It’s designed to keep you healthy and fight off infection, but it can go terribly wrong. Autoimmune diseases are caused by inappropriate immune responses that can create havoc in your body, damaging your organs, tissues or cells. Basically, your immune system is set up to identify foreign bodies (such as disease-causing bacteria) and fight them off, keeping you healthy. However, when your immune system goes awry, it can’t differentiate between foreign and known bodies and so begins attacking your own body, healthy cells included.
There are more than 80 different types of known autoimmune diseases (from alopecia areata [hair loss] to Wegener’s granulomatosis [inflamed blood vessels]). The very different approaches that need to be taken for each autoimmune disease shows just how intricate the body is, and is evidence that each individual should be examined and treated holistically.
Take lupus as an example, numerous studies over the years have provided better insight into the complex interaction between certain female hormones and their effect on the immune response, specifically explaining why lupus affects women more than men. One reason researchers believe this happens is that women are designed to carry out placental reproduction (essentially, the placenta is a foreign body, almost like a transplanted kidney for example), which stimulates the production of certain molecules. Once elevated, these increase a woman’s susceptibility to lupus.
It’s simply not known what exactly causes the immune system’s confusion around what it should or shouldn’t attack. It’s been theorised that some microorganisms (like viruses or bacteria) and certain medications could trigger the change, specifically in people who have a genetic propensity to autoimmune diseases.
The organs and tissues commonly affected by autoimmune responses are your blood vessels, connective tissues, endocrine glands (thyroid and pancreas), joints and muscles, red blood cells and your skin.
Symptoms of each different autoimmune disease differ, but all include fatigue and a general feeling of ill-health. It’s no wonder, then, that they’re not easy to diagnose as some autoimmune diseases don’t manifest with symptoms other than those.
Studies demonstrate that integrative medical treatments are effective in people with autoimmune disease. In my work at the Integrative Medical Centre, we’ve had tremendous success in treating autoimmune disease and have even been able to reverse (or move into remission) some, including lupus, Hashimoto’s and Graves disease (thyroid) and ulcerative colitis (large colon). I recommend some of the following strategies for my patients:
- Avoid high GI (glycaemic index) food since it suppresses the immune system and could also promote intestinal bacterial overgrowth, resulting in dysbiosis (a bacterial imbalance in the gut which plays a role in many conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue) and inflammation
- Short-term fasting deprives intestinal microbes of food, stimulates B-cell immunity, raises levels of DHEA (an anti-inflammatory immunomodulator hormone) and helps gut permeability (to prevent leaky gut syndrome, which is an intestinal dysfunction that underlies many different illnesses and symptoms)
- Studies have revealed that many people with autoimmune diseases could benefit by eliminating the consumption of food from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines and peppers
- Avoid alcohol
- Increase fibre intake
- Eat cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
- Drink green tea
Nutraceuticals also have a positive effect on autoimmune diseases and in particular those listed below:
- EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids with antioxidants, such as vitamin E
- DHEA is anti-inflammatory hormone and could reduce the risk of osteoporosis. However, if you’re a high risk of breast or prostate cancer, it should be used only under the guidance of your medical doctor
- A supplement that contains indole-3-carbinol and di-indole methane to help metabolise estrogen into 2-hydroxyestrone, rather than 16-hydroxyestrone, which lowers autoimmune risk
- Bioidentical hormones for hormonal balance
- Low levels of vitamin D are often associated with autoimmune disorders. Vitamin D3 has been shown to have autoimmune preventative properties, supports the immune system and has anti-inflammatory effects
- Cortisol levels should be normalised to prevent the imbalance of the immune system that can lead to the development of auto-antibodies. The following supplements support healthy cortisol levels: vitamin C, phosphatidylserine, Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha and pregnenolone
- A blend of digestive enzymes, probiotic beneficial bacteria(Lactobacillus sporogenes) and soluble fibre (prebiotics). They promote healthy digestion and intestinal function, enhance food digestion and nutrient absorption, and reduce gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, cramps and diarrhoea. They also prevent the growth of yeasts like candida, helping to prevent leaky gut syndrome and associated immune system complaints, such as infections, allergies and inflammation. A healthy gut leads to a healthy immune system
- The changes that low dose naltrexone (LDN) induce in the immune response can dramatically improve the quality of life of many autoimmune disease sufferers, including those with Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus
While autoimmune diseases are highly prevalent and conventional medicine offers little assistance other than symptom relief, integrative medicine can certainly offer hope for sufferers.
New i-Immune Combo by Integrative Intelligence Doctor Range deals with Autoimmune diseases which are caused by inappropriate immune responses that can create havoc in your body, damaging your organs, tissues or cells. This unique proprietary formula includes a range of highly beneficial ingredients including: Lactoferin,Curcumin, CoQ10, Omegas, Vitamins, Colostrum and other nutraceuticals.
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- Medline Plus. Autoimmune Disorders.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000816.htm Aug 2012