Last week I posted The 12 Early Signs of Autoimmune Disease , could you relate to any of those? If so, keep reading. This post is for you. Autoimmune diseases have been thought to simply be our body going haywire and attacking itself. Lately though, research is starting to discover that our body is too smart for that. Our body is amazing and extremely intelligent. It’s designed to protect itself and that’s just what it’s trying to do. The truth is that autoimmune disease is caused by the body trying to protect itself from viruses, bacteria and other infections. Wherever the body detects these, that’s where it attacks, even if our own tissue get in the way.
So, the key to starting to reverse your autoimmune disease is to begin to heal your body of viruses, bacteria and other infections. I know it sounds so easy, reading that one sentence. Alas, our body is like a complex and interconnected computer wanting to be in balance. So as you remove one issue, another issue may become more clear.
But there are some steps you can take today to create optimum health in your body so it can effectively fight off the invaders.
The 5 R’s
Remove the foods that you are sensitive to. If you aren’t yet aware of what those might be, try an elimination diet (remove gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn and nightshades). By eliminating some common allergens you might start to see improvement in your gut health and reduced inflammation.
This is also the time to look for and address any hidden infections, viruses or bacterial overgrowths you may have. Hidden infections can be in your mouth (root canal tooth, cavity or cavitations) for instance or might be a more obvious infection like sinus infection. Common viruses linked to autoimmune disease can include Epstein Barr Virus, Lyme and other retroviruses. Bacterial overgrowths might include candida or SIBO.
Finally I’d like to add that heavy metal accumulation can “feed” viruses, infections and bacteria. Detoxing from heavy metals using a combination of detoxing methods can be very helpful in your healing process. Note that if you still have silver amalgams (mercury) then you’ll need to have those replaced first by a biological dentist. Consider combining gentle detox strategies like sauna, chlorella (binding), Zeobind (binding), Biosil (eliminating aluminum) and even colonics first. You can also try stronger detoxing strategies like DMSA, EDTA or DMPS but these should all be done under doctor’s supervision.
By addressing and removing these underlying causes of autoimmunity you give your body a greater chance of repairing itself.
Now it’s time to focus on your digestive system to get it to optimum health. It’s often that when we have autoimmune diseases, our body isn’t able to digest foods properly. We might experience a leaky gut and or simply not break down fats, vitamins and minerals properly.
So to help get our body back on track and used to digesting foods properly again, try adding digestive enzymes and HCL with Betain (for fats and protein digestion). Enzymes are used to break down all sorts of foods that may otherwise be a bit more taxing on our digestive system like beans (if you eat these) and proteins.
HCL is short for hydrochloric acid and is useful because as we age our stomach acid weakens. Without strong stomach acid we don’t digest proteins and fats well and we can experience chronic bloating and other intestinal issues that are often mistaken for low stomach acid. In order to see what about of HCL might work for you, start by taking one pill with a meal containing protein. Slowly build up by adding a second pill at the next meal with protein. Continue this until you feel a mild “heart burn” after you take it. This indicates you’ve taken one too many and that the proper dose for you at the moment will be one less per meal. Note that this isn’t permanent, over time you’ll be able to reduce how many you take per meal (with protein) as your digestive system starts to recover.
When our gut microbiome is upset either through bacterial overgrowths like candida or SIBO, it’s common for our entire immune system to be off. Taking probiotics and prebiotics (if you can handle these) can help your body rebuild it’s optimum and balanced microbiome. I prefer soil based probiotics (sporebiotics) as they stay intact through the stomach so they can be alive and active in your intestinal tract. Prebiotics, which are insoluble fiber, help feed good bacteria. Sources of probiotics can include dandelion greens, jerusalem artichoke, raw leeks, raw onions and raw asparagus. You can also find these in supplement form.
Now it’s time to do some cellular repair. Starting with food and then adding supplements as needed. We already talked about eliminating foods that you’re sensitive too. now it’s time to feed your body, gut and brain what it’s really craving. Can you guess it? Whole foods.
Not all foods are created equal. Contrary to the commonly held belief a calorie of processed food does not equal a calorie of whole foods. The body doesn’t process each one the exact same way.
So what do you eat? A vegetable dominant diet with plenty of healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein and a small amount of low glycemic fruit is a great starting point. This approach is far more nutrient dense than a plate of pasta with a tomato sauce and some meat. Since not all calories are created equal, the goal is to get as many nutrients per calorie as possible. It should be noted as well that liver contains far more B vitamins than an equal amount of steak.
There is also something called anti-nutrients you should be aware of. These include phytic-acid which I’ve talked about before. These are present in grains, beans and nuts. These pull out vitamins and minerals from our body. Soaking and sprouting helps reduce this however most processed foods containing these don’t prepare them properly to reduce the anti-nutrients so do proceed with caution.
When it comes to supplements, when you have autoimmune diseases you tend to be low in glutamine (amino acid that helps make protein bioavailable), zinc, vitamin A, D3, Magnesium, Selenium and B12. I take all of these in a supplement form. Be especially aware of your D levels. Optimum levels should be around 50 to 100 (some functional medicine doctors like to see 75 to 100) for optimum bone and cell health. I recommend asking your doctor to run tests to see what your levels are before supplementing. A functional or naturopathic doctor will have a better understanding of supplementation than a conventional doctor will. L-glutamine is a good supplement to take if your gut has been compromised.
This aspect of health is often overlooked especially when recovering from autoimmune disease.
Let’s start with movement. Movement helps stop chronic disease, increases blood flow to the brain, stimulates neurogenesis and creates new brain cells. The key to movement is that you really need to enjoy it to get the benefit. Movement doesn’t have to entail going to the gym. You might decide to start riding your bike to work or to run errands. Maybe you walk to the grocery store. Perhaps you pay a game of tag with your kiddos in the yard. How about that zumba class your friend has been raving about? Whatever it is you decide to do, know that it’s changeable. When you keep things new and challenging you aren’t just moving your body, you’re also creating new neural pathways as you learn a new skill.
Sleep is enormously important. Sleep is required to keep the brain clear of toxins and strengthens the blood brain barrier to keep “bad things” from entering into your brain. When your brain is functioning optimally (because you’ve had enough sleep) then you’re more resilient to stressful events throughout the day. To optimize your sleep you can try a number of sleep hacks. The key is to create a sleep routine that works for you and optimizes your sleep. Shutting off screens 2 hours before bed time, using blue light blocking glasses during that 2 hour window, turning your cell phone to airplane mode if you use it as an alarm clock at night and taking magnesium citrate an hour before bed can help relax you.
Speaking of stress. Another aspect of rebalancing is to reduce stress as well as manage the stress you have. One of the biggest triggers of autoimmune disease tends to be stress, specifically chronic stress. Chronic stress keeps us in our sympathetic nervous system which slows our digestive system and creates chemicals in our body that turns on those genes that tell the body to create disease. You can reduce stress in several ways; meditation, increased social connections and spirituality can all help reduce stress and prolong happy healthy life.
I use functional medicine labs in my practice to discover the underlying root cause of your symptoms and create personalized protocols just for you. To learn more, book a free chat with me here.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat any diseases.