Autoimmune Diseases + Increased Intestinal Permeability

In an autoimmune disease, the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. Autoimmune diseases are one of the top 10 leading causes of death in girls and women of all ages up to 64 years of age. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that more than 53 million people can be suffering from an autoimmune disorder. These patients can be passed from one doctor to another as communications from one specialist to another can be less than perfect. There is emerging research that genetics, diet, and environmental toxins may play a role in the increase of autoimmune disease.

The majority of autoimmune diseases start with increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”. Some stressor (food allergy, gut bacteria imbalance, medications, stress, environmental toxins, infection, poor diet, etc) causes inflammation in the gut lining. Inflammation creates openings in the cell linings to allow for the immune cells to get to the area of infection or irritant. In the gut, when this happens, undigested food particles cross the gut lining where 70% of our immune system lies. 

Antibodies are created towards these food particles, which then cross react to attack certain tissues, shown below. So, instead of giving a steroid or injection, finding the direct cause of the autoimmune disease does best. There are many components to an autoimmune disease, but if a food allergy or gut imbalance is playing a large role, fixing that and avoiding the allergen can be a much better and natural solution.

Autoimmune Chart

Blood Food Allergy Testing - The Gold Standard

Food allergies are the one of the common causes of an autoimmune disease. While avoiding gluten and dairy can provide some relief, those two are not always the only culprits. For most, a blood test looking at over 200 foods, chemicals, herbs or even molds is needed. We work with a company that uses the gold standard for detecting non IgE mediated reactions (those anaphylactic reactions) through blood counting and cell sizing, not IGG testing. This is so that food sensitivities will show up, whether or not you’ve ever eaten the food. IGG testing requires eating the food within a 6 months range - so if you've been avoiding gluten, you won't know if you're still reacting. And since reactions are varied and can take from 3 hours to 72 hours, food logs and guessing don't always work.

This is a blood draw done at our office, performed by one of our physicians.  We recommend that you first call your insurance company and ask what amount or percentage they cover for the CPT code of 83516, with an out of network physician. 

The results will come back with good, mild reaction, moderate and severe. We go over the results together and help devise a plan moving forward. Some of those foods need not be omitted always, but will be for a short time in order for healing to occur and reintroduction to take place.

Gastrointestinal Testing

Incredible research in the past 5 to 10 years has shown us the importance of gut health. As we explained, more than 70% of our immune system resides in the gut, and we find the GI-MAP test is important for a variety of symptoms. Patients with food allergies & autoimmune diseases, but also those with SIBO, IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, abdominal pain, autism, recurrent diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating, find this test very helpful.

The GI-MAP test is a stool DNA/PCR analysis of viruses, bacteria, parasites, enzymes, microbiome balance (with sensitivities and resistances), H. Pylori & worms. This means, we can see if there are imbalances in the gut microbiome, which can direct our probiotic treatment, as well as see if there are any infections pathogens or dysbiosis causing the issue. Enzyme levels show pancreatic health and guide supplementation.

Testing also evaluates inflammatory markers and blood in the stool, which can help us understand the underlying disease process. Those with an autoimmune disease, food allergy or suspected “leaky gut”, zonulin levels can be measured to see if increased intestinal permeability is occurring.

There are different ways you utilize stool test, listed below:

- GI-MAP: DNA/ PCR analysis of Viruses, Bacteria, Parasites, Enzymes, Microbiome Balance with sensitivities & resistance, H.Pylori & Worms. As well as inflammatory markers & occult blood. 

- GI-MAP with Zonulin - “Leaky Gut” Testing

- In depth H. Pylori Testing with sensitivities and resistances to specific antibiotics

- Zonulin Only to evaluate for increased intestinal permeability

- Pathogens Only

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Colostrum and Leaky Gut

Mother's first milk was intended to seal a leaky gut that infants have in their first hours of life. Colostrum has the ability to fight dysbiosis and improve tight junctions, with growth factors and immunomodulators. Since cow's make an abundance of colostrum, we are able to harvest some for humans once the calf has their share. Bovine (cow colostrum) is biologically active in humans and making sure it is in a liposomal delivery is paramount. We have found one company who has pasture raised cows and delivers in a powerful, safe colostrum.  To be directed to their website for more information, click here.


If you'd like to manage your autoimmune or GI issues in a new way or have more questions, the physicians at The Lee Clinic are always here to help. Fill out the contact form below or call 540-542-1700.