HOW TO GET YOUR LIFE BACK FROM AN AUTOIMMUNE CONDITION
The purpose of this handout is to give you a greater understanding of what can be done to minimize and control your autoimmune disease. Once you have an autoimmune condition, you will always have this condition. The object is to keep it under control so that you have many more ‘good days” than “bad days” and minimize the chances of acquiring additional autoimmune diseases. I strongly recommend you read this handout several times so that you truly understand what is happening in your body.
Your immune system is made up of two components:
1. White blood cells (WBC’s)
2. The “barrier systems”: your skin, lungs, mucous membranes, digestive tract (gut) lining and the blood-brain barrier.
Your white blood cells have really two purposes:
1. To destroy anything that doesn’t belong in your body such as viruses, “ bad” bacteria, parasites, yeast etc
2. To remove bodily cells that are dying and no longer serve us.
Our bodies are in a constant state of transition with cells constantly dying and being replaced by newer and better functioning cells. For example, our red blood cells live approximately 120 days before they die and are carried to the spleen for removal. If our immune system is not functioning properly, these dying cells tend to linger in the body too long, replicate and can become what we call tumors. This can be the start of cancer!! Yes, you need a well functioning immune system to prevent cancer!
Now, let’s clear the air on the difference between the definition of autoimmune reactions and autoimmune disease. Autoimmune reactions are when the immune system is mistakenly attacking your own body. This can be an attack on ANY tissue in your body: your thyroid as in Hashimoto‘s Thyroid, your cartilage and joints as in rheumatoid arthritis, your central nervous system as in MS, your connective tissues as in Lupus etc….
It is important to note that these REACTIONS can occur for years before the autoimmune process gets to the point when the tissue destruction is great enough to have symptoms. When you get symptoms, then the process is now a DISEASE and it is at this point and ONLY at this point that it gets recognized by your doctor, even though the process has been going on for many years. It would be extremely beneficial to detect these reactions early on and “head them off at the pass” BEFORE they get to the tissue destruction phase. There is now an immunological testing lab, Cyrex Labs, that can measure abnormal immune reactions against 96 different tissues in your body. This allows us, as functional medicine practitioners, to intervene early and prevent future tissue destruction.
The medical approach to autoimmune disease is a ‘one size fits all” approach that has serious negative side effects to your heath and DOES NOT address the underlying causes as to why the immune system is not working properly. It is the medical perspective that if the immune system is “misbehaving”, then, let’s give the patient pharmaceuticals to suppress it (Prednisone, Humira, Enbril etc…). This will, in most cases, temporarily help with symptoms because it is “shutting down” the immune system and halting autoimmune attacks. The problem is that YOU NEED YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM ! In addition, it is not addressing the UNDERLYING TRIGGERS to the autoimmune attacks. Listen to the side effects mentioned on the commercials for Enbril or other immuno-suppressant drugs---
“the use of this drug may increase the risk of lymphomas and other types of cancers”!
So, how is functional medicine different when it comes to managing autoimmune disease?
These are the issues we tackle when managing your autoimmune disease:
1-REMOVAL OF AUTOIMMUNE TRIGGERS:
• Removal of gut infections (remember 70-80% of your immune cells are in your gut!), other infections in the body and environmental toxins.
• Identification of food sensitivities and removal from your diet: If you are eating something and your immune system thinks it is a germ and attacks it, this is known as a food sensitivity. If you continue to consume these foods, you will weaken your immune system and never get your disease under control and never achieve health. We use Cyrex Labs for food sensitivity testing.
• Repair Leaky Gut syndrome: Your small intestine is where 90% of your nutrient absorption takes place. This part of your anatomy is like a screen door on your house. The purpose of the screen door is to keep things out of your house that don’t belong inside your house. When we constantly expose our gut to foods we are sensitive to, toxins, processed foods or gut infections (bad bacteria/parasites/yeasts), holes develop in our “screen door” and the permeability of our gut lining is increased. When this happens, larger than normal molecules (gluten, dairy, soy proteins, bad bacteria, parasites yeasts, etc), make their way into the body where they DO NOT belong. This sets into action an immune response causing inflammation in the gut, body and brain! No wonder why diseases like arthritis, cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety and all chronic illnesses in general, are on the rise when our body has to constantly fight this immune inflammatory response. Hippocrates, the father of medicine said, ”Look to the gut, there you will find the cause of all human illness!”
• Identification and correction of dysbiosis: The average human adult has 4 pounds of “good bacteria” in the gut. This is known as “normal flora”. There are many different bacteria species that are part of this normal flora. If they are not in proportion to each other, this can trigger autoimmune attacks and other health issues like malabsorption of food and nutrients, infections, leaky gut and inflammation, just to name a few.
• Abnormal blood sugar: This is also known as dysglycemia. If your blood glucose levels are spiking too high (hyperglycemia) or falling too low (hypoglycemia), this not only leads to weight gain, irritability, mood swings, food cravings, hair loss etc, but it causes major stress on your immune system.
• Anemia: Most of us think that if we are anemic, we only feel fatigue. This is true, however if you are anemic, your blood cells have great difficulty bringing nutrition and oxygen to the cells of your body, especially your upper and lower extremities and your brain!
• Poor Adrenal Gland Function: Your adrenal glands (two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys) are responsible for the manufacture of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA etc). We all think of stress as being emotional/mental stress, however, stress can be physical (over training or exercising), eating too much sugar or foods you are sensitive to, having gut infections, having an autoimmune disease etc. All of these factors cause the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and we know increased cortisol is a major factor in the development of leaky gut syndrome. Your brain, via the Hypothalamus and Pituitary gland, control your adrenal function, your thyroid function and the function of your testes or ovaries. When women start to go through menopause, the adrenal glands “take over” for the ovaries in the production of the sex hormones.
• Brain function: (Hippocampus/Hypothalamus/Pituitary) and brain neurotransmitter function (serotonin/dopamine/GABA/acetylcholine), digestive function (liver, gallbladder, stomach), thyroid hormone production and hormone imbalances all need to be addressed when dealing with autoimmune disease.
2-BALANCE THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Without getting too technical, there are 2 parts to the immune system:
The TH-1 side and the TH-2 side
• The TH1 (T helper-1) cellsare the white blood cells that attack germs (antigens) or what the immune system perceives as a germ.
• The TH2(T helper-2) cells are white blood cells that “tag” and engulf the intruding antigen and form antibodies (immunoglobulins) so that if we are ever exposed to the intruder again, these cells will “remember” it and get rid of the antigenmore efficiently and less violently. It is these antibodies that we test for to see if you are autoimmune or have food sensitivities. You should NOT have high amounts of antibodies against your own tissues or against food.
In autoimmune disease, it is well known that the TH-1 and TH-2 systems are out of balance and that one side (either TH-1 or TH-2) has become overactive. The Th-3 system (called regulatory T-cells) makes sure that the communication between TH-1 and TH-2 is proper and that they are balanced. IT IS THE BREAKDOWN OF THE TH-3 SYSTEM that leads to autoimmune reactions and ultimately to autoimmune tissue destruction and disease.
BALANCING THESE PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS CRITICAL IN IMPROVING HEALTH AND MANAGING AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS!
Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally inBroward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth