BLACKSBURG, Va. – New research on gut bacteria may lead to methods of mitigation of lupus.

The study, published ahead of print in October’s online edition of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, recommends additional studies into the microbiome and how manipulating gut bacteria can be used to treat devastating diseases such as lupus.

The study by Xin Luo et al. at Virginia Polytechnic Institute used Lactobacillus species (commonly found in yogurt cultures) to manipulate mouse gut bacteria with mitigation of lupus symptoms.

But the use of Lachnospiraceae resulted in worsening conditions, and was gender-specific to female mice. This finding suggests that gut bacteria may contribute to lupus, which is nine times more prevalent in women.

Lupus mice also were treated with either retinoic acid, a nutrient the body needs to stay healthy, or vitamin A plus retinoic acid. The combination treatment made matters worse, resulting in an increase of Clostridia and a decrease in lactobacillus. By using only retinoic acid alone, lupus symptoms were improved – with opposite changes in gut bacteria.

Study authors say their findings suggests, but do not prove, that altering the gut microbiota could mitigate lupus.

Dr. Julia Greenspan, ND, treats auto-immune diseases, especially those that are carried by ticks, at Greenspan Naturopathic Medicine in Amherst, NH. She said the research on gut bacteria is shoring up what naturopathic doctors already knew – that the gut is the first bastion in the body against attacks from the outside world – and there is a lot more to find out about it.

“There is so much we don’t understand (about the gut),” she said. “I do see there is a relationship with tick-borne disease and people who get a misdiagnoses of lupus, they can get pain in the gut. But I find this most often with other autoimmune diseases, there really is a connection with the gut region.”
She said she has good results with patients once she targets gut bacteria.

“Once you treat the gut, or you get rid of the food that is the problem they are sensitive to, or find out they have other parasites going on with the lupus … the symptoms and the inflammations like joint pain, generalized pain, headaches and fatigue often go down or go away all together.

“I think that this is something the naturopathic community has known for a long time, though. Its basic knowledge to me,” Greenspan said.

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