Autoimmune Disorder — The Next Epidemic
With more than 2 million Canadians and over 50 million Americans who are affected by an autoimmune disease, and this number growing every year, autoimmune disease is easily becoming our nation’s biggest health obstacle. To date there are very, very few medical interventions. In conventional medicine, most of the treatment options boil down to symptom management. Some treatment options aim to delay the progression of the disease, but many medical interventions now have long term side effects that are worse than the symptoms of the disease themselves.
What is an autoimmune disease? It’s a collection of approximately 150 different diseases with more and more becoming classified as autoimmune that have never been considered to have immune involvement, such as PCOS, eczema, and endometriosis. All of these autoimmune diseases have the same cause, the immune system. Instead of the immune system protecting our bodies from foreign invaders, it starts a cascade of attacks on our bodies. What differentiates one autoimmune disease from another is the location of attack on the body. Hashimoto’s attacks the thyroid whereas MS attacks the myelin sheath and RA attacks the joints and so on.
It is typically difficult to arrive at a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. For many it’s a “wait and see-game,” requiring 5/7 symptoms to receive a diagnosis and needed treatment. For some, it is during this wait and see phase when debilitating symptoms set in, while the disease rapidly progresses. Autoimmune diseases are chronic and lifelong, with no cure. The medical treatments that are available are limited, and most of them boil down to symptom management. Some delay the progression of the disease, and many now have side effects that are worse than the symptoms of the disease themselves.
I’ve never been a fan of the wait and see approach. If your body isn’t functioning well, we need to investigate and find out why before things progress to the point of no return. As a Naturopathic Medicine Doctor and Functional Medicine Practitioner for over ten years, my goal is to determine what is causing your immune system’s confusion. Why is it not able to differentiate between tissues within our bodies and a foreign invader, like a virus, bacteria, parasite or toxins? We need to dive down and get to the Root Cause.
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Root Causes of Autoimmunity
By Dr. Alison Danby, ND
The belief in current medicine is that immune suppression is necessary in order to alleviate symptoms. These medications that suppress the immune system are often very harsh with a lot of undesirable side effects such as weight gain, depression, fatigue, increased risk of infections and cancer.
As a Naturopathic Doctor and a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I see the body as a whole and work on the principle that the health of one system impacts the health and function of all others. Our approach is to focus on supporting and strengthening the immune system by getting to the cause of WHY the immune system went haywire. To date, there has been no cure for autoimmunity, however clinically I have been able to help hundreds of patients successfully lower antibodies, and become symptom-free by treating these five major areas:
1. Digestive Tract / Leaky Gut
Your digestive tract is what controls your health. It has been reported that approximately 70% of your immune response comes from the digestive tract. Research has indicated that the majority of people diagnosed with an autoimmune condition have what we call leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is the breakdown of your intestines tight junctions (cells that hold your digestive walls together), allowing larger molecules (such as food, toxins, bacteria, candida, etc.) to pass through. When this happens, your immune system goes into attack mode and starts to attack all those larger molecules it sees as foreign. This continual elevated immune response eventually causes the immune system to attack its own body.
2. Previous Infections & Candida
New research is confirming what scientist suspected for years that past and current viral, bacterial and fungal infections could be the initial trigger for the immune system to go rogue. Infections such as Herpes, Epstein Barr, E.coli and Candida (yeast) have all been linked to various autoimmune conditions.
3. Food Allergies
Food allergies are related to autoimmune disease for several reasons. Firstly, they trigger an immune and inflammatory reaction when consumed. Secondly, the inflammatory response often is the primary cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome. Finally, many foods are considered to be “molecular mimicry” meaning when these foods are consumed, the body confuses your tissue for the food and attacks it. A few perfect examples of this are beans and the myelin sheath for MS and gluten which is associated with several AI conditions such as thyroid, celiac, Sjogren’s (tear duct).
4. Mold & Heavy Metals
Mycotoxins released from mold cause a tremendous amount of stress on the immune system. Heavy metals such as mercury, block the body’s ability to repair and function. They often replace the nutrients needed on receptors or as cofactors, for example, mercury is found in the mitochondria (the part of the cell that produces energy) and the thyroid preventing the addition of Iodine, overall impacting the function of these cells and creating increased stress on the body.
Physical, mental/emotional, environmental and chemical stressors affect your immune response. Chronic stress, the day to the day hustle and bustle of life leads to long term inflammation, impacting how your immune system functions. Once autoimmunity is triggered, immediate stress only makes it worse.
How Do We Fix This?
First, we need to identify if you have one, two or all of the factors impacting your health through the clinical intake and lab testing.
1. 4 R approach to healing the GUT: REMOVE all the foods, bacteria, toxins and yeast that could be causing the immune and inflammatory response. RESTORE the function of the digestive tract, stomach acid, digestive enzymes, etc. REINOCULATE the good bacteria and establish a balance. Finally, REPAIR the intestine lining with proper nutrients.
2. Identify if there is any underlying infection and treat it.
3. REMOVE all potential food allergens the most common are Gluten, Dairy, and Eggs. If you are unsure, visit your Naturopathic Doctor for lab testing or to talk about the hypoallergenic diet.
4. Eliminate your exposure to toxins and mold. If you suspect you have heavy metals, there are several tests that can determine your levels.
5. REDUCE and MANAGE your Stress: daily meditations and deep breathing are just as important as all of the other steps and can help control and prevent many flare ups.
My approach to autoimmunity is getting down to the core cause of what caused the immune system to go on high alert in the first place and alleviating these root causes.
To explore the cause of your Autoimmune conditions, contact the clinic and schedule an appointment with Dr. Danby.
Dr. Danby is here to help you every step of the way!