Published on Thu Oct 4, 2018 - 3 min read
The prevalence of autoimmunity in America is growing. There are now well over 100 different autoimmune diseases, and an estimated 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disorder ranging from Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Hashimoto’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis1. In general, autoimmunity is a dysfunctional immune response where our immune system attacks our healthy cells2. Any disease that results from this attack is an autoimmune disease. Because an autoimmune response can be directed toward any cell/tissue/organ, there can be hundreds of autoimmune diseases3.
In almost all cases of autoimmunity, the conventional treatments are potent steroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system to relieve the symptoms4. These treatments come with a significant risks or side effects while not correcting the underlying cause of the immune system dysfunction5. Modern research is making it pretty clear that no matter where a particular autoimmune response is directed the underlying cause is inflammation and to treat the autoimmunity were going to have to find the cause of the inflammation6.
The usual inflammatory cascade may go like this example:
Stress→ High Cortisol Levels→ Inflammation→Immune overload→ Damaged gut lining→ Leaky Gut Syndrome→ Multiple Food Sensitivity→ Daily immune activation and hypersensitivity→ Autoimmunity.
The first step “stress” can be any immune stressor such as poor diet, toxins, and poor environment, not just the typical mental and physical stressors such as work, traffic, and family7. The following are some of the common causes of chronic cellular stress and eventual autoimmunity, plus what you can do about them:
- Eat a whole food based, anti-inflammatory diet. Diets like paleo, keto, whole30, that focus on omega-3s from seafood, seasonal berries, various greens and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as ginger and turmeric will cool off out of control immune responses. Further, specific foods such as wheat, sugar, and dairy can be inflammatory and keep our immune system on high alert. Reducing or eliminating inflammatory foods can dramatically improve immune responses8.
- Remove environmental toxins. Hidden environmental toxin exposure is often the culprit in autoimmune responses that don’t seem to respond to other treatments9. Consider dust-proofing your bedroom by installing a HEPA filtered air purifier. Regularly dusting, changing air conditioning filters, and covering mattresses and pillows with plastic can also reduce exposure. Be sure to check for hidden mold in bathrooms and living areas as well.
- Test for chronic infections. Chronic fungal, yeast, viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections can dysregulate your immune system and cause hypersensitivity that leads to an auto-immune disease10. We suggest you ask about our total body detoxes as well as specific heavy metal, parasite, and yeast/fungal cleanses.
- Practice relaxation techniques and try to get deep restorative sleep. Current research makes it very clear that daily unmitigated stress weakens your immune systems, chronically raises stress hormones, and eventually ruins sleep. The body follows a daily rhythm of breakdown, growth, and repair and during sleep is when we repair. When sleep is impaired the body continually breaks down until our systems get so dysregulated an autoimmune condition is likely to follow11.
- Add targeted supplements.
- Immune Modulators retrain your immune system for proper function. These include plant sterols, therapeutic mushrooms, and adaptogens such as astragalus12, amla13, and eleuthero14.
- Stress reducers increase our resilience and improve recovery times from daily stresses. These include herbs like ashwagandha15, rhodiola16, holy basil17, jujube18, and Relora.19
- Gut balancers. Since at least 70% of our immune system lies in the gut20, it makes sense to protect the stomach with supplements like probiotics, collagen/bone broth, digestive enzymes, and glutamine.
- Anti-inflammatory spices and herbs help quench out of control inflammatory fires without the side effects of traditional immune-suppressing medications. Turmeric21, Boswellia22, ginger23 are some supplements that should be in regular rotation in any autoimmune protocol. They suppress many inflammatory pathways in the body while turning on immune protective genes24.
Autoimmune diseases are complex and have many pathologies. It can often be challenging to manage it by yourself. We hope our guide can help you on your health journey.