Your doctor might tell you that there is no cure for your autoimmune disease, but that’s only half true. While there are no drugs, supplements or treatments that can cure autoimmune disease, it is possible to reverse these conditions (especially if caught early) by finding and treating the triggers and bringing the core systems of the body back into balance. I’ll share more about how to do this at the end of this post, but first, let me explain what autoimmune disease is.
The Autoimmune Epidemic
The Western world is experiencing an explosion of chronic inflammatory diseases such as autoimmunity. This epidemic isn’t getting the attention it deserves because it doesn’t cause dramatic deaths like cancer or heart disease. Still, there is widespread pain and disability impacting the health and well-being of dramatic numbers of people. In fact, there are currently over 50 million people in the United States alone who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. 1. That’s more than cancer and heart disease combined. Roughly 75 percent of these people are women.
What is autoimmunity?
Autoimmunity is an umbrella term for conditions that share one common mechanism, the confused immune system misfires and attacks the body’s own healthy tissue, causing destruction and inflammation in the process.
Some of the most common autoimmune conditions:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (90 percent of hypothyroid cases)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Graves’ disease (overactive thyroid gland)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Celiac disease
- Pernicious anemia
- Scleroderma and Crest syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Addison’s disease
- Reactive arthritis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia – (autoimmune related conditions)
These conditions are complex and progress with time such that the average autoimmune patient will suffer from miserable symptoms for three to five years before being diagnosed. What’s worse is that conventional medicine has little to offer these patients. Most are either told to “wait and watch” for their symptoms to get worse or they are sent home with immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory drugs that only mask their symptoms and, in many cases, make things worse.
Current science now recognizes that autoimmunity is often triggered by a combination of various stresses on the body. There is no single cause. Unfortunately, most practitioners haven’t been trained, nor do they have the time, to look upstream for the lifestyle and environmental triggers that allow the immune system to become overwhelmed and misfire.
The functional mind-body approach introduced in The Thyroid Cure offers the most promise for curing these chronic conditions as it offers a new way of thinking about why these conditions happen in the first place.
Uncovering the Root Causes of Autoimmunity
Our immune system is designed to protect us and keep us healthy. However, with an autoimmune condition, the cells of the immune system that ordinarily kill harmful invaders and regulate the immune response become overworked and confused and begin to accidentally attack healthy tissue.
The body doesn’t attack itself out of the blue – there’s always a trigger. In every autoimmune condition, the immune system is fighting some type of stress such allergens, toxins, infections or even traumatic experiences.
Here are a few examples of autoimmune triggers:
- Chronic stress (emotional and physical) can cause HPA axis dysfunction (adrenal fatigue), which causes the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine to become depleted. This can allow immune system T-cells to get out of control, resulting in inflammation and an imbalance between T-cells and B-cells. 2.
- Chronic stress can impair methylation, which can suppress T-cell production. Impaired methylation of T-cells may be involved in the production of autoantibodies. 3.
- Chronic infectious stress can cause both B-cells and T-cells to be overproduced resulting in autoimmunity. 4.
- Gastrointestinal stress, perhaps caused by parasites, yeast or an overgrowth of bad bacteria, affects all the cells of your immune system and disrupts the balance between T-regulator cells and Th1 and Th2 cells. 5.
- Food allergies and sensitivities, for instance to gluten, can cause B-cells to be overproduced, which may result in an accidental attack on healthy tissues. 6.
- Nutrient deficiency is a form of stress that can be at the root of an autoimmune response; for instance, selenium and iodine deficiencies have been found to cause thyroid inflammation, thus driving up the production of T-cells and B-cells. 7.
- Exposure to heavy metals can cause both T-cells and B-cells to be overproduced. 8.
- Certain medications and vaccinations can be “antigenic,” which means that the body produces antibodies to the substance, thus initiating an immune response. In some cases, this can trigger an autoimmune response. 9.
- Literally, thousands of environmental toxins from cleaning products and pesticides to dry cleaning fluids and plastics can become antigenic and trigger an autoimmune condition. 10.
The autoimmune process is a “symptom” of underlying assaults on the body that have gone ignored or untreated for so long that the immune system becomes totally overloaded and begins to misfire.
Hopefully, in the near future, the root causes of autoimmune conditions will be universally recognized and medicine will routinely aim at reversing the autoimmune process. Until that time, it’s up to the individual to take charge of their health and unravel the mystery.
The good news is that many people are experiencing dramatic improvements and reversal of their conditions following the steps outlined below.
9 Steps to Curing Autoimmunity Naturally
- Find a qualified practitioner! It’s critical to find someone with a proven track record of helping people recover. make sure the practitioner believes that autoimmunity can be reversed and has the skills to help you.
- Follow a Strict Elimination Diet. With autoimmune disorders, 80% of the time there is a food burden. You need to figure out which foods are your triggers. The idea of an elimination diet is to remove all likely sensitive or inflammation-causing foods and let the body recover from that digestive stress. For 30 to 90 days, stop eating gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar, nightshades, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, ALL processed and junk foods, alcohol and over-the-counter medications (unless prescribed by your doctor). Start eating fresh organic berries, tons of organic veggies, fermented foods, healing fats such as avocados, coconut oil, fish oil and borage oil, and small amounts of lean organic fish, meat or poultry. If you are adverse to animal protein, you can try hypoallergenic rice protein powder. Cook with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as turmeric, cumin, fennel, parsley, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Replace regular table salt with sea salt. When the 30-90 days are complete, try adding foods back very slowly, one at a time, to see if you react.
- Test, Don’t Guess! Functional medical testing helps you find the root cause(s) fast. Everyone diagnosed with an autoimmune condition has some kind of toxic body burden and nutritional deficiency. Get tested and find out exactly what supplements your body needs to heal. I run the following tests on all my clients:
- Genova’s NutrEval® Plasma is an advanced nutritional analysis designed to reveal nutritional imbalances or inadequacies. NutrEval Plasma evaluates the functional need for antioxidants, B-vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, digestive support, and other select nutrients.
- GI testing. A stool test like the Doctor’s Data CDSA, or Genova’s GI Effects, will reveal pathogenic states in the gut like yeast, parasites and bacterial overgrowth, along with the state and content of intestinal flora.
- Genetic Testing like www.23and me.com gives you a view of your genetic blueprint. It can offer clues about how your genes interact with your environment.
- Heavy Metals. After you’ve been on a healing program for six months, test your heavy metals status. If you don’t get better from nutrition and healing the gut alone, you’ve got to dig deeper to look for metals toxicity and possibly hidden infections.
- Reduce Stress: Reduce stress and heal your adrenals by slowing down and reducing your stress and commitments. Try mindfulness practice or meditation. Connect with a higher power through prayer or spending time in nature. Try moderate exercises such as walking, hiking, yoga, swimming or Pilates. Have a good time and laugh. Commit to 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. Avoid the news and violent movies. If you think you have advanced adrenal fatigue symptoms please work with a skilled practitioner.
- Heal Your Gut: Most people diagnosed with an autoimmune condition have several G.I. imbalances. You can’t afford to guess, so please get tested and get targeted treatment. You can begin to heal your GI tract and reduce inflammation by removing bad foods (like refined carbs and sugar) and substances (like alcohol) that disrupt the delicate balance of microbes in your gut.
- Restore Your Liver: Support your liver by steering clear of harmful substances such as alcohol, sugar, caffeine and over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol. Improve your methylation and boost your glutathione (the body’s master antioxidant) by following the nutrition guidelines above. Take liver supporting herbs and supplements such as milk thistle and NAC.
- Detox Your Life: Detox your home, garden, and office. Stop using products that contain chemicals that are hidden sources of toxic stress. Replace toxic chemicals with clean and green alternatives. Try some detox treatments: such as my 14-day detox, Far-infrared sauna, and Epsom salt baths.
- Clear Infections: Look for sources of hidden inflammation, such as infections. Treat any systemic infections, sinusitis, mycoplasma, Candida, etc. Check for and treat infections in your mouth.
- Assess Your Emotional-Spiritual Life. Your biography becomes your biology. Most people with a chronic illness are carrying an emotional burden including feeling sick itself. Know that the illness is not your fault, but it is your responsibility to look at what in your life might be creating and perpetuating stress. Chronic stress, in all its forms, underlies chronic illness. To heal, we have to uncover those burdens and do our best to remove them. Let go of painful memories, resentment, regret and negative emotion. Find a way that works for you, whether that’s cognitive therapy or EMDR with a psychologist, through prayer, or by adopting a mindfulness or forgiveness practice.
Practicing these nine steps will absolutely improve your health and the quality of your well-being and when done effectively, can reverse or cure autoimmunity altogether.
If you need more help navigating a healing program, please give my office a call at 575-613-4369. I’m happy to guide you to recovery.
In health and happiness,
- American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. Questions and Answers. http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/questions-and-answers/
- Richardson B. DNA methylation and autoimmune disease. Clin Immunol. 2003 Oct;109(1):72-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14585278
- Ercolini A M, Miller S D. The role of infections in autoimmune disease. Clin Exp Immunol. 2009 January; 155(1): 1–15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2665673
- Velavan TP, Ojurongbe O. Regulatory T cells and parasites. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2011;201(1):520940. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3255565/
- Biagi F, Pezzimenti D, Campanella J, Corazza GR. Gluten exposure and risk of autoimmune disorders. Gut. 2002;51(1):140–141. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1773261/
- Negro R. Selenium and thyroid autoimmunity. Biologics. 2008 June; 2(2): 265–273. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721352/
- Bigazzi P E. Autoimmunity and Heavy Metals. Lupus December 1994 vol. 3 no. 6 449-453 http://lup.sagepub.com/content/3/6/449.abstract
- Orbach H, Agmon-Levin N, Zandman-Goddard G. Vaccines and autoimmune diseases of the adult. Discov Med. 2010 Feb;9(45):90-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20193633
- Burek C L, Monica V. Talor M V. Environmental Triggers of Autoimmune Thyroiditis. J Autoimmune. 2009 Nov–Dec; 33(3-4): 183–189. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790188
Michelle Corey, C.N.W.C., F.M.P., is a Functional Medicine Practitioner, Nutritionist, and Author. She studied holistic nutrition at Clayton College of Natural Health and completed a comprehensive 2-year practical program at Academy of Functional Medicine and Genomics. Michelle is an advisor to the Academy of Functional Medicine and Genomics and the Functional Medical University, and a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants.
In her groundbreaking book The Thyroid Cure, The Functional Mind-Body Approach to Reversing Your Autoimmune Condition and Reclaiming Your Health, (Vibrant Way Press) Michelle presents readers with the keys to reversing the full spectrum of autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, Graves’ Disease, Lupus, Celiac, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.
Michelle offers Total Recovery Programs at the Center for Immune Recovery for patients who suffer from complex autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. These Functional Mind-Body programs are designed to guide people to recover wellness by balancing the core systems of the body through optimizing nutrition and detoxification, practices to release stress, let go of the past, and connect more fully to a life of spirit.