Gut Health + Multiple Autoimmune Diseases

It’s late September and I am driving through the backroads of Indiana listening to a podcast as we head home from a very fun weekend in Chicago. It was so much fun, in fact, my husband had me drive as he was reclined in the passenger seat.

Either way, I wasn’t fussed as I spent the time reviewing information for an upcoming presentation I had on the books related to gut health and diabetes. Yet, with my intention to polish up on the facts, I nearly had to pull over as I had an “ah-ha” moment when tuning-in to “The Paleo View” hearing Dr. Sarah Ballantyne discuss the risk of getting additional autoimmune diseases for those who already have an existing one. As if 1 disease wasn’t enough, right?! Thankfully, there is something we can do to halt this from happening, but a little information first.

Autoimmune disease affects over 50 million Americans, and if you have an autoimmune disease, you have genetic predisposition to have an overactive immune system. With this, the risk of getting an additional autoimmune disease, according to Sarah Ballantyne’s literature review, is 1 every decade.

Hitting close to home, I felt it in my gut when I read how type 1 diabetes (T1D) is associated with autoimmune thyroid disease (AIT), celiac disease (CD), Addison’s disease (AD), and other autoimmune diseases. This isn’t common sense, nor is the information of how to prevent it from happening, but there is hope.

Looking back on my 26+ years of having type 1 diabetes I sense a relationship with this research. In 2009, my life changed when I did a gluten-free experiment. Multiple endocrinologists thought I was wasting my time, as I have proved multiple celiac diseases negative. Yet, my A1C and blood sugar control were immediately and continue to be more predictable and better than ever. Not to mention, my eczema, insomnia and female hormones are better off. Just last July I did a food sensitivity test on myself, and my reaction to wheat was off the charts, followed by gluten. An allergy (celiac) is very different than a sensitivity, and taking my food sensitivity results seriously is improving my overall well-being and help reduce my risk of acquiring more diagnoses. In the last 2 years, I’ve experimented more with my diet, and am now working to wean down or off my thyroid medication (my thyroid tanked with the onset of pregnancy with my second child). It will be a slow process, but I just had to make a decrease in my thryoid medicine dose. No doubt, food is powerful. Slower than medicine, but powerful.

In the least, it’s a good thing the progression of an autoimmune disease is not entirely determined by genetics. Reseach concludes there are 3 parts:

  1. genetics,
  2. environmental factors (from everything from a heavy metal toxicity, to a stressful emotional event), and
  3. a leaky gut. (Here Dr. Axe does a good job defining Leaky Gut, and below I highlight how to take care of your gut).

It’s valuable to understand that an autoimmune disease can sit brewing in the body for years before a diagnosis occurs and the great news is we can do a lot to prevent the last “straw” from reaching the camels back.

While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, the best way to be your healthiest and prevent any further autoimmune diseases from occurring or progressing is to focus on 1) what we eat, 2) what we absorb and 3) how we take care of our body/lifestyle. 

Diet/What We Eat:

  1. The AIP is a good starting point for anyone dealing with one or more autoimmune diseases. Not only does it exclude grains, dairy, and legumes like the basic paleo template, it also eliminates nightshades, nuts, seeds, eggs, alcohol, and sugar, leaving a pure and basic diet of meats, seafood, certain vegetables, certain fruits, healthy fats and spices that help to promote anti-inflammatory reactions within the body. Upfront, I want to highlight that while this diet can be a very low-carb diet, it can also be a high carb diet sourcing healthy foods including plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, fruit, yucca, taro, etc. This approach can be tough. Thankfully there are great resources, from books to websites and podcasts. Pheonix Helix is a leader in communicating effective ways of living this lifestyle. Her website is a wealth of information as is her podcasts and guests.
  2. A few other paths to take to make sure someone is eating the right things for their gut is they can do an elimination diet, removing the biggest offenders: gluten, wheat, sugar, eggs, soy, dairy, seed/man-made oils (think corn, canola, soy, safflower seed oils) and corn. Like I did in 2009, begin avoiding one or all of these food groups and take notes on how you feel.
  3. Increasing vegetables and fruit in the diet,
  4. Diversify meals,
  5. Incorporate good spices and herbs,

Gut/What We Absorb:

  1. First REMOVE inflammatory foods and chronic stressors, REPLACE the problem foods with healing foods, such as items listed below, REPAIR the gut with specific supplements, and REBALANCE and nurture the gut, ongoing with probiotics. This is known as the 4 R Protocol.
  2. Research suggests the gut can take on average 2-12 weeks to heal, and likely longer for this of us with an autoimmune disease. For anyone with an autoimmune disease who is also sensitive to gluten and consuming it, it can take closer to 6 months for the gut to heal. And there is little benefit in a “gluten-light” diet. A fraction of a crumb can inflame the body, and I know this first handed when the cook in a cafe I used to work in, would cut my chicken breast with the same knife he was cutting chicken sandwiches with, I’d get ill. I also think of my mother who has osteoporosis, Hashimoto’s and rheumatoid arthritis, but still gets non-gluten free communion at church every weekend. Bottomline, it’s important to be 100% gluten-free when experimenting and if implementing when a results are positive.
  3. Increase fermented foods in the diet along with coconut products, bone broth, and collagen,
  4. Avoid food sensitivities – Get tested using Cyrex Labs, MRT LEAP, or KBMO. (I can be a resource in acquiring a test). Learn how well you tolerate FODMAPs
  5. Moderate saturated fat as it can impair the microbiota,
  6. Replenish nutrient stores with potent supplements, and ask for advice from a health professional to find a high-quality product and the right product for your needs and background.

Lifestyle/How We Take Care of Ourselves:

  1. Prioritize sleep, both quantity, and quality, Did you know in 1965 we got on average of an hour and a half more of sleep per night than compared to today? That’s a big difference, and females need more sleep than males. Here is a list of how to tweak your environment to improve the quality
  2. Engage in adventure and hobbies. If you don’t have the time, shift things around so you do.
  3. Not that you don’t already, but prioritize blood sugar control. The swings cause inflammation and disturb the peace in our gut.
  4. React better to stress. It’s common to say reduce stress, but that thought only makes me a little more strung out. Instead, I put my energy on my response to challenges and tough tasks.
  5. Work on communication so you can be heard and respected.



  • 5 At Home Test Gut:

Fermented Foods – Probiotics – Immunity

I help many educated people with their diets, yet, very few of my clients come to me already taking probiotics. The awareness on the importance of taking probiotics or eating a diet including fermented foods is low. More than half of our immune system is in our digestive (GI) tract, which encompasses healthy bugs preventing the overgrowth of bacteria and yeasts. So what does this mean, and who should be intrigued by this information?


For most of us, our diets are low in foods with live and active cultures (yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut) and these foods help to maintain optimal levels of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. If the levels of good bacteria drop, so does our immune system and we are more likely to get sick. Besides the fact we can become more susceptible to a cold/flu, an optimal level of healthy bugs in our gut also allow us to be our healthiest person.

Circa 1990s, research established probiotics can help treat several gastrointestinal illnesses, delay the development of allergies in children, and help women treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections.

Enhancing diets with fermented foods/probiotic supplements clients can:

  • aid digestion
  • strengthen immunity
  • fight obesity (in post-par-tam women and patients who went through a weight loss surgery)
  • treat diarrhea in infants and children, specifically antibiotic associated diarrhea (please note, you never want to take a probiotic while taking an antibiotic. You want to take a probiotic immediately after the antibiotic is finished)
  • treat Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • enhance nutrient absorption
  • manage allergies. One study, specifically, found a relationship that when pregnant women took an probiitoc their child was less likely to have ezcema by 30%.

A physician at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Mullin, suggests the future may lie in concocting specific probiotics for people based upon their individual needs and microbiomes.

Recommendations for maintaining a healthy gut:

  • Avoid situations and events that are mentally stressful and overtly physically stressful
  • Avoid the need for antibiotics, the best you can
  • Maintain a healthy diet, and avoid irritant foods (for many this includes gluten containing grains, dairy and/or legumes)
  • Take a daily probiotic (I recommend products from Standard Process including ProSynbiotic. I have been taking their supplements including ProSynbiotic and have noticed a remarkable difference. I overall feel better, sense more ease controlling my blood sugars and have more energy)

Overall, if you are interested in adding a probiotic to your diet, understand not all supplements are equal, including probiotics. Contact a health professional to understand what supplements are most appropriate for you.

Small changes to diet and lifestyle can completely change our quality of life. Advocate for your health and seek for results. It takes 66 days for something to become a habit and 100 days to sense the results. Be patient and enjoy the journey.

Cheers to you and good health,




The Harvard Medical School Family Guide

Dotterud K, et al. Probiotics to prevent allergic disease. Brit J Dermatol, 2010

Bailey M, Dowd S. Stressor Exposure Disrupts Commensal Microbial Populations. Inf and Immun April 2010; 78(4): 1509-19

Holdeman L. Good I. Human Fecal Flora: Variation and Possible Effect of Emotional Stress. App Env Microbiol Mar 1976;21(3):369-75.