A focus on the Complete Microbiome Mapping functional test parameters
Test don’t guess! Secretory IgA (SIgA) is among the many things the complete microbiome mapping will test for.
SIgA is secreted by mucosal tissue of your gut lining and represents the first line of defence of the (GI) mucosa and is central to the normal function of the (GI) tract as an immune barrier.
Low levels can influence the elevated presence of parasites and/or dysbiotic bacteria to occur.
Mucosal surfaces cover a large part of our body. The digestive tract, nose, mouth and throat are prime examples where this mucosal layer plays a critical role in supporting our health.
The digestive system’s role is essentially to let good things into the body such as nutrients and prevent bad things from getting into the body such as toxins and undigested food substances from the GI tract.
The goal of preventing unwanted substances from getting in the body is achieved through a combination of innate and acquired immunity.
The innate immunity includes things such as mucus, cytokines and lactoferrin, whereas the acquired related more to the production of antibodies.
SIgA is the most abundant and primary antibody response at the mucosal level. The B-cells within the mucosa are activated upon the presence of pathogens and allergens and thus produce SIgA in response. Ultimately SIgA is crucial in preventing the overgrowth of problematic bugs within the digestive tract. Low levels seen in stool testing done at Key Nutrition is commonly associated with the presence of dysbiosis and infection.
Establishing if low SIgA is causing digestive issues or if it is a result of an infection is an important part of the gut healing journey.
What if SIgA is low?
Low SIgA levels generally have an increased risk of food sensitivities, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal permeability, autoimmunity, coeliac disease and gastrointestinal infections.
Low SIgA means we less able to adequately fight invaders getting into the gut lining. The lining then becomes inflamed and the tight junctions that ordinarily keep toxins and undigested food particles out breakdown. This causes havoc in the body because now toxins and undigested substances get a free ticket into the blood stream, causing inflammatory and immune reactions that often drive symptoms systemically throughout the body.
Causes of low SIgA can include:
Mental / Emotional / Physical stress
Cortisol, one of the main stress hormones, has been shown to decrease SIgA levels. Lowering stress and introducing stress reduction habits and techniques is crucial in the long-term management of SIgA levels.
Chronic infections are also a common cause of SIgA depletion. Assessing for problematic bugs such as Candida, Blastocystis Hominis, H.pylori, C.Diff etc in stool should be high on the priority list. Some of the above overgrowths are seen as potential pathogens. Some are problematic depending on the levels within the body and others it is more to do with the virulence (these are also tested for in the CMM).
Certain medications have been shown to deplete SIgA levels. Anti-inflammatory medications appear to lower the levels of SIgA, but so can antibiotics because of their depleting effects on bacteria that are beneficial to SIgA.
Poor dietary choices
Calorie rich, but nutrient devoid foods do little to support our immune system and, in some cases, interfere with appropriate immune responses within the body. Certain nutrients are very helpful in supporting healthy SIgA levels such as Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Zinc and Glutathione.
A good intake of dietary fibre and phytonutrients can also play a role in supporting a heathy gut microbiome. This can help to develop beneficial bacteria that promote good SIgA levels.
Chronic food sensitivities can be a major contributor to low levels of SIgA. It is debatable whether they are the initial trigger, but once they develop something should be done to remove these foods even if only temporarily, such as the use of a well structured elimination diet.
Tips to improve your first line of defence.
Increase Consumption of Polyphenols – Specifically, adding in foods such as green tea, cacao, pomegranate, grapeseed & medicinal mushrooms have been shown to support SIgA.
Saccharomyces Boulardii – This competitive yeast that has been shown to raise SIgA levels, whilst also being very effective against traveller’s diarrhoea and combating Clostridium Difficile and Candida overgrowths.
Beta Glucans – Beta glucans have been shown to help stabilise SIgA in children with chronic respiratory issues. Beta glucan is a type of soluble fibre that is found in foods such as oats, mushrooms like reishi, miatake and shiitaki, rice as well as seaweed.
Bone Broth / Gelatine – Bone broth and specifically the gelatine it provides is said to be supportive of SIgA levels in the gut. As well as the gelatine bone broth also provides an array of nutrients that can help optimise digestive health.
Support Fat Soluble Vitamins – Focus on Vitamin D through increased exposure to the sun or appropriate supplementation as well as vitamin A from foods or supplementation in the active form, Retinyl palmitate. Vitamin A is needed for the transport of SIgA over the mucosal lining.
Get Tested – If you only have low SIgA without any other information, you are going to need to broaden your assessment to help uncover potential underlying issues.
Nutrition Improvements – If your diet leaves a lot to be desired, you may want to work with a Nutritionist that specialises in digestive health.
Stress Management – Last but not least. Look over your current stressors or perceived levels of stress. If you have numerous underlying stressors, perhaps past traumatic events that are still affecting you now, you may need to go deeper to address the impact that stress and emotions are having on your physiology, including immune function, like SIgA.
How can I test my SIgA levels?
With recurrent or chronic digestive issues, it is always worth assessing SIgA. At Key Nutrition we use comprehensive stool testing to assess the microbiome and gut health.
Part of that assessment is that of Secretory IgA as an important GI Health marker alongside around 50 other markers that give a broad overview of microbiome balance, digestion and absorption, inflammation and immune function, infections, overgrowths, intestinal permeability and more.