- Multiple Sclerosis
- Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (Grave’s, Hashimoto’s)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Raynaud’s Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis)
These represent just some of the diseases categorized under the headings of allergy or autoimmune disease. Whether we call these conditions allergic or autoimmune is mostly irrelevant regarding the underlying mechanisms. What is more important is recognizing that these conditions represent mild or severe forms of immune dysfunction, wherein the immune system has begun over-responding to normally benign stimuli.
An important consideration is to try to identify triggers that are promoting this immune deregulation. These triggers can include toxins such as bacterial/yeast infections, heavy metals, mold or chemical exposures, viruses, food intolerances, and increased oxidative processes.
The approach is to identify those factors that have contributed to the initiation and perpetuation of the immune dysfunction and inflammation, rather than merely suppressing the manifestations with medications.
Next we need to examine in depth the body’s response to inflammation, so that we can make lifestyle recommendations geared towards naturally addressing the associated pain and discomfort. I teach my patients how stress, diet, infections and hormones play a key role in modulating inflammation and how we can impact these to our advantage.
When someone presents with multiple complaints relating to several bodily systems, the most rational approach is to improve the function of those systems that have the most general effects on the body. It is important to also understand that the GI tract comprises 2/3 of our immune system and produces 80% of the immunoglobulins in the body, further proof of the importance of GI health when it comes to immune disorders. GI function is intricately related to liver function, which in turn is an important modulator of hormonal and blood sugar balance so can even impact fatigue and detoxification.
The health of your gastrointestinal (GI) system is central to overall health and wellness for several reasons. To begin with, we need to have an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals in order to keep our bodies healthy as well as to prevent disease and infection. It is a good insurance policy to improve dietary intake of those nutrients that play a role in reducing inflammation and supporting immune function. We base these recommendations on specific lab analyses and a non-invasive nutrition physical examination. For instance, by examining your fingernails, tongue, skin and hair we can uncover a lot about contributing nutritional deficiencies.
Stress is not to be ignored, since it can have a profound effect on immune function. Stress weakens the immune system lining the gastrointestinal, sinus, respiratory and genitourinary tracts. Did you ever notice that you are more likely to get sick when you are under stress? I realize that we cannot control the stressors “coming in” but an important goal will be to learn about stress-reducing techniques that you can simply perform. This helps to make you more resistant to the physiological effects of stress.
The mucosal barrier-aka the lining from the nose and mouth on down, including the gut, respiratory and genitourinary tracts presents the largest interface between the internal body and external world. It’s your biggest fence between the inside of your body and the outside world. Good fences make for good neighbors, meaning if the fences are not intact then the defense system is compromised, leading to an overworked, over stimulated immune system, the definition of an autoimmune response.