Autoimmune Disease (part 3) Further Triggers

Further triggers for Autoimmunity


Long term or intense stress, has been associated with the beginning of autoimmune disease for many people, but would not be the sole factor, it can also be the inducer of a flare up. Stress can also be a major block in recovery. This is due to the effect of stress hormones promoting your immune system to produce inflammatory cytokines which heighten immune activation and make autoimmune disease more likely or more intense. Causes of stress can be emotional, food related (food intolerances and/or allergies), physical (over exertion or chemical exposure), and certain thought patterns can induce stress. Long term stress can also lead to adrenal exhaustion which can block healing, and worsen pain and fatigue.

Physical stress
Exercise that is too intense or too long acts like stress in your body, and although exercise is important, if you are chronically stressed, not sleeping well or have pain and/or fatigue it is best to stick to mild exercise that doesn’t overexert your body and for no longer than 30 minutes.

Stress and hormones
The stress hormone cortisol shares its pathway with progesterone and chronic stress can lead progesterone deficiency (which leads to menstrual problems) Hormone imbalances can also cause an array of problems that can worsen autoimmunity, studies show improvement in symptoms with supplementation of hormones. Long term elevated cortisol also raises blood sugar levels causing abdominal weight gain, cravings for sugar and carbohydrate foods, which worsen insulin resistance and increase risk for type 2 diabetes.

Stress and the immune system
Chronic cortisol weakens the immune system.

Stress and digestion
chronic cortisol causes leaky gut by causing the opening of the tight gap junctions in the digestive tract.

Foods shown to be problematic for autoimmunity

Gluten and grains
Grains contain enzyme inhibitors and lectins that reduce your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients that are in them. Gluten contained in many grains irritates the gut lining and trigger’s leaky gut.

The lectins contained within legumes are very difficult to digest, cause leaky gut and need to be avoided to reverse autoimmunity.

Dairy products (including sheep, goat and buffalo) are highly inflammatory and irritate the gut lining (causing leaky gut) and immune system.

Night shades
The night shade family includes, tomatoes, eggplant, potato, peppers (capsicum, paprika and chilli) and goji berries. Nightshades contain saponins and lectins which contribute to leaky gut and are strong immune irritants.

Eggs are a common food allergen. Lysozymes contained in eggs bind tightly with other proteins contained in eggs forming complexes that are not digestible and can trigger an immune response and finally antibody production.

Nuts and seeds
Are high in good fats, minerals and fibre and can be consumed in small amounts, but they are a common cause of allergy or intolerance and can be difficult to digest due to lectin content. For some people nuts can trigger bloating, gas and IBS symptoms.

Sugar raises inflammation in your body by raising inflammatory cytokines which can cause pain and fatigue. It also promotes leaky gut.


Pregnancy can also be a trigger for postpartum thyroiditis during the first 6 months after giving birth.
Many of these triggers we can control through natural treatment, even in pregnancy we can ensure that our gut is in the very best health and our stress levels kept to a minimum which will also make for a happy healthy baby!

Nutritional deficiencies

Most people believe that they eat healthy, but it is difficult to obtain the right amounts of nutrients when our soils are so depleted of vital nutrients. Conventional dietary guidelines have led to a very high increase in prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, and clearly do not work. A typical autoimmune patient has weak digestion with low levels of hydrochloric acid, pancreatic enzymes, poor liver function and inadequate bile. They also likely suffer from food intolerances, leaky gut and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

A dietary plan is of utmost importance to reduce autoimmunity and must be tailored individually to cater for any of the above factors.

Kim Carolan holds a degree in Naturopathy with further training in holistic counselling, live and coagulated blood microscopy, biomesotherapy and German biological medicine (Sanum). She operates out of Pulse Holistic Medical Practice in Minyama on the Sunshine Coast, and is passionate about helping people reach their optimal health goals. She has special interest in digestive health, anxiety, depression and autoimmune conditions

Part 4 is focusing on what needs to be considered in a treatment plan for autoimmunity.

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