(Naturalhealth365) Autoimmune disease – which can include such debilitating conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and inflammatory bowel disease – currently affects 50 million Americans. A staggering statistic, when you think about the millions of people suffering without much help from Western medicine.
You see, conventionally-trained physicians are taught to ‘treat’ autoimmune disease with immunosuppressive drugs, anti-inflammatory medications and steroids – but, these methods never address the underlying cause. And, the drugs feature serious and even life-threatening side effects.
Thankfully, integrative medicine helps us to understand these health issues in a much more sensible way.
In autoimmune disease, antibodies produced by the body mistakenly attack tissues and organs
An important component of the immune system, antibodies are responsible for recognizing proteins in foreign cells and pathogens.
In order to help identify them as targets that should be attacked by the immune cells, antibodies bind to these foreign cells. Under normal circumstances, antibodies are a disease “early warning” and identification system. But in autoimmune disease, the body creates a specific type of antibodies called autoantibodies – which end up being used by the body to attack itself.
The form of the disease is determined by the site of the attack. For example, in multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the sheath of fiber that protects the tissue of the central nervous system. In forms of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the immune system attacks the cells in the intestinal tract.
Autoimmune disease and leaky gut are linked
Dysbiosis, an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria that live in the gut, can trigger increased intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut.” Leaky gut allows partially digested food particles, proteins, pathogens and toxins to make their way into the bloodstream, which causes an immune response and triggers inflammation throughout the body.
Bloating, food sensitivities, thyroid conditions, digestive disturbances, fatigue and joint pain can accompany leaky gut syndrome. (If you think these bear a similarity to the symptoms of autoimmune disease, you’re correct).
Integrative healthcare providers suggest the following steps to maintain the health of the gut microbiome and ward off leaky gut and autoimmune disease.
Eliminate foods that trigger the immune system
Common culprits that can aggravate autoimmune disease include conventional dairy products, GMO foods and unsprouted grains – which contain nutrient-blocking substances known as phytates and lectins.
Many natural health experts advise eliminating wheat, rice, corn, soy, grains, processed sugar and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers and eggplants) from the diet.
Eat healing foods – as often as possible
Specific foods can play an important role in defeating autoimmune disease.
Bone broth – rich in beneficial amino acids that heal damaged cell walls – is one of the most beneficial foods you can eat for healing leaky gut and reducing inflammation. You should also eat healthy amounts of probiotic foods, such as yogurt with live bacteria cultures, pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Coconut products, which are good sources of medium chain fatty acids, are easy to digest, and can also help alleviate autoimmune disease. Sprouted seeds, such as chia and flax, are also beneficial.
And, finally, integrative physicians tend to recommend treating autoimmune disease with foods rich in vitamins A and D, along with B-complex vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and the minerals iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium.
Go for organic options
Organic foods are not only higher in vitamins and minerals than those that are conventionally grown, but also lower in toxins and harmful residues. By law, foods certified organic may not contain GMOs or synthetic chemical pesticides.
Manage stress levels
Research has shown that stress-triggered neuroendocrine hormones cause immune dysregulation, which amplifies the production of the inflammatory cytokines that trigger autoimmune disease. In fact, researchers have found that up to 80 percent of autoimmune disease patients reported experiencing uncommon emotional stress before the onset of the condition.
Effective stress management techniques can include meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture, exercise, and guided relaxation.
Reduce exposure to toxins
Try to limit exposure to heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, all of which can trigger or worsen autoimmune disease. Of course, when you focus on organic foods – you tend to avoid many food toxins. But, be mindful of the quality of your water and immediate air space.
Antibiotics, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are linked with autoimmune disease as well. (Of course, consult with your doctor before stopping any prescribed medications.)
Use a high-quality water filter to eliminate chlorine and fluoride from drinking water.
And, visit this link to access the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, an online guide with safety ratings for more than 78,000 cosmetics and personal care products.
Seek out helpful supplements
In addition to eating probiotic foods, it can be helpful to take probiotic supplements in order to re-inoculate the gut with healthy bacteria.
Some integrative providers will recommend the anti-inflammatory amino acid, L-glutamine.
DGL (deglycyrrhizinated) licorice root is an adaptogen that helps the body deal with stress. In addition to improving acid production in the stomach, licorice root helps to balance cortisol levels.
And, quercetin, which supports the creation of tight junction proteins, can help “seal” the gut and ease inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.
Don’t forget your teeth and gums: Consult a biological dentist
Since autoimmune disease can increase sensitivity to harm from mercury-based dental fillings, it’s wise to consult with a knowledgeable biological dentist about whether removal is right for you.
To learn more about how to properly care for your teeth and gums – register now for the Holistic Oral Health Summit, hosted by Jonathan Landsman.
No doubt, at the beginning of your journey, an autoimmune disease can be a frustrating, bewildering and complex condition to deal with. But, by using natural, non-toxic techniques – you can reduce inflammation, decrease immune response, and improve your overall well-being.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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