Molecular Mimicry is an Autoimmune Theory
Molecular mimicry is an autoimmune theory that suggests bacterial cells or other microbial “triggers” have a similar appearance to the cells that make up parts of the human body, or “self-antigens.”
When these bacteria are present, the immune system attacks not only them but also parts of our body that may have similar appearing proteins. One of the most well-known examples of this theory in action is caused by the bacteria that causes the common throat infection known as “strep throat.” In some cases, especially when the infection is not treated with antibiotics within two to three weeks, the immune system will start launching an attack against the Streptococcus bacteria. Unfortunately, these bacteria have components that resemble the human heart valves, and the immune system inadvertently attacks heart valves as well.
This reaction is known as rheumatic fever and can be deadly and often necessitates heart valve transplants. Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably the most well-known person who was affected with this condition and has had to have heart valve transplants as a result.
Bacteria in our mouth that cause periodontitis have been suggested to contribute to Rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s, through molecular mimicry. These bacteria induce an inflammatory response in our body and cause an increase in IL-6, a Th-1 inflammatory marker associated with both autoimmune conditions.
Periodontitis is an inflammation of the gums that can lead to the receding of the gums, loose teeth, and eventually tooth loss. Periodontitis is often found in Hashimoto’s patients and can be worsened by fluoride, the very substance added to our waters and toothpaste to prevent tooth decay.
The mechanism is as follows:
Eating sugary and starchy foods, drinking tea, coffee, and soda leads to an altered pH in the mouth -> certain strains of bacteria to proliferate -> bacteria form biofilms to protect themselves from mechanical removal such as is done through the flow of saliva or brushing teeth-> biofilms cause a buildup of plaque on the teeth from bacteria in the mouth. -> the bacteria in the plaques trigger an autoimmune response from the body, resulting in gum inflammation.
Symptoms may include – bleeding gums (especially with brushing or flossing), puffy gums, receding gums, plaque buildup on teeth, loose teeth, and bad breath
What to do?
Changing the diet, creating a more alkaline environment in the mouth, oral probiotics, oil pulling, water picking, cranberry juice and the medication doxycycline may be helpful for displacing the pathogenic bacteria from teeth and reducing the inflammation associated with periodontitis that may be contributing to Hashimoto’s.
Dr. Weston A. Price was a dentist who studied the effects of diet on dentition and found that those who ate traditional diets had far better teeth, and excellent health (no heart disease, autoimmune conditions, or obesity) compared with counterparts with similar genetic background who ate Western diets.
Changing our diet from a processed carbohydrate-based diet to a whole food diet and starting fermented foods and probiotics will be helpful in rebalancing the bacteria in both the mouth and the intestines, but it’s a slow process. (Interested in trying some Autoimmune Paleo diet recipes? Get 2-weeks of them for free!)
I was tickled pink when I found out about oral probiotics! A researcher by the name of Dr. Jeffrey D. Hillman was able to identify strains of probiotic bacteria from volunteers with healthy teeth and gums. He isolated these bacteria and put them together in a probiotic mix called ProBiora3, that can be found in two products; Evora-Pro and Probiotic Smile. This type of bacterial mix works to crowd out the pathogenic bacteria, and has been reported to white teeth, reduce gum bleeding, inflammation and biofilms of pathogenic bacteria! The probiotics are available as pretty tasty orally dissolvable mints that are to be taken twice per day for 30-90 days.
Using a water pick may be helpful in displacing pathogenic bacteria, allowing for their removal.
Cutting back on sweets, soda, tea, and coffee will reduce the acidity in the mouth. Brushing teeth with baking soda for one week may help create an alkaline environment in the mouth, making it more difficult for the pathogenic bacteria to survive.
Oil pulling is an old Ayurvedic remedy of swishing around one tablespoon of sesame oil in the mouth, between the teeth, first thing in the morning for 5-20 minutes until the oil turns white. In theory, this method helps to break down the “homes” of bacteria, which are usually made of microcapsules of oil. While water won’t penetrate those microcapsules, sesame oil can, and mixes readily with the bacteria and becomes white in color. After 5-20 minutes the oil is spat out along with the toxins in it. Other oils have also been suggested to help, but sesame oil is the most commonly used.
Cranberry juice has been found to have anti-adhesion properties and can dissolve the protective coats that store the bacteria.
Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is used for periodontitis. Interestingly, this same antibiotic has been reported to eliminate TPO antibodies for some and may be an option to consider in someone with both Hashimoto’s and periodontitis.
I wish you all the best in your healing journey!
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 Thyroid friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter for free by going to www.thyroidpharmacist.com/gift. You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.
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- The Cranberry Institute – Dedicated to supporting research and increasing awareness about the health benefits of the cranberry. Cranberryinstituteorg. 2017. Available at: http://www.cranberryinstitute.org/. Accessed June 22, 2017.
- Patil B, Gururaj T, Patil S. Probable autoimmune causal relationship between periodontitis and Hashimotos thyroidits: A systemic review. Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice. 2011;14(3):253. doi:10.4103/1119-3077.86763.
- Fluoride Linked To Gum Disease. Medical News Today. 2017. Available at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/71584.php. Accessed June 22, 2017.
- Vandana K, Sesha Reddy M. Assessment of periodontal status in dental fluorosis subjects using community periodontal index of treatment needs. Indian Journal of Dental Research. 2007;18(2):67. doi:10.4103/0970-9290.32423.
- Dittmann R. Brighton Baby: A Revolutionary Organic Approach To Having An Extraordinary Child. Bloomington, IN: Balboa Press; 2012.
- Diabetes Self-Management – Diabetes Articles and Recipes. Diabetes Self-Management. 2017. Available at: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com. Accessed June 22, 2017.
- Foundation A, Price A, Directors B et al. Home – The Weston A. Price Foundation. The Weston A Price Foundation. 2017. Available at: http://Westonaprice.org. Accessed June 22, 2017.