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What you should know about: Autoimmune Diseases and Gut Dysbiosis

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

A wide variety of bacteria colonizes our gut. Among the different bacterial species, we can find beneficial ones (they protect our intestines) and others that can harm our body. Under normal conditions, the intestine provides a homeostatic balance, favoring a healthy environment and preventing an exacerbated growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria (1).

But what happens when this intestinal homeostasis is disrupted? An imbalance in microbiota composition, bacterial metabolic changes, or changes in the distribution of bacteria in the gut may arise, delineating the term “Gut Dysbiosis.” Gut dysbiosis may be related to the loss of beneficial bacteria; in other cases, there may be an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria or loss of bacterial diversity in general.

It turns out that dysbiosis can cause a condition called leaky gut syndrome. In this condition, the intestinal wall's permeability increases, allowing poorly digested food particles, bacteria, fungus, and toxins to enter the bloodstream (1).

And what is the relationship between dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, and autoimmune diseases? When these elements enter the bloodstream, the immune system may not recognize them and start attacking them as if they are foreign. This can trigger inflammatory reactions that lead to tissue damage. Over time, this abnormal immune response can impact various organs and tissues, resulting in various types of autoimmune diseases.

The literature references several articles that link dysbiosis to different autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease, among others (1, 2).

In the book called “The TIGER Protocol: An Integrative, 5-Step Program to Treat and Heal Your Autoimmunity” the physician and author, Dr. Akil Palanisamy, reports that in his clinical experience, all patients with autoimmune disease have some degree of increased intestinal permeability. He emphasizes that, without a doubt, intestinal permeability is one of the critical factors to be treated in those who have an autoimmune disease (3)

So, what causes dysbiosis? Diet, genetics, and lifestyle all play a significant role. The Western diet, which is characterized by excessive consumption of processed foods, combined with a lack of physical activity, exposure to sunlight, and environmental pollution, can contribute to an imbalance in the gut microbiota. Additionally, insufficient sleep and smoking can also increase the risk of dysbiosis.

Studies have indicated that diets high in fat and low in fiber can decrease the production of essential compounds that protect our gut, which are produced by the beneficial bacteria in our microbiota. Butyrate is one such compound, and it is a crucial fatty acid that strengthens the intestinal barrier, thereby reducing intestinal permeability - a key factor involved in leaky gut syndrome (mentioned in the text above). (4)

On the other hand, it is believed that a diet rich in micronutrients and fiber, along with reduced consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, refined flour, and processed foods, has a significant protective effect against gut microbiota dysbiosis (4,5).


1. Kinashi, Y., Hase, K. Partners in Leaky Gut Syndrome: Intestinal Dysbiosis and Autoimmunity. Front Immunol (2022). Doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.673708

2. Marietta, E., Mangalam, A.K, Taneja, V., Murray, J.A. Intestinal Dysbiosis in, and Enteral Bacterial Therapies for, Systemic Autoimmune Diseases. Front Immunol (2020). Doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.573079

3. Palanisamy, A. (2023). The T.I.G.E.R. Protocol: An Integrative 5-Step Programme to Treat and Heal Your Autoimmunity. Headline Home Publisher

4. Malesza, I.J et al., High-Fat, Western-Style Diet, Systemic Inflammation, and Gut Microbiota: A Narrative Review. Cells (2021). Doi: 10.3390/cells10113164

5. Sonnenburg, E.D., Sonnenburg, J. L. Starving our microbial self: the deleterious consequences of a diet deficient in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates. Cell Metab (2014). Doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2014.07.003

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