The intestines are the site of one of the primary immune functions. Because it is invisible, people often ignore it. Auto-immune diseases are now thought to be rooted in the breakdown of this system due to long term physical and emotional stress, poor diet, and use of various drugs (antibiotics, ibuprofen, etc). A simple saliva test reveals the specific inflammatory markers and can help determine how well this system is functioning.
This excerpt from Biohealth Diagnostics, one of the labs which we use, explains what we look for and why:
Assessing antibodies to dietary proteins is important in determining the cause of possible chronic gastrointestinal inflammation. Such inflammation can be accompanied by symptoms, or it can be subclinical. If immune markers to dietary proteins are elevated, it is important to do further testing to determine which food the mucosal immune system is reacting to.
If immune markers (specifically IgA) are elevated in the yeast compartment it means that Candida is attempting to invade the intestinal mucosa. Determining the levels and ratio of bacterial groups to each other helps assess digestive and absorptive function.
The ratios of the levels of the same antibody for aerobic and anaerobic bacteria (i.e. IgA aerobic/IgA anaerobic) should be about one to one. If these ratios are >2 or <0.5, then a dysbiotic condition exists. Specific infections should be ruled in/ruled out. Dysbiosis can also result from a course of antibiotic therapy with out proper efforts to re-colonize the gut.
Conditions that may be assessed include dysbiosis, pathogen or yeast overgrowth, mucosal immune dysfunction, systemic immune deficiency, autoimmunity, food allergy, gluten enteropathy, malabsorption, and leaky gut.
The Mucosal Barrier
The lining of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, is covered by a mucosal barrier, which provides the body's first-line immune defense against pathogens and a mechanism for proper recognition and processing of food antigens. The mucosal barrier contains specific adaptive immune defenses including mucosal antibodies. IgA is the predominant antibody quantitatively in the mucosal immune system. IgM is the acute responder. A healthy mucosal barrier contains an appropriate level of secretory antibodies, which readily recognize and process commonly encountered antigens from dietary proteins consumed and enteric yeasts and bacteria.
IgA and IgM to Dietary Proteins, Yeast, Aerobic & Anaerobic Bacteria
As mentioned above, a healthy mucosal barrier contains an appropriate level of secretory antibodies, which readily recognize and process commonly encountered antigens from dietary proteins consumed and enteric yeasts and bacteria. A continuum of negative events (possibly lifestyle, emotional stress for example; possibly physiological, inflammatory insults for example) can lead to the complete shutdown of the mucosal barrier. When a healthy (responsive but not elevated) mucosal barrier is first challenged by an infectious agent, sIgA rises and elevations of specific antibodies to dietary proteins and/or enteric yeasts and bacteria may occur. At this point the antigen load is compartmentalized within the GI tract. As the infection begins to overwhelm the mucosal barrier defenses, the humoral immune system becomes more involved.
If the infection is winning the war, at some point the tight junctions between the intestinal cells open up and antigen penetration into the general circulation increases resulting in an increase in allergy and inflammation. If at least one antibody in each of the four compartments (dietary proteins, yeasts, anaerobic bacteria, aerobic bacteria) is elevated that indicates leaky gut. If no intervention occurs, the mucosal response weakens and eventually can shut down. As time goes on it loses its ability to recognize and process antigens properly. Ever increasing antigen penetration can eventually result in over stimulation of the humoral immune system leading to hyper immune response and elevated immune complexes.
Utilizing these tests, together with a detailed analysis of diet and lifestyle factors, can help pinpoint the cause of illness and help you get back on the road to health.
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