Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases: The Connection

Scientists find that leaky gut syndrome can lead to the onset of an autoimmune disease.


Leaky gut syndrome can lead to the onset of an autoimmune disease. When your body comes under a sustained attack by toxins, the immune system becomes hypervigilent, says Victor Sierpina, MD, a family medicine practitioner at the University of Texas Medical Branch and author of The Healthy Gut Workbook: “In short, the immune system becomes overdriven.”

This is especially problematic if you have a genetic predisposition toward autoimmunity and have a leaky gut. Together, those two elements can trigger an autoimmune disease.

Until recently, scientists knew autoimmune disorders ran in families and were “turned on” by environmental toxins and lifestyle triggers, like stress, but they didn’t know how the two were connected. Alessio Fasano, MD, at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, identified leaky gut as the finger that pulled the trigger on an autoimmune disease.

Illustrations by Kotryna Zukauskaite

Catherine Guthrie is a Boston-based science writer and contributing editor to Experience Life.

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