Autoimmune disease is a condition I frequently see in patients with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder. In this article, I’ll highlight the chain of conditions that lead from hypermobility to autoimmune disease.
Hypermobility Contributes to Leaky Gut
You might wonder how it’s possible for loose joints and ligaments to affect gut health. Did you know that many people who are hypermobile also have something called visceroptosis? This is a medical term that describes the sinking or prolapse of the abdominal organs. Because of loose joints and ligaments, the abdominal organs aren’t held in place as securely. The pressure of these organs affects gut motility and also increases bacterial and yeast overgrowth. So this visceroptosis by itself can induce leaky gut syndrome and increase gastrointestinal permeability. As I described in a previous post on autoimmune disease, leaky gut is a key contributor to autoimmunity. So now we’re learning that just having saggy bowels – so to speak – from hypermobility, can lead to autoimmune issues.
The Changing Landscape of Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmunity is a dysregulation or an abnormal reaction of the immune system. Ideally, our immune systems ignores 99.9% of things to which we are exposed. But the immune system can become overreactive. If the immune system becomes oversensitive to pollen, dust mites, toxins, or other environmental triggers, we get allergies and/or asthma. If the immune system becomes overreactive to bacteria or yeast on the skin, we might experience eczema. In the same way, rosacea and acne can be caused by SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). These are all part of the autoimmune spectrum. We’re just now understanding that this includes things like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in addition to the traditional autoimmune diseases. It’s amazing to see how much our understanding of autoimmunity has changed over the past few years.
Hypermobility and Elevated Cortisol
Did you know that people with hypermobility have a larger amygdala? Since the amygdala regulates emotions, people who are hypermobile often also have an increased level of alertness or arousal. These people tend to have stronger emotional memories, and their bodies can overreact to stimuli. This can be a helpful trait, as being hyper-alert to your environment could be beneficial in a survival situation. However, in today’s culture, it often results in elevated cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol can result in more leaky gut and also tends to drive the immune system to be more reactive and to increase the antibody response.
Can you guess which hormone is the only hormone in your body that increases with age? That’s right – it’s cortisol. Other hormones like thyroid, sex hormones, and insulin tend to decrease with age, but cortisol tends to go up. So you can see how this could be particularly problematic for hypermobile people who already have elevated cortisol.
We know that 20% of Americans have a positive auto antibody. I had a positive AMA for about four years. With a lot of personal work, cleaning up my environment, and healing my gut, I was able to clear it. You can do this too! Stress management, gut health, diet, and environmental factors all become super important in addressing and preventing autoimmune issues.
This emerging research is illuminating the connections between hypermobility, gut issues, and autoimmune disease.
I hope that this series on the associations with hypermobility was helpful. There are various conditions in this super syndrome or collection of syndromes, linked to hypermobility. Now that we are learning how they are related, we can get to the root cause and help people prevent and heal these conditions.
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