Gum disease (or periodontal disease) can be viewed as an acute infection as well as a chronic infection. Is the chronic phase actually related to an autoimmune reaction?
An autoimmune disease is a disease in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues, leading to the deterioration, and in some cases to the destruction, of its healthy tissue.
In the acute phase of periodontal disease, bacteria can initiate an infection and inflammation with significant swelling and bleeding and pain. Taking an antimicrobial or removing the irritant causing the distress could relieve the acute symptoms and destroy some of the offending microbes. Acute means a condition of short duration but typically severe.
In the chronic phase of periodontal disease, inflammation exists for a long time or is constantly recurring. Chronic diseases don’t heal by themselves, and they grow worse over time. A chronic disease usually doesn’t have one single cause but rather several factors that give rise to the disease. Individuals with chronic disease generally also have complex symptoms.
Could chronic periodontal disease have many components, one of which being an autoimmune response?
Dr. Alessio Fasano has suggested that autoimmune diseases are a result of these three elements:
- A genetic predisposition, and
- An environmental trigger (like diet or bacteria), and
- Leaky gut.
In his conclusion, if you could eliminate any one of these, then you could potentially eliminate the autoimmune reaction.
It is interesting to note that many inflammatory markers in patients with periodontal disease are the same ones present in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease. Some researchers have raised the question, “Which came first, Rheumatoid Arthritis or Periodontal Disease?”
In November 2013, several researchers published a paper demonstrating that specific intestinal bacteria were strongly correlated with newly acquired rheumatoid arthritis in their patient base. Also, these researchers showed that those specific bacteria when placed into the guts of sterile mice caused inflammatory reactions like those in their rheumatoid arthritis patients.
It is not a big leap to consider that specific unhealthy bacteria in the gut are actually initiating or contributing to the development and progression of chronic periodontal disease. Therefore, it would not be a big leap to consider improving the diet to eliminate the offending “foods” that cause unhealthy changes not only in the gut lining but also in the healthy microbiome of the gut. The lifestyle that might work the best could incorporate a Paleolithic-type diet.