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your immune system is regulated. e hallmark of all autoimmune diseases is inflammation, or swelling. It doesn't matter which organ is affected; inflammation occurs. Autoimmune diseases can occur in any organ or tissue in your body. Examples include Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, among many others. If you have one autoimmune disease, your chances of developing a second one are higher. A recent study showed that different strains of probiotics have greatly differing influence on your immune system. is important finding will help the medical community narrow research to specific bacteria that may be helpful for specific medical illnesses. In the following sections, we look at how probiotics may affect diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other autoimmune diseases. Diabetes Diabetes affects 220 million people globally and is responsible for 3.4 million deaths every year. ere are several types of diabetes, including Type 1, which is an autoimmune condition; Type 2 diabetes, which occurs in adults and is oen caused by lifestyle choices; and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. Preliminary data from Denmark suggests that the bacterial population in diabetics is different than that of people without the disease. is research opens up a potential role for modifying gut microflora with probiotics and prebiotics to improve health. Increasing numbers of diabetics in developed countries suggests that environmental factors contribute as well. Several mice experiments using Lactobacillus casei showed that mice given probiotics had a smaller chance of developing diabetes. And a Finnish study on gestational diabetes found that combining probiotics with dietary counseling during and immediately aer pregnancy reduced the risk of diabetes in mothers and provided a "safe and effective" tool for addressing childhood obesity. Rheumatoid arthritis In rheumatoid arthritis (oen called RA), your immune system attacks normal, necessary proteins for your joints.RA patients oen suffer debilitating pain and deformation of joints, especially in the hands and feet. Researchers have found that most RA patients have abnormal gut flora. In experiments with mice, probiotics with Lactobacillus casei slowed the progression of RA. Research with human RA patients is still in the very early stages, but results so far appear promising. In one study, for example, 43 RA patients were divided into two groups; one ate food rich in Lactobacilli, and a control group ate a regular diet. Aer one month, stool tests showed significant diet-induced changes in fecal flora in the probiotics group, compared to the control group. e probiotics patients also reported improvement in their RA. Another study involved giving probiotics with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG to 21 RA patients over 12 months. Although there was no statistical improvement in patients' activity, they reported an improved sense of well-being. Although research on probiotics and autoimmune diseases is still in its infancy, early results indicate that intestinal functions are oen disrupted with autoimmune conditions, which changes the composition of gut flora. ese changes may result in absorption of substances into the bloodstream, which may cause flare-ups of an autoimmune disease. Probiotics seem to modify the immune system, making people less likely to develop autoimmune problems. Concrete research into many of these autoimmune diseases doesn't exist yet, but the theory that probiotics will have a positive impact is very likely valid. Stay tuned as researchers delve deeper. Shekhar Challa, M.D. Prominent Gastroenterologist Abby's Magazine - January/ February 2015 | Page 45 Abby's Magazine - January/ February 2015 | Page 33

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