Autoimmune Disease - its about addressing not suppressing the immune system
A "Sense of Wonder" and Autoimmune disease...you wouldn't initially think there was an obvious connection but.. doesn't every person diagnosed with autoimmunity become struck with a sense of wonder?
"I wonder how this happened to me?"
Conventionally, Autoimmune conditions often get treated as this mysterious affliction that seems to strike out of the blue or only makes sense when there's a family history.
But actually when one peels back the layers of these individuals, the physiological dysfunction runs deep and we discover all the components of a compelling bio-individual story. The World Needs More Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioners!
Autoimmunity is one of the fast growing conditions in the western world. With the recent discovery that even Cardiovascular disease also has an autoimmune component, some scientists argue this places Autoimmune conditions as the number one chronic disease on the globe. With over 200 different manifestations now identified its mind boggling to think it still takes an average of 6-10 doctors and 5-7 years before these conditions are diagnosed. As well, when they are diagnosed they are not addressed as a disease of the entire immune system but rather a disease of particular affected organs and those diagnosed are sent to specialists which only then address those specific organs and at best only the symptoms are managed often through medications designed to suppress the immune system.
In contrast, amazing work is being accomplished in the field of functional medicine and nutritional therapy by addressing the body as a whole and working to identify the underlying causes that lead the immune system to become a runaway train. While there is no "cure" to Autoimmune disease this approach has helped thousands of people lower and reverse antibodies, reduce their medication needs and become symptom free.
Although every single person carries their own bio-individual story of health some commonalities in the underlying causes of Autoimmune Disease have been established. These include:
Research has now shown that Gluten has been proven to be undigestible by all humans and contributes significantly to a wide array of health problems which are not just exclusive to the digestive system. It has been established that gluten creates transient intestinal permeability in all individuals (leaky gut) which becomes exacerbated by continual consumption.
All diseases begin and end in the gut. Our intestinal lining is our direct interface with the outer World and all that lives with in it -good or bad. When our digestion becomes compromised and intestinal hyper-permeability ensues (leaky gut) a flood gate is opened to a myriad of infections, toxins and food particles leading to systemic inflammation and increased risk of autoimmunity,
We are inundated continually with toxins from before birth. Samples of cord blood at the time of delivery have identified over 270 different toxins we are exposed to even before we have taken our first breath. Compromised digestion as well as inborn errors of metabolism dictate our ability or inability to continually detoxify throughout our lifetime. This toxic burden as the ability wreak havoc on the immune system.
Compromised digestion greatly increases our risk of microbial imbalances of bacteria, fungal overgrowth, parasites and other organisms which are now strongly linked for the development of autoimmunity.
Chronic stress both internal and physiological can lead to longterm cascade of inflammation that develops a life of its own, greatly increasing our risk for autoimmune disease.
The Key Components to Reversing Autoimmune Disease
As Functional Nutritional Therapists, our philosophy is entirely based on that sense of wonder, that curious inner nature to ask "why" and then to support clients in their journey to discovering their underlying causes of depleted health. Through integrative health coaching we walk the path to wellness together using targeted dietary strategies and functional laboratory testing. Some of these key strategies include:
Returning to Our Evolutionary Diet
We are completely made of the food we consume. Returning to whole unprocessed naturally occurring foods is an absolute foundational requirement for health improvement and significantly improves a wide range of conditions including Autoimmune. Whole real properly prepared nutrient dense foods can significantly remove the most commonly reactive foods that create food sensitivities- however after decades of intestinal permeability (leaky gut), any food can become fair game for sensitivities so we often all perform food sensitivity testing via lab work or clinical assessment to identify all reactive foods in the diet.
Healing the gut
Pulling the fuel off the inflammatory fire is an absolute necessity to calming the immune system how ever the most common mistake made is not addressing the inflammatory fire itself as this inflammatory cascade is self perpetuating and will continue without directly addressing it. Chronic underlying inflammation is the cornerstone to chronic disease and must be thoroughly investigated and eliminated to calm the hypervigilant immune system of Autoimmune sufferers.
Heavy metals and toxins
From even before birth our bodies are inundated by toxins and heavy metals. The ability of our body to properly detoxify can be hampered by poor digestion, stress, toxic overload or inborn errors of metabolism. Supporting the bodies ability to safely remove toxins removes considerable symptom burden on the body.
Identifying underlying microbial imbalances
An imbalanced microbiome is a significant underlying factor associated with autoimmune conditions. If you have a history of compromised digestion, mapping your microbiome should be considered a fundamental first step.
We can identify and eliminate the hidden internal physiological causes of stress but often it is up us to identify and manage our external stressors and internal psychological stressors. Key areas to address includes quality of sleep, level of exercise (not too little not too much), and how we perceive and respond to stress. Often it takes a major health event such as an autoimmune disease for many of us to finally take stock of what's important and start to make ourselves a priority.
Our health is like the layers of an onion that has taken a lifetime to acquire. We have become so accustomed to the quick fix bandaid approach to suppressing the bodies symptoms rather than questioning and addressing the underlying causes many of us are shocked to hear that health actually takes a conscious concerted effort and time. However without that effort, the alternative may be that we lose control and ultimately the freedom to make the decisions about our health that give us long lasting quality of life.
So if nothing else, remember that our sense of wonder is our most valuable tool we possess. Our ability to ask "why" can truly make all the difference to our health and our happiness.
Helpful References and Resources:
- The World Incidence and Prevalence of Autoimmune Diseases is Increasing
- The increasing prevalence of autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases: an urgent call to action for improved understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
- Atherosclerosis: A Chronic Inflammatory Disease with an Autoimmune Component - PMC
- Adjuvants and Autoimmunity
- The Wide spread effects from gluten
- The Effect of Gliadin on all groups
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