There are 3 factors commonly associated with autoimmunity:

– firstly, you may be unlucky enough to have the genes. We can do blood tests to determine whether you have a genetic susceptibility for autimmune disease;

– secondly, an environmental trigger such as infection, food intolerance, emotional stress, exposure to chemicals or toxic metals, pregnancy or nutrient deficiencies;

– thirdly, a leaky gut.

Environmental Triggers.


There are many infections associated with ian ncreased risk for development of autoimmunity. They include epstein barr virus (one of the causes of glandular fever), cytomegalovirus (another), helicobacter pylori, streptococcal infections, chlamydia pneumoniae, norovirus (causes gastroenteritis,) hepatitis, cell wall deficient bacteria (mycoplasma and chlamydia), and chronic long term low grade infections such as herpes.

Subtle long term infections, whether they be bacterial, viral, parasitic or fungal, stimulate your immune system.

This produces low grade inflammation, making the patient feel unwell.  The toxins produced further weaken the immune system, which makes the patient susceptible to secondary infections.


Aluminum has been long known to be neurotoxic. There is mounting evidence that chronic exposure is also a factor in dementia, autism, and Parkinson’s disease.

It is prudent to remove aluminium cookware from the kitchen and to not use aluminium water bottles.

Calcium, magnesium, lipoic acid and vitamin C supplementation helps reduce aluminium levels.


Lead toxicity is a particularly insidious hazard, and can cause irreversible health effects. It interferes with a number of body functions, primarily affecting the brain, perheral nerves, hematopoietic, hepatic and renal systems.


Mercury is present is some types of dental fillings, and in some fish.


Silicone exposure can come from breast implants, medical tubing, joint replacements and cosmetic fillers. It increases proliferation of TH17 cells.  This can cause a great deal of inflammation and tissue destruction, as well as trigger autoimmunity.


This is  a very controversial topic, but there is enough evidence to mention the possible harmful effects of vaccines in some susceptible individuals. There are several components in vaccines that may harm the immune system.

Vaccines contain a modified form of a virus or bacteria that can no longer cause infection, but does cause an immune response and antibody production. It is possible that some fragments of the virus and bacterium may resemble components of the host. This may trigger production of antibody against your own body.

Adjuvants contained in vaccines are there to “wake up” the immune system to get it to manufacture antibodies. Adjuvants include mercury, aluminium, squalene, mineral oils and silicone. Preservatives and stabilisers as well as yeast based culture medium may also be present.

Adjuvants such as these are toxic, and it is therefore possible that the vaccines do more harm than good in some patients.

Bisphenol A (BPA) –

which is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate (plastics). BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers or wrapping that is made with BPA. It has possible health effects on the brain. There is a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure.

It is prudent to avoid canned foods to reduce exposure to BPA. BPA is also a component of plastic containers. It’s also found in food packaging. Here are some more tips to help reduce exposure to BPA:

  • use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bottles and dishes rather than plastic or styrofoam ones.
  • Avoid plastic wrapping.
  • Give babies natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones.
  • Don’t microwave anything in a plastic container.
Cigarette smoke –

Cigarette smokers are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and Graves’ disease. Smokers tend to not respond as well to treatment for autoimmunity.

Drugs and medications –

Can also trigger auto immunity in genetically susceptible individuals. The most well-known case is drug induced lupus. Occasionally drugs may trigger autoimmune hepatitis, ulcerative colitis and other autoimmune diseases.

Leaky gut.

Leaky gut is when the lining of your gut becomes more permeable than it should be. This allows large particles of undigested food and toxins to enter straight into the blood stream. This has a big impact on the immune system. You cannot have an autoimmune condition without having leaky gut.

Obviously then it is of primary importance to consider and treat gut issues if one has an autoimmune disease. At our clinic here at Minyama on the Sunshine Coast, we know the best ways to do that. We call it “repairing” a leaky gut.

What is a leaky gut?

The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb these vital nutrients. In sensitive people, substances such as gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining.

Other factors — such as infections, toxins, stress and age — can also cause these tight junctions to break apart.

Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, toxins, microbes and undigested food particles can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream.

Your immune system attacks these “foreign invaders.”  This immune response can appear in the form of any of the nine signs you have a leaky gut, which are listed below.

What causes leaky gut?

The main culprits are foods, infections, and toxins. Gluten is probably the number one cause of leaky gut. Other inflammatory foods like dairy and sugar and excessive alcohol may cause it.

The most common infectious include candida overgrowth, blastocystis, giadia and dientamoeba. Toxins come in the form of medications, such as anti-inflammatories, steroids, antibiotics, and acid-reducing drugs. and environmental toxins like mercury, pesticides and BPA. Stress and age also contribute to a leaky gut.

Nine Signs You may Have a Leaky Gut

  1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea.
  2. Seasonal allergies or asthma.
  3. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or polycysic ovarian syndrome (PCOS.)
  4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease.
  5. Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
  6. Depression anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
  7. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.
  8. Candida overgrowh ie thrush in the mouth or vagina.
  9. Food allergies and intolerances.

How do you heal a leaky gut?

I recommend a 4 step process

  1. Remove the cause

The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections.

  1. Replace.

I add back the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption, such as enzymes and acid.

  1. Reinoculate.

It’s important to restore beneficial bacteria using good quality probiotics.

  1. Repair.

It’s essential to provide the necessary nutrients to help the gut repair itself. I use zinc, omega 3’s and a number of other supplements that are commonly deficient.

Get the best help.

To help you determine possible underlying factors for your autoimmune condition it is best to seek the help of a trained health professional such as myself.

We have a fantastic medical centre here at Minyama on the Sunshine coast where we can offer you the best naturopathic treatments. I am happy to work with or without the input from our doctors (Tim Smith, Tracy Johns and Mark Fulton) to help patients with autoimmune disease achieve the best possible health.

Written by Kim Carolan.

About Kim Carolan

Kim Carolan holds a degree in Naturopathy.  She also has 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. Kim is passionate about helping people reach their optimal health goals. She has special interest in digestive health, anxiety, depression and autoimmunity.

Blog 3 ( will look at further triggers for autoimmunity that could easily be overlooked, but play an important role in autoimmune responses.

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