There is a way to deal with autoimmune disease — the most common chronic disease – the most common question being “Is there any way to deal with this without taking powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that often have serious side effects?”
Autoimmune diseases are a huge problem in the world today. As a whole, autoimmune diseases affect over five percent of the population in Western countries.
They include type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and dozens of others, but they all have one thing in common: The immune system is being activated by a pathogen or a virus and inflammation results.
Autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or RA, often include challenging symptoms such as pain, swelling, fatigue, and disability.
At their root, one central biochemical process connects these seemingly disparate diseases: A runaway immune response, called systemic inflammation, is believed by conventional medicine to be the body attacking its own tissues, however, this is simply not the case, there is often a viral and a pathogenic aspect which the immune system is trying to deal with and the virus is also taking advantage of the crisis by inserting itself into the DNA of the immune system which can also result in the immune system being partially disabled as the virus seeks to protect itself from destruction.
Your immune system’s job is to defend you against invaders or foreign microbes, toxins, or abnormal cells like cancer or foreign food proteins (allergens). Imagine your immune system as an army that must clearly distinguish friend from foe.
Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissue gets caught in the crossfire. Your body is designed to fight off harmful things like infections, toxins, allergens, or a stress response. Sometimes and for reasons not fully known, that immune army directs its hostile attack on your joints, brain, skin, and sometimes your whole body.
Conventional medicine accepts this problem, but stops there, without LOOKING for what might be causing the body to be out of balance and attacking itself.
Instead, conventional medicine invents pharmaceutical drugs to inhibit, block, or anti-something, and fails to answer one simple question: Why is the body out of balance to begin with, and how do we help it regain the proper balance?
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a condition where the body’s immune system attack various proteins that are seen as foreign and potentially dangerous to the body. This includes things that really could be dangerous such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc. But it can also include things that aren’t dangerous to the body such as pollen, dust, specific food particles and our own tissues.
Acute inflammation, such as when we have a splinter, is necessary in order to prevent against a dangerous infection. The inflammatory storm that takes place when we have an open wound is nothing short of life-saving.
In fact, systemic infections have killed more people in the history of mankind than anything else. So the body has adapted to become stronger over time and we have hardwired the inflammatory storm process to allow us to survive dangerous infections. Unfortunately, this same strong internal military can be untamed and cause damage and destruction to our tissues.
Functional Medicine asks why that inflammation exists. When we identify the underlying sources, we can heal the body. Those causes include stress, hidden infections, food allergies or sensitivities, toxic exposure, genetic predisposition, nutrient deficiencies, and leaky gut.
In fact, there are just five root causes of all disease:
- Microbes or imbalance of the bugs in your gut
- Poor diet
All of these can trigger symptoms and create thousands of diseases, including autoimmune diseases.
If you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Physicians are mostly taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, NOT by their underlying cause.
Functional Medicine approaches diagnosing and treating disease differently. It focuses on causes not symptoms, one that is based on an understanding of the dynamic way our genes interact with environment, one that goes beyond simply treating diseases based on their label.
The Auto-Immune Nutrition Plan
The Auto-Immune Nutrition Plan:
How many times have you sought medical attention to improve a health problem you are facing only to walk out of the office with little indication of a possible diagnosis and a prescription sheet directing you to consume drugs only to treat your symptoms? A known 22 million people in the United States are affected by an autoimmune disease and millions more likely suffer unknowingly (6).
Now, what if that prescription sheet had a natural strategy for you to follow that could not only treat your symptoms, but decrease the severity of your disease or disorder and possibly prevent further suffering? An autoimmune diet may be the answer you were originally seeking.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
There are 80 known autoimmune diseases in which a broad range of symptoms can manifest in the body (6). In these cases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue after a perceived threat from an otherwise normal food source. The most common food sensitives are gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts (3, 15)
Many factors may trigger an individual’s immune system to function inappropriately such as infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses, genetics, and lifestyle factors. Although we are unable to change our genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease, we can change your lifestyle habits beginning with nutrition (6).
The Immune System
The human body is naturally designed to detect foreign agents in the body such as toxins or cancer cells. Antibodies are created to seek and destroy these harmful invaders flagged as potential threatening agents called antigens. Although these foreign antigens are looking to fit in, once the antibody recognizes them as invaders they alarm other cells to attack and remove the antigen immediately (2).
When the immune system confuses normal compounds with harmful antigens such as gluten, its defense mechanisms maintain the body in a chronic state ofinflammation. A cascade of destructive physiological effects occur which potentially leads to abnormal tissue growth or organ dysfunction (1).
Common Autoimmune Disorders
The following is a list of common autoimmune diseases and autoimmune related disorders compiled by the National Institute of Health (1, 2). There are many others that are not listed. Chances are that you may suffer from one of the follow disorders yourself or you know someone who does.
- Celiac disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Addison’s disease
- Systemic lupus
- Multiple sclerosis
- Grave’s disease (Hyperthyroidism)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic Lyme Disease
Do You Have Any of These Symptoms?
Depending on the disease, symptoms of autoimmune dysfunction involve inflammation in the body that may manifest itself in a variety of ways. The most commonly affected organs and tissues include red blood cells, blood vessels, muscles, joints, endocrine glands (thyroid gland, ovaries and testes for example), connective tissue (such as tendons and bone) and the skin. (2)
- Reoccurring fever
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Skin rash
- Abdominal pain or discomfort perhaps associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Anemia or any known vitamin or mineral deficiency
- Mood changes
Heal with Dietary Lifestyle Changes
Many of these autoimmune complications are treated using immunosuppressive medications which can put the body at greater risk of harmful infections.
Fortunately, more evidence shows that dietary lifestyle changes can decrease the severity of these symptoms, halt the progression of disease and possibly prevent the problem from occurring from the start (1, 5).
Omega-3 Fats Decrease Inflammation
The average American diet today consists of an unbalance proportion of omega- 3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. Ideally the human body requires omega-3 fatty acids in greater concentration because they produce anti-inflammatory effects. Although omega-6 fatty acids are necessary, a higher concentration of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet from processed foods, and high amounts of vegetable oils is associated with an increase in molecules which trigger inflammation. (1, 7)
Individuals with different autoimmune diseases have shown a significant improvement in their symptoms while taking fish oil supplements. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis showed a 73% decrease in their drug treatment use and 60% of patients who had Crohn’s disease experienced a decrease in their relapse rate. (11)
Fatty acids are attributed to decreasing immune mediated inflammation. Fatty acids suppress antibodies that alarm the immune system for defense and improve the signaling pathways of cells which cause inflammation.