Trigger IV- Identify and Eradicate Infections: Bacterial, LPS, Parasitic, Lyme, Chronic Virus
There is No Single Cause Triggering Autoimmune Disease
The development of autoimmune disease is now recognized and accepted as being caused by a variety of triggers.In previous articles, we discussed some of these triggers including leaky gut and compromised gut function (Trigger I) as well as the role of gluten sensitivity (Trigger II).
Research continue to come out every day in the scientific literature about environmental factors as key contributors to developing or exacerbating autoimmunity; If you missed Trigger III you can learn more about the exposure to toxins such as BPA, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals. The focus of Trigger IV it to introduce you to to the role underlying infections play in autoimmunity; these chronic infections can be viral and or bacterial in nature.
One of the most important things that we often forget about with Autoimmune disease, is that they are not clinically diagnosed until you have tissue destruction. For some conditions, you need up to 70 percent tissue destruction before it will show on an MRI or other diagnostic imaging.
In Celiac disease, 100% tissue destruction must occur to the intestinal villi and confirmed with biopsy before a diagnosis can be given. What this means is that in the early stages you may just experience some mild symptoms. As the disease progresses the symptoms become more pronounced.
You cannot afford to wait for that type of advanced destruction before taking action. Even if you are asymptomatic (no symptoms) in any way but you test positive to antibodies, you have Autoimmune Activation. This is the warning sign that its time to take action and make life changes to potentially stop the process from continuing.
While symptoms of autoimmune disease can present rather suddenly, it’s important to note that the body doesn’t “catch” this disease overnight like the cold or flu. Autoimmunity is complex and the body could have been exposed to a variety triggers long before setting off the autoimmune response. Often times the body is fighting off small doses of exposure here and there throughout our day, which can build up over weeks, months, years, and eventually the body can no longer keep up with the burden of stressors. This is when the autoimmune response occurs and may become more noticeable to the patient as symptoms begin to unfold more physically. A disease that was once silent and asymptomatic quickly develops into autoimmune disease and the body’s own tissues become the target of attack and destruction.
Chronic Infections and the Link to Autoimmune Disease
Chronic Infection and Inflammation
Ongoing inflammation is typical in autoimmune disease and when left unaddressed, can advance into more serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease. Body tissue becomes inflamed when normal cytokine and chemokine levels skew high, overloading healthy cell signaling. This causes confusion in the body and signals the immune system to respond causing further inflammation. One manifestation of this cycle is cytokine build up in the joints which can result in rheumatoid arthritis.
Another example is multiple sclerosis, a disease affecting the nervous system which is caused by an autoimmune attack on the outer covering or sheath of the nerve called myelin. As myelin erodes over time by the autoimmune attack, other areas are affected as well including balance, movement, muscle coordination and vision.
In general, the origin of inflammation is within the gut so restoring gut health when a person has autoimmune disease is an excellent place to start. Traditional western medicine does not always consider the gut in treatment and usually resorts to pharmaceutical solutions to suppress the immune system. While this method may address one piece of the puzzle, inflammation, this approach does not solve the root of the problem: why is inflammation occurring in the first place? After all, we need our immune system to work for us as it was designed to do and not be dulled down by medication. Eradicating the underlying Triggers should be the main goal so that healthy tissues can grow back and the cycle of inflammation and further destruction can be lessened.
Possible Underlying Infections Linked To Autoimmunity
Herpes Simplex (HSV)—Often present but without symptoms, this virus affects about 90% of Americans. Most commonly cold sores and/or genital herpes can manifest as a result of the HSV virus.
Epstein-Barr (EBV)—This virus is quite common affecting about 95% of adults by age 40. Infectious mononucleosis is caused by EBV, however mono isn’t always diagnosed in patients; strep throat or the flu tends to be diagnosed instead. EBV has gotten a lot of attention in the field of research with plenty of links to autoimmune disease. Ailments such as Grave’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome have all been shown to have a correlation to EBV. In fact when it comes to MS, 100% of cases have tested positive for EBV.
Testing positive for one or both of these underlying infections is very likely, even if you don’t have autoimmune disease. However if you do have autoimmune disease, your “viral load” will be much higher due to increased levels of the virus present in your blood. This can lead to infection being retriggered as the immune system is suppressed.
Lyme Disease—often misdiagnosed as autoimmune disease, Lyme disease is caused by the Spirochetes bacteria which mirrors a variety of AI diseases and their symptoms, including fatigue and inflammation. Proper testing for Lyme disease is crucial for accurate diagnosis since conventional testing has shown false negatives are reported up to 50%. While Lyme and autoimmune disease can occur simultaneously, knowing what’s actually infecting the body is fundamental for proper treatment.
It’s important to note that HSV and EBV are both viruses so they cannot be treated with antibiotics and don’t leave your system even if symptoms are suppressed. The virus remains at bay as long as your immune system is healthy and strong. However these viruses can be reactivated if the immune system is overburdened by illness, toxin exposure, or increased stress.
Yersinia enterocolitica and Thyroid Disease
Another infection capable of inducing autoimmunity through molecular mimicry is Yersinia enterocolitica. Yersinia enterocolitica is a gram negative bacterial species that most often causes fever, acute diarrhea, and lower right quadrant pain similar to that of an appendicitis.
Normally, a healthy gut immune system will fight off Yersinia enterocolitica and most people think they just had some mild food poisoning or a “stomach bug.” However, in some cases, Yersinia takes hold in the gut mucosal barrier and persists without GI symptoms. In people suffering with Thyroid disease Antibodies to Yersinia enterocolitica were found fourteen times more often than in people without Hashimoto’s.
In another study that looked at Yersinia enterocolitica and Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism), 54% of test subjects tested positive to previous exposure to this bacterial infection.
Celiac Disease and Adenovirus Antibodies
Celiac disease in humans is activated by the dietary ingestion of wheat, rye, triticale, barley, and possibly oats. Gliadins in wheat and similar proteins in the other grains are known to activate disease in certain individuals.
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can infect the membranes (tissue linings) of the respiratory tract, eyes, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system. They account for about 10% of fever-related illnesses and acute respiratory infections in kids and are a frequent cause of diarrhea. Several studies show a link between the protein alfa gliadin (found in wheat) and that of adenovirus.
“89% of untreated celiac patients had antibodies to adenovirus 12, and these antibodies were also elevated in children with celiac disease (31%) compared with controls (0-13%)”
“We suggest that an encounter of the immune system with antigenic determinants produced during intestinal viral infection may be important in the pathogenesis of celiac disease.”
The Microbiome and Gut Health
There are trillions of microbial organisms that reside and flourish within both the small and large intestine. They are the “good” bacteria that serve our bodies by helping to digest various carbohydrates and produce vitamins & compounds, without which we wouldn’t be able to produce on our own. When healthy, this microbiome supports a wide range of our vital bodily functions.
Gut health has been connected to our overall well being, including our mood, how we sleep, and even how we store fat. When the microbiome is out of balance, an overgrowth of harmful bacteria can disrupt gut health causing dysbiosis. Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and diabetes have been associated with dysbiosis. Our immune system is dependent on a harmonious GI tract so when it’s off balance, autoimmune disease can easily be triggered.
Take Away points:
- There is no one specific cause of autoimmune disease but we do know that underlying infections can suppress immune function
- Evidence shows that chronic bacterial or viral infections play a role in the development of autoimmune disease.
- Various viruses, such as coxsackie virus, herpes simplex 1 virus, Epstein-Barr virus, Yersinia, Klebsiella, and adenoviruses have been associated with the development of autoimmune disease.
- Harmful bacteria overgrowth and resulting infections have been linked to intestinal permeability.
- Overblown inflammation is a common thread in Autoimmune Disease
My goal is to work with you to detect as many triggers as possible, remove the triggers which is causing the autoimmune response, support the body in reducing inflammation, and suppress the autoimmune component of the condition. Unlike conventional medical treatments, Functional Medicine, is a natural treatment approach that gets to the underlying cause of your disorder. If you’re ready to make a change, we’d love to talk to you and help set up your initial consultation today!
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