24 million Americans have been diagnosed with one or more of over 100 recognized autoimmune conditions and the numbers of those afflicted are continuing to rise every year. It prompts me to wonder “just what is going on?” What is triggering this phenomenon and how do we treat it?
Autoimmunity means that the immune system is in a heightened state causing an inflammatory response that affects particular tissues or organs in the body. In the case of autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), the thyroid is affected. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints are inflamed, and in multiple sclerosis the central nervous system is attacked.
It used to be understood that an autoimmune disease was caused by a persons’ genetics. So you have the disease because someone in your family had it or something similar. Researchers in the field of epigenetics now know that genetics plays a role in your health only about 25% of the time, the other 75% has to do with your diet and lifestyle. That’s both good news and bad news because it means that we are much more responsible for whether or not we’re going to have an autoimmune condition than we previously thought. It also means if we do happen to get diagnosed, we can play a significant role in keeping the condition stable and even helping it go into remission.
Five Contributing Factors
Amy Meyers MD, a renowned integrated medicine physician and expert in autoimmunity, believes there are five diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that can trigger autoimmune conditions.
⦁ Diet: Foods known to cause inflammation in the body such as, sugar, processed foods, genetically modified foods, gluten, dairy, soy, grains and legumes.
⦁ Leaky Gut: The tight junctions in the lining of the gut separate and cause undigested food, bacteria, or toxins to leak into the blood stream and set off an inflammatory response.
⦁ Toxins: This includes heavy metals especially mercury and lead, hormone disruptors like BPA and dioxin, pesticides, and chemicals in cleaning products, cosmetics and toxins in the air and water supply.
⦁ Stress: Obviously this is a huge category and covers many areas of ones life. Activities that can protect us from the effects of stress include meditation, exercise, and having strong community and family ties.
⦁ Infections: It is common for autoimmune conditions to be preceded by or to exist simultaneously with an infection, whether it be viral, bacterial, fungal, parasites or Lyme disease.
Typical treatments for an autoimmune condition are medications that attempt to suppress the immune system. This strategy can be helpful in the short term because the immune system is in a state of hyper reactivity and the meds can usually reduce inflammation and pain. However there are serious consequences over the long term. There can be uncomfortable side effects and your immune system is much more vulnerable to something like a cold or flu. Long -term immunosuppressive medications can also lead to cancer.
Rather than suppressing an overactive immune system, it would be more helpful to regulate it so that it becomes more balanced. In order for us to function optimally, we need to give our body whole foods (foods in their natural state and cooked from scratch, not processed and put into a box), the right nutrients (in today’s world we usually need to supplement with vitamin D3, omega 3s and extra minerals at the very minimum), healthy bacteria (probiotics), clean filtered water, fresh air and exercise.
We live in a high stress society and we could all lower our stress levels whether we are sick or not. Different things work for different people. Just make sure you’re doing something you love and that’s bringing you joy and you should have it covered.
We need to investigate the unique factors that are contributing to your condition. For some, heavy metal chelation may be in order, others may need to address a bacterial or parasite infection or address a hormonal imbalance.
We need to support our digestive systems and heal up the gut. There are many ways to accomplish this and I can help you determine what is workable for you.
Lastly, I believe everyone can benefit from acupuncture. It can reduce pain and inflammation. It stimulates the body to begin to self regulate so that it can come back into balance- something it already knows how to do innately, it just needs reminding from time to time.
To Your Best Health,
Sydney Cooley L. Ac., Dipl OM
801 Florida Rd, Suite 12, Durango, CO
Call Direct @ 970.426.8736