autoimmune-350x122There has been an explosion in autoimmune disorders in recent years. Today, more than 50 million Americans are living with autoimmune disorders, from Crohn’s, celiac, and Hashimoto’s disease to more common “autoimmune spectrum disorders” such as acne or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A recent article in MindBodyGreen.com details a dozen common triggers that can cause an autoimmune response.

    Here are those potential “land mines” are that can activate an inflammatory-immune response in your body:

    1. Gluten

    Gluten is a protein contained in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and other grains. It is often believed you have to have celiac disease to experience gluten intolerance, but that misperception keeps many patients struggling. Also, it is not just the grains themselves that stimulate the autoimmune response; it can also be foods that are cross-contaminated with gluten.

    2. Gluten-free grains

    Even grains that do not contain gluten, such as corn, oats and rice, can be damaging to people who are sensitive. The proteins in these grains are similar to gluten. It is useful to have a a battery of immunological blood tests to determine which foods may cause a reaction in your body.

    3. Quinoa

    Quinoa is well-regarded generally among health experts, but it contains proteins known as saponins, which can damage the lining of the intestines and trigger an immune response. Soaking and rinsing quinoa before cooking may help, but if you are highly sensitive, it is best to avoid this food.

    4. Stress

    Stress impedes health in many ways, including weakening your immune system. Research shows chronic stress is a trigger for autoimmune disorders.

    5. Toxins

    Human beings are now living with toxins that did not exist a century ago. Research shows toxins are implicated in autoimmune disorders such as autoimmune thyroiditis.

    6. Sugar

    Sugar of every kind is damaging to the immune system, and that includes even healthy sounding sugar such as “organic turbinado sugar” or “agave nectar.”

    7. Chocolate

    While chocolate offers some health benefits, it can be damaging to anyone living with autoimmune disorders.

    8. Dairy

    The main protein present in milk and other dairy foods is casein, known to be a trigger for inflammation in the body. Some dairy foods, such as ghee or clarified butter, or yogurt and kefir, may be better tolerated.

    9. Nightshades

    So-called “nightshade” plants include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, goji berries and some spices. Their skins contain alkaloids that trigger an inflammatory response.

    10. SIBO

    SIBO is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which happens with the normal bacteria present in the large intestine grow into the small intestine. This causes localized autoimmune spectrum disorders such as IBS and acid reflux. It can also cause “leaky gut syndrome,” which causes autoimmune reactions throughout the body.

    11. Weakened microbiome

    Most of the human immune system resides int he microbiome, a gut ecosystem that consists of trillions of bacterial colonies. The microbiome is also critical to the functioning of the brain, hormones and genetic expression.

    12. Leaky gut syndrome

    When the lining of the gut increases in permeability, the risk of autoimmunity increases. Undigested food proteins and bacterial toxins can then move through the lining of the intestines, activating an autoimmune response throughout the body.

    If you are experiencing an autoimmune disorder, a qualified functional medicine practitioner can play a vital role in helping you identify your personal triggers.