YOUR BODY ONLY KNOWS HOW TO HEAL

I believe the human body is uniquely designed to heal itself and at the very least it certainly isn’t designed to harm or kill itself. However, in the US we are dealing with what the National Institutes of Health is calling a pandemic of disease where the body is attacking itself.    When your body attacks itself, clearly some safeguard has got awry!   An estimated 23.5 million Americans have at least one diagnosed autoimmune condition and according to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA) more than 50 million suffer from some kind of autoimmune challenge in their lifetime!   That is more than all of the COVID cases so far in the USA.  

It is time to pay attention!!

So if your body only knows how to heal  . . .  what is going on here?  

 

There are over 100 of these autoimmune diseases recognized today in which the body’s own immune system attacks healthy cells.  Is this a communication issue within the body or simply a disruption in the body’s delicate balancing act? 

Do you know anyone who has Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroid Disease, Asthma, Lupus or Celiac Disease?

Put as simply as possible, autoimmune diseases develop over time and patients often have many years of “preclinical” symptoms including fatigue, low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, or rashes.   Pre-clinical means that the lab tests are still normal but unexplained symptoms are present that will tend to become more severe and debilitating over time until the condition becomes severe enough for blood tests to be positive leading to a diagnosis.  

So how do we develop autoimmunity?  

THE TRIPLE THREAT LEADING TO AUTOIMMUNITY

1. Genetics:  There is clearly a genetic predisposition for these types of illness as twin studies have shown a higher number of identical twins sharing the same disease than non-identical twins or siblings.   However, this rate of shared illness is only 10-40% so there has to be another explanation.  

2.  Environmental Factors:  The list is long - - chemicals, heavy metals, viruses, bacteria, emotional stress, drugs, legal and illegal.   Oh, AND FOOD.   For thousand of years humans ate food shortly after harvesting and in season.  Huge environmental changes include new strains of crops, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides for fruits and veggies, hormones and antibiotics in meats, and the chemical ingredients like artificial preservatives, colorings, flavorings are now in our everyday lives.  Additionally, Americans consume artificial sweeteners in abundance, especially in soft drinks and we use more than twice as much salt as recommended.  There is also widespread use of antibiotics, antacids, stomach acids reducers and other over the counter medications adding to this toxic soup.    All of these changes are directly paralleling this considerable rise in autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and MS, especially in industrialized countries suggesting a link between these conditions and diet.  Additionally, it has been shown that there is a direct link between Vitamin D deficiency and several autoimmune conditions.  

 

3. GI Health : What do we mean by gut health?   This is a combination of Motility- how quickly food moves through the upper( small ) and lower (large) intestines and the Microbiome the healthy and unhealthy bacteria, parasites, yeast that are present.   

Let’s start with motility - When motility slows, which happens as a result of many pharmaceutical medications such as antiacids, antibiotics, and NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen, along with smoking and alcohol use, there is increased exposure to the antigens in the GI tract and subsequently immune interactions.   

What is the microbiome? According to Harvard, “The microbiome consists of microbes that are both helpful and potentially harmful. Most are symbiotic (where both the human body and microbiota benefit) and some, in smaller numbers, are pathogenic (promoting disease). In a healthy body, pathogenic and symbiotic microbiota coexist without problems. But if there is a disturbance in that balance—brought on by infectious illnesses, certain diets, or the prolonged use of antibiotics or other bacteria-destroying medications—dysbiosis occurs, stopping these normal interactions. As a result, the body may become more susceptible to disease.”  

How Can Functional Health Help?

The most common treatment method for autoimmune conditions in modern medicine are steroids, which suppress the entire immune system.  Not only can steroids be extremely damaging when taken over long periods of time, but it also fails to address the root of the problem altogether.

Focusing on the symptoms, rather than the cause, is a common theme in the modern medical model. Functional health professionals, however, are constantly trying to change this symptoms based approach.   We ask: “Why treat the symptoms and allow the disease to persist if you could prevent the onset or reverse the path entirely?”

Functional medicine focuses on treating the root causes of autoimmunity, such as inflammation. This can come in the form of an anti-inflammatory diet, testing for hidden allergies, and removing any stressors or environmental toxins from the equation. Functional medicine recognizes that each patient will differ in their particular treatment needs, so they are cared for accordingly. Functional health is personal, and so generating awareness to your own stressors and particular needs is key in the fight against autoimmune challenges. This includes becoming more ‘literate’ about your diagnosis and how you manifest your autoimmune disorder, to enable you to correctly treat it.

Our hope is to enable all patients to become ‘literate’ and confident in functional health, so as to maximize their chances of prevention and reversal of autoimmune complications.

 

Ensuring your diet is rich in anti-inflammatory properties and minimizing allergen exposure are  two great ways to take positive action against autoimmunity. Foods like tomatoes, fatty fish, leafy greens, walnuts, almonds, turmeric, and ginger are well-known for their ability to minimize inflammation and repair cellular damage.

Similarly, trying ‘elimination diets’ where you briefly remove a particular allergen from your diet in order to observe how your body reacts to it is also a great tool  for identifying potential causes of inflammation. Common foods eliminated during these diets include dairy, gluten, eggs, food colorings, sugar, and saturated fats.

It’s recommended that ‘elimination diets’ be given an all in GO for a period of at least two weeks to truly allow for the body to adapt to life without the potential trigger food.   That means no cheating, don’t worry there are a ton of great foods to eat!  ’Elimination diets’ are incredible diagnostic tools, preventative measures, as well as treatment plans.  

Elimination Diets’ maybe the best first step but it often doesn’t always solve the whole problem !   Let me know if you need more resources to start you Elimination Diet, or other questions about how to live with less autoimmune symptoms.   

To Your Wholehearted Wellness, 

Tricia Thompson, D.O.

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