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Dealing with autoimmune disease naturally

One of the freaky things about having an autoimmune disease is finding out that your immune system is attacking your body. Talk about sleeping with the enemy!

There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases, you may have heard of some of them – rhematoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), ulcerative colitis, crohns disease, type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, hashimoto’s, graves, psoriasis, even endometriosis has been recently classified as an autoimmune disease.

Even though there are over 80 different names, they are all doing essentially the same thing, that is, the immune system is attacking some part of the body.  They just have different disease names depending on which part the immune system is attacking. For example, if you had Lupus your body would be attacking multiple tissues whereas if you have Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease then your body is attacking your thyroid gland.

As you can imagine, it’s not much fun having an autoimmune disease – the symptoms can range from mild to debilitating with fatigue, joint/muscle pain, weakness, numbness/tingling, brain fog, hair loss, weight gain or loss, digestive issues, and infertility.

The Perfect Storm

Autoimmune diseases are on the increase, the incidence of MS alone has doubled over the past decade. So how does an autoimmune disease develop? One theory is there has to be the “Perfect Storm” of these 3 things coming together:

  • Genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease
  • Leaky gut
  • A trigger

Genetic Predisposition

Autoimmune diseases tend to run in families. You might be the first person in the family to be diagnosed hashimoto’s disease but you may have other relatives who have with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or coeliac disease for example. But you may also notice that other family members will not have any issues with autoimmunity. Just because someone might have inherited the gene it doesn’t mean that they will develop the disease. The gene is the loaded gun – it needs a trigger to be set off (the scientific field of epigenetics which explores how and when our genes get expressed explains this well).

Leaky Gut

A leaky gut is otherwise known as intestinal permeability. It just means that our intestines are letting foreign particles into our bloodstream – a recipe for an immune attack. The structure of our intestines needs to be like a screen door – only letting in the fresh air and keeping out the bad stuff like insects. When our intestines are working well they will secrete the nutrients from our food into our blood supply. When they are leaky, then things like food particles and intestinal bacteria can leach into our systems which just fires up the immune response. What causes a leaky gut? Generally, it’s things like stress, food intolerances, antibiotics, the oral contraceptive pill, or anything that can irritate the intestinal lining and disrupt our good bacteria.

Triggers

  • Stress and hormone imbalances (trauma, anxiety, puberty, pregnancy, menopause, the Pill)
  • Infections (bacteria, yeast, parasites, viruses, candida overgrowth)
  • Toxins (mercury, pesticides, plastics, bisphenol A) these damage our tissues so they look foreign to the immune system
  • Deficiencies (did you know that vitamin D is an immune regulator?)

The natural approach

Conventional medicine will treat the symptoms with things like steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants etc. With natural treatment we aim to “treat the fire, not the smoke” which means we don’t want to just treat the symptoms, we also want to find out what’s triggering the immune system and address that as well.

The natural approach that I take is to identify the triggers, deal with them and heal the leaky gut. This does require some testing (usually stool testing and some blood tests which I can order if they haven’t already been done by a GP). This is what I recommend:

  1. Reduce stress and identify and nutrient deficiencies. Start gut healing support with things like glutamine, slippery elm, bone broths, fermented foods, probiotics. Do not underestimate the important of reducing stress when you are living with an autoimmune disease. The adrenal glands which produce our stress hormones may also need to be supported during treatment.
  2. Identify and remove any infections in the gut (bacteria, parasites, fungal overgrowths). This involves a ordering a stool test which identifies any infections so that we can deal with them. This is also the time to identify and remove any food intolerances (gluten, dairy and sugar seem to be the main culprits). The liver will also need to be supported during this stage.
  3. Once any gut infections have been dealt with, we are then ready to clear out any heavy metal/toxicity/viruses if they are there. My preference is to deal with any toxins AFTER the gut has been cleared as it is important that the gut is working well to eliminate any toxins. The liver will also need to be supported during this stage.

My approach uses homeopathic remedies as well as healthy diet and supplementation to allow you to enjoy life without the debilitating symptoms of an autoimmune disease. This approach can also be used alongside conventional medication.

Recommended Reading

Susan Blum “The Immune System Recovery Plan”
Hashimoto’s Root Cause by Izabella Wentz