It’s a bit scary that auto-immune disease is on the rise. Conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, and MS are rising year after year. And sadly, our understanding of what’s causing them isn’t growing quite as rapidly.
What we can say is our life today is very different from our life 100 years ago. For one, it’s much cleaner and our interactions with bacteria in our life are much lower than it was in the past.
Our immune system evolved around a huge ecosystem of bacteria living in the body (mostly in the gut). And the conversation between our bacteria and our immune system may play a key role in auto-immune diseases.
For example, certain bacteria and even parasites can balance the immune system and stimulate the production of a type of immune cell called Regulatory T cells. Without these cells the immune system can become overactive, leading to higher rates of asthma, allergies, and auto-immune conditions.
In his book “An Epidemic of Absence”, author Moises Velasquez-Manoff describes this connection beautifully:
“The immune system that finds itself without microbial pressure grows jumpy (allergies), and turns against the self (auto-immunity).”
Scientists have been baffled for generations at the lack of asthma and allergies in peoples living very traditional lives. They’ve studied very diverse groups, from Amazonian tribes to the Amish, and found surprisingly low rates allergies and auto-immune diseases.
One of the most amazing facts I’ve learned in my research is the how relatively new these conditions are. Allergies first became recognized during the Industrial Revolution and it was only found in the upper classes. Hay fever actually became posh since it was only the very rich who suffered from sneezing and wheezing every spring!
We’re just beginning to uncover how different strains of bacteria in our gut help to regulate our immune system. And while we learn more about these conditions, there are a few things you can do today that can help strengthen your inner ecosystem of bacteria and possibly (we just can’t say for sure right now) balance your immune system and reduce your risk of auto-immune disease.
Probiotics – seed your gut regularly with a good quality probiotic. My favourite are multi-strain, human strain probiotics
Eat their favourite foods – Bacteria love a varied diet, full of plant-based foods and fermented foods.
Nature – spend time outside, get dirty, and grow your own food. Your immune system loves time spend outside. Very smart immune systemJ