Do you have, or are you at risk for, an Autoimmune Disease?
While rare in underdeveloped nations, autoimmune diseases have become a 21st century epidemic, with one in six people in America living with autoimmune disease. Some of the increasingly common autoimmune diseases of our times include Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), psoriasis, and celiac disease. What you may not realize is how easily anyone can end up with an autoimmune disease if inflammation is not addressed aggressively and in a timely manner. Here’s why:
Your immune system is designed to protect and defend you from potential invaders; those microbes and substances which should not be in your body, including bacteria, parasites, yeast, fungi, chemicals (e.g., plastics, pesticides, petroleum, heavy metals), and anything else that looks foreign and mysterious to your body. There are varying theories as to the exact etiology of autoimmune disease. Traditionalists tend to blame genetics or occasionally allow that infectious disease may stimulate it. Others in the functional and integrative medicine fields give genetics significantly less credit and recognize inflammation as an underlying common thread to all autoimmune diseases that have become chronic and systemic. Simply put, autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system loses its ability to distinguish friend from foe and begins to attack its own tissues, whether that be an organ, nerves, joints, bone, or other tissues. Most functional integrative practitioners also recognize the gut microbiome (i.e., the colonies of various microbes in the gastrointestinal tract) as providing the vast majority of our immune system, and so connect a compromised microbiome and consequent gut inflammation, as well as related gut permeability (aka “leaky gut”), directly to the onset and progression of autoimmune disease. So while definitions and causes of autoimmune diseases vary, what is consistent among them is a systemic inflammation partnered with the body attacking itself, most likely involving underlying gut UNhealth. Lack of gastrointestinal symptoms does NOT equal a healthy gut. Moreover, let’s not underestimate the role of stress as it triggers and/or exacerbates all that ails you.
Treatment methods also vary. Traditionalists will simply seek to stop the immune response with anti-inflammatory medications and immune suppressing medications, all of which have serious side effects and fail to address the source of the problem. Functional medicine seeks to find the chronic sources of inflammation in the body and correct these areas, working to restore optimal function and offer healing.
Understanding the concepts above about autoimmune disease can help you see that, if you don’t identify and put out the fires of inflammation in the body, they can lead to some very serious diseases. Moreover, it follows that your best defense against autoimmunity is to choose a balanced lifestyle that avoids common sources of inflammation, and address any inflammation at its source if, or when, it does appear.
The human body is complex. Just as a car needs the parts of the engine, properly assembled, AND gas, AND oil, AND tires, AND brake fluid AND filters, the human body has many parts that must function together properly and be cared for properly in order to remain disease free and healthy. There is not a simple pill or diet or an exercise that can cure or prevent autoimmune disease.
Here are many of the likely factors to consider as you seek to avoid or treat an autoimmune disease. We recommend that you partner with a functional/integrative practitioner to explore the following:
- Check for hidden infections caused by yeast, viruses, bacteria, and other parasites or pathogens.
- Identify food allergens and sensitivities with IgE and IgG testing so that they can be removed as a source of immune attack and invasion.
- Identify inflammatory foods and beverages, as well as medications, which contribute to overall inflammation, and avoid them.
- Identify vitamin, mineral, and other nutrient deficiencies. Healing and recovery will require them. They help to regulate the behavior of the immune system. For example, vitamin D and zinc deficiencies have been well studied as common culprits involved with inflammation.
- Address your gut health by restoring the military force of beneficial bacteria that protects you, while simultaneously eliminating the inflammation there. The gut needs to be healed, sealed and re-militarized!
- Identify possible sources of chemical exposure and minimize ongoing exposure. Consider your past and present exposure to pesticides, heavy metals (e.g., mercury, lead and arsenic), petrochemicals, Roundup (an herbicide), plastics, fragrances and other beauty care products. All of these are invaders that create havoc, disrupt normal bodily processes and create real and significant inflammation. They are pervasive and present in our routine daily lives but can be dramatically minimized with an intentional approach.
- Consider utilizing PEMF as a complement to your other treatments.
- Address your stressors. Stress is an inflammatory trigger. According to Dr. David Marquis, a Diplomat American Clinical Board of Nutrition, “ when you engage in an argument and your cortisol levels increase or you are burning the midnight oil to finish a project and your thyroid hormone levels fluctuate, both are examples of chemical changes in the body that create immediate, real time intestinal permeability, resulting in absorption of partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast and bacteria to pass through the intestines into the bloodstream where the immune response attacks”. Learn to balance your life, practice deep relaxation, exercise regularly but not excessively, ensure quality sleep and maintain healthy relationships. Care for your mind, body and spirit – your whole, integrated being.