Autoimmunity Improvement and Functional Medicine
Our immune system is an incredibly intricate system of detecting and destroying foreign invaders. But what if it began attacking our own body? That would be like the army attacking our own country. In either case we’d want to know why our own defense system was turning on itself.
Is it a mistaken glitch in the system? Or is there actually something wrong with our body that would justify our immune system destroying it? Scientists are exploring these questions and clues are emerging.
Regardless, that’s just what autoimmunity is. And it’s happening to more and more people every day. 20 percent of the population has an autoimmune problem and it’s been termed by some an epidemic. 75% of the victims are actually woman. It’s a tricky situation because many have been to 4 different doctors before getting an accurate diagnosis. It involves just about all organs.
Some common potential symptoms are fatigue, pain and swelling, digestive problems, skin issues, swollen glands and many others depending on the organ being attacked.1
The more common autoimmune conditions are rheumatoid arthritis (immune system attacks the joints) systemic lupus erythematosus (immune system attacks the skin, joints, brain, kidneys and other organs) and 90% of lupus involves women. Others include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac, multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes mellitus, Guillain-Barre syndrome and with the thyroid (Graves and Hashimoto’s).
When one organ or tissue is attacked there is usually other organs or tissues attacked as well.
So, what causes autoimmunity?
Who gets it and why does it attack?
Are there any steps I can take to prevent it or actually help it?
Medically we don’t know how to stop it. We know there’s no cure.
Can holistic or functional medicine approaches help?
Here’s what we know. Our immune system usually can tell the difference between “self” from “non-self.” Sometimes we need to attack our own cells, but we normally keep it at bay. In autoimmunity something has gone wrong. Whether it’s because of a faulty immune system or it’s because our immune system is correctly attacking what’s inside our cells is still up for debate. But after research and working with patients holistically it appears to be a combination of the two.
We know that toxins, diet, genetics, infections all play a role.3
Some studies show there's a possibility to get the immune system not to attack itself.4
Medical treatment is geared towards suppressing the immune system.
Essentially turning off the immune system so it stops attacking. Makes sense but this can obviously be dangerous since we need our immune system to defend real infections. A common complaint about traditional approaches is that there is a no attention to the underlying factors that may be driving the condition. Autoimmunity is no different.
Check out how FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE addresses the root cause.
A holistic or functional approach does just that. It focuses on keeping the body in balance regardless of the condition. Here are some factors that may be causing imbalance in the body leading to immune dysfunction.
The majority of the immune system lies in the digestive system. It’s doorway where bad stuff comes in from the outside. Digestive Problems can lead to undigested food particles. Undigested food particles can cause yeast and bacteria overgrowth in the gut. This can lead to inflammation in the intestines creating a leaky gut scenario where particles get through that shouldn’t. Now we have toxins circulating in the blood stream. When you do this for decades you develop a chronic inflammatory situation and high potential for the immune system attacking itself. This can also cause sensitivities to foods like gluten, dairy, corn and soy. Antibiotics and other medications have created superbugs and overgrowth. Our immune system has never been so challenged. 5
Today we find over 500 chemicals stored in our bodies and most have at least seven pesticides in their urine. 6 Some examples include GMO’s, heavy metals like mercury, paint thinners, cleaning supplies, and nail polish, smoking, undigested gluten, pesticides, asbestos, estrogen imbalance is a short list of toxins to be aware of. Also processed foods can become a toxin. Eating organic foods is not a perfect approach but it’s a step in the right direction.
It is widely known that the nervous system controls every part of the body including the immune system. Abhorrent neurological patterns have been linked to poor functioning immune system. 7
Too much Hygiene?
Many researchers believe we clean our surroundings too much with antibacterial soaps, bleach and other agents that do not allow our immune system the proper bacterial exposure to exercise our immune systems.
Stress and Adrenal Fatigue:
High levels of cortisol affect the immune system.
Vitamin D is an immune modulator. If your low in vitamin D it can increase susceptibility to autoimmunity.8 Vitamin C is a known immune booster. Vitamin B6 is critical in biochemical reactions. Vitamin E is an essential antioxidant in the body. Low vitamins from poor nutrition is a major factor in autoimmunity.
Genetic Predisposition doesn’t mean you get the disease it means predisposed or have a tendency to suffer from a particular condition.
While there are many general factors that can create an autoimmune dysfunctional state the key is addressing your unique primary factors driving your particular situation. Doing so can have a substantial impact on your condition and overall health. Root cause testing can provide you with the proper clues to put you on track to improve your health. Our office focuses on the factors that may be contributing to an overreactive immune system rather than suppressing the immune system. Instead using targeted nutrition to help rebuild health from the inside out.