Most of the immune cells in the body are in the intestines—this dynamic environment is the front line in immune response. This may be why supporting and enhancing digestive function has such a powerful impact on overall systemic health. Reducing inflammation in the gut may help to calm the immune system overall and greatly benefits patients with gut-centered chronic conditions, diseases that typically cause (and can even thrive on) inflammation.
For many autoimmune conditions, gut permeability is impaired and microbiome diversity reduced. Even in conditions where gastrointestinal concerns seem peripheral, gut permeability may be central to the development and progression of the disease. Whether it is provoking an immune response, as with celiac disease, or heightening the risks for other chronic illness, gut permeability is important to keep in mind when dealing with patients who could have powerful gut dysfunction.
For instance, a recent research study found that analyzing the microbiome and mucosal integrity of patients with myalgic encephalopathy (ME), otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), found an altered microbial environment associated with the disease.1 Anti-inflammatory bacteria families were decreased (i.e., Faecalibacterium, Bifidobacterium), and overall, the ME/CFS patients had less diversity in bacterial populations.1
Understanding how to improve mucosal integrity, decrease intestinal permeability, and support the microbiome may make a huge difference for your patients with chronic illness. IFM Educator Robert Rountree, MD, describes the interface of the immune system and the external environment:
Learn more techniques to evaluate the relationship between systemic disease and gastrointestinal dysfunction at the GI Advanced Practice Module (APM). Walk out the door ready to develop and organize individual treatment protocols using lifestyle, diet (including the elimination diet), nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and botanicals.
- Giloteaux L, Goodrich JK, Walters WA, Levine SM, Ley RE, Hanson MR. Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome. 2016;4(1):30. doi: 10.1186/s40168-016-0171-4.