in autoimmunity such as gluten intolerance food sensitivities gastrointestinal infections heavy metal toxicity and vitamin D deficiency.

by Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN