Causes & Solutions for Autoimmune Disease

Risa Groux, CN
 | Published: 
November 16, 2020

You’ve probably been hearing more and more about autoimmune diseases, as they have become increasingly prevalent. Medical doctors are trained to believe that our health status is the result of predetermined genetic programming. This view rejects the possibility that a person’s health status results from lifestyle choices and the impact of the environment around us. The reality is that our health and well-being are the result of how our environment interacts with our genes.

While there are different autoimmune diseases within all specialties, all of them share common triggers. Therefore, in understanding what causes the immune system to attack itself and uncovering some of the triggers for what causes impairment in the immune system, we can achieve greater success in helping patients with these diseases. 

Autoimmunity can occur several different ways. First, there can be a mistaken identity, and the body attacks itself. This can occur with a virus where there is tissue destruction with the virus appearing to be foreign to the body. This can also happen with heavy metal toxicities, such as mercury. Another way autoimmunity can occur is through molecular mimicry, which happens when the body makes an antibody (a protein that attacks objects in the body that appear to be foreign) to a specific antigen. These antigens can look like certain proteins in the body, and the antibodies attack our body's own tissues. The third way is the development of T cells (of the immune system). This occurrence can be affected by stress, genetics, and environmental triggers. 

In functional medicine, environmental triggers are what integrative doctors typically examine. These can be food triggers, such as gluten, or other food sensitivities that can trigger inflammation. They can also be anything coming in with the food, such as molds or toxins. Other factors include a person's nutrient status and their gut health, which includes conditions such as dysbiosis and leaky gut. Finally, there are toxins that can hinder the immune system such as heavy metals.

Focusing on gut health is a great way to address many autoimmune conditions. Optimizing one’s diet provides the most effective means to returning balance to the gastrointestinal system. Patients may also need antimicrobials, herbs, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to create an optimal gastrointestinal environment. Functional health care practitioners can offer hope to these patients. Diagnostic considerations include gluten sensitivity testing or elimination of gluten from the diet, stool testing, and food antibody testing. 

Optimizing the Gut Using the 4-R Approach

  1. Remove

This focuses on eliminating pathogenic  fungi, bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Certain herbs (such as sweet wormwood, caprylic acid, tribulus extract, berberine sulfate, grapefruit extract, black walnut, and bearberry extract) can act as powerful natural antimicrobials. They offer a broad spectrum of protection against common pathogens in conditions of dysbiosis and are relatively sparing of normal flora. 

  1. Replace

It is critical to use digestive enzymes to support optimal digestion of food. Individuals who do not secrete enough proteases suffer from multiple food allergies and cause conditions such as leaky gut, food allergies, colitis and autoimmune diseases. 

  1. Reinoculate

Supplementation with a good probiotic helps to assist with food and nutrient assimilation, inhibits harmful bacteria, and replaces beneficial bacteria lost to antibiotic use, stress, disease, and poor diets.

  1. Repair

L-glutamine is the most important nutritional substance for healthy intestinal cells and main fuel of the colonocytes of the large intestine. L-glutamine is essential in maintaining proper gastrointestinal function and helping to prevent and heal leaky gut. N-acetyl glucosamine also reduces intestinal permeability and inhibits the growth and function of abnormal T-cells. Combining L-glutamine with herbs such as slippery elm, DGL, marshmallow, and cat's claw will help soothe and coat the intestinal lining and promote healing of inflamed tissue. Gut reboot contains all of these healing ingredients. 

With most autoimmune diseases, there are multiple triggers chronically stimulating the immune system over time in various ways. As a result, our immune system goes into overdrive and loses its ability to function properly. Environmental exposures and lifestyle factors interacting with genetic predisposition are fundamental factors in the expression of disease, and an effective treatment approach must address all of these components. 

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