In the past 5 years, I have seen an increasing number of clients being diagnosed with auto immune illnesses. From children to adults, the diagnosis rate for all auto immune disorders is on the rise and especially in Westernized countries. Modern medicine would have us believe that we should treat symptoms, but is there another way? Is there a possibility that we can reverse symptoms and even prevent the occurrence of auto immune diseases entirely? For most people who develop auto immune disorders, they have no idea that there is an immune system malfunction until the disease has fully manifested. Because the development of these disorders is multifaceted, it is challenging to pinpoint just one cause; however, there is hope.
There are more than 100 auto immune disorders currently being diagnosed. Some of the more common ones are celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, MS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, and nearly 80% of those affected are women. While genetic and gender factors are at play, there is definitely a link between auto immune disorders and controllable factors like what we eat and the things we are exposed to in our environment.
So what happens when someone develops an auto immune disease? Essentially, and auto immune disease is when the immune system mistakenly attacks a part of your body. Whether it is your pancreas (type 1 diabetes) or your thyroid (Hashimoto’s) or your skin (psoriasis), the origin is the same…a case of mistaken identity. No matter what your auto immune disorder, the culprit always points back to the immune system. It is not yet clear why certain people develop certain disorders while others manifest differently, but many functional medicine specialists believe that there is a genetic susceptibility component pointing to our “weakest link” organs. The belief is that when the immune system goes awry, it tends to attack the areas where our bodies are genetically weakest which is why auto immune disorders tend to run in families. Once you have been diagnosed with one auto immune disorder, you are more likely to be diagnosed with another.
While that might all sound like a doomsday prediction, there is hope! Whether or not you have been diagnosed with an auto immune disorder or not, there is hope for prevention and even reversal of symptoms through changing your diet and supporting your immune system. In our last Heart In Motion article, I outlined 4 of the best supplements for supporting the immune system. They are well worth adding to your supplement regimen, and at the very least, add the vitamin c. Vitamin c comes in different forms and the different forms function differently in the body, so choose carefully or choose the one that I recommended.
Getting back to prevention and treatment, the gut is really where we should start. We have written for years about the importance of caring for the gut, so the basic Heart In Motion guidelines certainly apply to this topic as well. Read below about the 5 most common contributors to auto immune disorders to see if there is an area that you could work on to possibly prevent or treat what is going on in your body. We will discuss more specifically in future articles nutritional changes you can make that can make a great impact on both prevention and symptom management.
- Leaky gut – Because at least 80% of your immune system is in your gut, addressing leaky gut is KEY to reversing auto immune symptoms. If you have auto immune, it means that the tight junctions that hold the lining of your gut together have become loose and have allowed inflammatory food particles to “leak” out into the bloodstream. Because your immune system recognizes these are foreign invaders, it triggers a steep rise in inflammation causing your body to go into “attack mode” and in the case of auto immune, attacking healthy tissue by mistake.
- Gluten – We will talk more about the role of gluten and other specific foods in auto immune disorders in future articles, but the basic premise is that gluten triggers the release of zonulin in the intestinal tract causing the tight junctions to open up and inflammatory food particles to leak out. Gluten is the #1 food to avoid if you have auto immune in your family history or have been diagnosed yourself.
- Toxins – This one is a bit more challenging to avoid as toxins come in many different forms. Everything from mold to mercury fillings have been implicated in the development of auto immune disorders, but there are a few things you can do.
- Visit a biologic dentist and have your metal fillings removed over a period of time. Many cases of auto immune disorders begin to reverse with just this step.
- Install a HEPA filter in your home
- Do not get unnecessary vaccinations. Vaccinations contain mercury and other preservatives and contaminants that are meant to be inside the body. Supporting your immune system is more effective than getting a flu shot (which has been shown to have minimal protective value anyway).
- Get checked for lurking viruses. Epstein barr has been found to be a common contributor to auto immune illness. Having your doctor test for and treat if positive can greatly help prevent the development of auto immune and mitigate symptoms if you have already been diagnosed.
- Stress – Nobody can really avoid stress, but doing what you can do decrease the amount of perceived stress can be extremely helpful in allowing the body to repair itself from the immune assault. Epsom salt baths, yoga, prayer, and meditation are great ways to decrease stress in the body.
In the weeks to come, we are going to be discussing how to heal your gut and decrease auto immune symptoms through diet and supplementation. There is great hope! I have clients every week who go into complete remission of symptoms by changing their diet, so hang in there! If you would like to skip ahead, there are a couple of great books that I recommend that you read.
For another great resource, follow Dr. Amy Meyers. She is a wealth of information (and the author of The Thyroid Connection).
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Read through the article above and take note whether or not you struggle with auto immune issues. We could all use a decrease in stress and inflammation, so starting to live our lives with that mindset goes a long way toward preventing many health challenges including auto immune. Stay tuned! We are going to dive deep into this issue in the weeks to come.