Understand the relationship between the microbiome and autoimmune disease!
Join Dr. Alessio Fasano, the director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General for Children in Boston, as he explores the root causes of increasing autoimmune diseases. He shares his years of experience in the field of Celiac Disease and offers insights into reducing your exposure to triggers.
Listen to start feeling better now!
In the past few decades, there’s been a surge in non-infective inflammatory diseases. The speed of this increase puts the theory of genetic and environmental triggers in jeopardy because three decades of mutation can’t explain the current acceleration of disease rates. For example, the occurrence of Celiac Disease is four times what it was in World War II and only in the Western hemisphere.
One possible cause is Zonulins, a family of proteins that create complex structures between cells. They open gateways between the inside and outside of the cells at tight junctions. This “on” and “off” function is controlled by genes. The loss of barrier function means the cell’s protection is also lost, and substances that should stay mostly outside of a cell can now come in, which can result in chronic inflammation or health issues such as Celiac Disease.
Genetics, environment, and barrier breakdown are all interconnected, and the gut microbiome influences which genes are turned on and off. So if we can figure out what’s triggering these increasing rates in the Western hemisphere, we can slow down or even reverse the occurrence of diseases like Celiac.
Some influencing factors in the West could include having more C-section deliveries, consuming junk food, and being more likely to survive an infection due to antibiotics. The life expectancy of our ancestors was also historically lesser than it is now, meaning there was much less time to develop autoimmunity. This also reduced the amount of time available for the body to develop chronic inflammation or complications from it.
In parts of Europe and the East, diets are relatively cleaner with more fruits and vegetables, whereas in the West, junk food diets are prevalent. However, it’s not just the fact that having low-quality nutrition causes issues, but also how much and how often. For example, red meat is a known inflammatory food, and Western diets that contain a lot of red meat are likely to increase the rate of inflammation and illnesses caused by it.
There’s also no such thing as a normal, “healthy” microbiome. It’s different for everyone and constantly changing. What’s important is to understand the symbiotic relationship between your body and the bacteria in the gut.
Start taking care of your gut to prevent autoimmune disease triggers with this episode!
Dr. Alessio Fasano is director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General for Children in Boston, Massachusetts. He is author of Gluten Freedom, a book for general readers about celiac disease and gluten-related disorders, and co-author with Susie Flaherty of Gut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health, published in March 2021 by MIT Press.
Book: Gluten Freedom
Book: Gut Feelings