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Posts Tagged ‘autoimmune disease’

family and autoimmunity copy

A family gathering this Thanksgiving may feel like reality TV survival show if you have autoimmunity and politically polarized family members.

Stress, anger, and fear trigger an inflammatory immune response that can rage on for weeks, flaring attacks against your tissue and sending inflammation coursing through your body and brain.

This brings not only your autoimmune symptoms, but also general symptoms associated with autoimmunity: brain fog, fatigue, depression, lethargy, chronic pain, gut problems, and insomnia.

This year more than ever, it pays to be extra careful given the fractious national mood. Avoid political discussions, but if they happen around you, try the following.

Focus on being calm, not right. Remember, the goal is to protect your health, not be right. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind anymore than they are going to change yours. Arrive knowing this is not an argument that’s going to be won.

Learn and practice self-calming techniques before you arrive. Anger is like a fire that’s hard to put out once lit. Commit to preventing anger by practicing some proven relaxation techniques you can employ even if Aunt Sally or Cousin Fred are going off.

Self-calming, anti-inflammatory ideas include:

Breathing from your diaphragmThis slows your heart rate, improves oxygen flow, and inhibits stress. Shallow, rapid chest breathing puts your body in the fight-or-flight response, which will lure you into an argument against your better judgment.

Alternate nostril breathing. Casually place your fingers near your nose and press your right nostril shut to inhale through your left nostril. Then exhale through your right nostril, inhale through your right nostril, and start from the beginning. Remember to breathe from your diaphragm. This slows the heart rate, lowers stress, and focuses the mind.

Sensing your body. Bringing awareness into your body, especially the parts where you may be feeling anger or fear, can help neutralize those emotions. Start with sensing a hand, or the feeling of your feet on the ground, and slowly move that sensation through different parts of your body.

Do not get “hangry.” I repeat, do not get hangry. Hanger is that angry hunger triggered by low blood sugar and is a recipe for war. Keep your autoimmune-legal snack items with you at all times.

Accept people where they are. And yourself. You feel strongly about your beliefs, as do your family members. You may not understand one another, but accept we can only be where we are with our beliefs.

Give thanks. This holiday is about gratitude, an enormous boon to health, so practice it (authentically) regularly. Even if you think Uncle Bob’s vote was an act of treason, focus on how generous he is, or his sense of humor.

Consider whether to go. If your autoimmunity is severe or your family especially toxic, weigh whether your health can afford the visit. It’s ok to avoid having to spend a month recovering in bed.

If you’re already managing your autoimmunity, then you know avoiding inflammatory foods, excess alcohol, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion are important. Just remember to be mindful of how powerfully stress affects autoimmunity during this particularly unusual Thanksgiving holiday.

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childhood experiences and autoimmunity

Autoimmune patients expend considerable effort finding the right diet, supplements, lifestyle, and practitioner to manage their autoimmunity.

But did you know your experiences from childhood could be provoking your autoimmunity as an adult?

Abuse, belittlement, insults, neglect, loss of loved ones, parental acrimony… the traumas children weather unfortunately become a lifelong “operating system” that has profound influences on immunological and neurological health. Traumas in childhood affect not only physical and cellular health, but also our DNA.

Early traumas make it hard to turn off stress

In a healthy situation, a child can respond to stress and recover from it, developing normal resiliency.

However, chronic and unpredictable stress in childhood constantly floods the body with stress hormones and keeps it in a hyper vigilant inflammatory state. In time, this interferes with the body’s ability to turn off or dampen the stress response.

In fact, research that compared the saliva of healthy, happy children with children who grew up with abuse and neglect found almost 3,000 genetic changes on their DNA. All of these changes regulated the response to stress and the ability to rebound from it.

This means that little, everyday occurrences that might momentarily irritate a healthier person can unleash a torrent of stress hormones and an accompanying inflammatory cascade that predisposes one for disease.

These are the people accused of overreacting and who are rattled by loud noises, bright lights, and crowds.

A disagreement with someone, a near miss on the highway, a restaurant that’s too loud, an unexpected bill — for the person who had a stressful childhood these minor but regular insults create a metabolic environment that fosters and perpetuates illness.

This can include autoimmune disease, chronic pain, heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, digestive disorders, migraines, asthma, and obesity.

In fact, this research was inspired by one clinician’s observation that the majority of his obese patients endured sexual abuse as children.

Assessing chronic childhood stress

Researchers studied the effects of childhood stress on later health in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, developing a short quiz to assess the relationship between childhood traumas and disease risk.

For instance, someone with a score of 4 (scale of 0–8) is at a significantly higher risk for chronic disease, suicide, and addiction.

Early trauma and autoimmune management

Although traumas during childhood and a higher ACE score can increase hardships and disease risk in adulthood, it doesn’t have to be a prison sentence —the brain and body are responsive to change.

Many therapies have been shown to help heal these traumas: meditation, mindfulness practices, neurofeedback, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), cognitive therapy, EFT (emotional freedom technique, or tapping), and more.

Be sure and include your emotional well-being and the health of your subconscious “operating system,” which was established in childhood, in your autoimmune management plan.

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5 little known autoimmune triggers copy

If you are managing your autoimmune disease through diet and lifestyle, then you probably know about the autoimmune diet  supplements, non-toxic home and body products, and getting enough rest.

But are you aware of hidden sources of stress that may be triggering autoimmune flares?

Common autoimmune diseases today include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and pernicious anemia. However, there are many more.

Research increasingly shows the connection between autoimmune disease and food sensitivities (such as to gluten) and environmental toxins. Indeed, many people have successfully sent their autoimmunity into remission by following an autoimmune diet and “going green” with the products they use.

We also know stress is inflammatory and can trigger autoimmunity. But what many people may miss is the hidden sources of this inflammation-triggering stress.

Little known triggers of autoimmune disease

Following are little known sources of stress that could be triggering autoimmune disease flare-ups:

Stressful TV shows: Turning on the flat screen to relax could backfire if you’re watching people always on the run from zombies. Research shows watching others stress out can raise our own stress hormones  On top of that, many people feel like failures after they watch TV, which is stressful. Try a productively calming hobby, like practicing an instrument or working with your hands while listening to music to calm your nerves … and your immune system.

Social media: Research shows social media users are more stressed out than non-users. Facebook and Twitter can make us feel like we always have to put on a happy face and that we’re not as successful as our friends. The addictive nature of social media is also stressful. As with all good things, practice moderation. And go see your friends in real life — socialization is a well-known stress buster and health booster that can help you better manage your autoimmune disease.

A bad relationship: We get so used to some relationships we don’t even realize they’re unhealthy. For instance, researchers have shown bad marriages are linked with more stress and inflammation. Bad bosses have also been shown to be hard on your health. Although it’s not so easy to just pop out of a bad relationship, being aware that it can trigger your autoimmune symptoms can help you start moving in a healthier direction.

A difficult childhood: Research shows links between a history of childhood adversities (neglect, disruption, trauma, abuse) and autoimmune disease. Chronic stress while the brain and central nervous system are still developing can create ongoing inflammation and set the stage for autoimmune disease to more easily trigger later in life.

Lack of self-love: How well you love and respect yourself influences your choice in relationships, your career, and how you handle problems. Do you talk to and treat yourself with the same kindness you would an adored child? Do you care for your needs the same way you do a pampered pet? If you bully yourself, you’re unwittingly triggering your autoimmunity. After all, autoimmune disease is the body attacking itself. Don’t foster that with self-attacking thoughts and behaviors. Commit to practicing small acts of self-love throughout your days.

When you look at issues like a bad childhood, a toxic relationship, or lack of self-love, it makes changing your diet and switching to natural body products look easy.

But that’s not the whole picture. Autoimmune disease is a flag from the body that certain aspects of your life may need evaluating and evolving.

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crashing with autoimmunity copy

Do you “crash” after a busy or stressful event, suffering from extreme exhaustion that keeps you confined to your bed or couch? Do these crashes last anywhere from a day to a week or even longer? If so, you’re not alone and you may suffer from autoimmunity, a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys tissue in the body. (Which tissue depends on genetics and the type of autoimmunity you have.)

In fact, a recent survey of almost 8,000 autoimmune patients found the overwhelming majority listed bouts of debilitating fatigue as one of their most troubling symptoms.

Any number of things can cause a person with autoimmunity to “crash.” They can include a very stressful event, such as a car accident or a move. Pleasant events can cause crashes because they are long or exhausting, such as a wedding, a trip out of town, or a work conference. Many people hold up fine during the event but crash when it’s over. Exposure to certain foods or chemicals causes it in others.

Because such crashes are not commonplace or medically recognized, they cause anxiety and embarrassment. It’s like having the flu or a bad cold, except without the symptoms. Sufferers worry others will think they are lazy, another stressor on top of stressing about all the things not getting done because you’re in bed, barely able to function. Unfortunately, brain power bottoms out along with physical energy, which makes working at home from your laptop difficult if not impossible.

New survey brings light to autoimmune crashes

Fortunately, you may not have to make excuses for your inability to function forever as awareness about these bouts of debilitating fatigue grows. The survey polled those suffering from a variety of autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or autoimmunity affecting the brain or nervous system.

Overwhelming number of autoimmune patients report debilitating fatigue

The survey of patients with autoimmune disease, which was conducted by a patient advocacy group, revealed:

  • 98 percent suffer from fatigue
  • 89 percent said fatigue was a major issue
  • 59 percent said fatigue was their most debilitating symptom
  • Two-thirds said their fatigue was profound and prevented them from doing everyday tasks
  • 75 percent said fatigue impacts their ability to work, 40 percent said it causes financial stress, and another one in five said it has cost them their jobs and they’re on disability
  • The overwhelming majority reported fatigue not only impacts their professional life, but also their romantic and family life and self-esteem.
  • The overwhelming majority also say it has resulted in emotional distress, isolation, anxiety, and depression.

According to one patient, “It’s difficult for other people to understand fatigue when it can’t be seen. It’s hard trying to get others, even doctors, to understand how very tired you are. One wonders if they think we are just mental cases or whiners.”

Fortunately, using functional medicine approaches can significantly improve your health and reduce the frequency and severity of these bouts of fatigue. Ask my office for more information.

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426 BPA store receipts copy

BPA (bisphenol-A) is gaining recognition as an undesirable toxin that people now try to avoid in plastics, particularly water bottles. But it’s harder to avoid than you think – research shows handling those seemingly innocuous store receipts quickly raises blood levels of BPA.

BPA on store receipts

Store and fast food receipts, ATM receipts, airline tickets, gas station receipts, and other thermal papers use large amounts of BPA on the surface as a print developer. Holding a receipt coated with BPA for just five seconds is enough to transfer it to your skin and if your fingers are wet or greasy about 10 times as much is transferred. Having hand sanitizers, lotions, or sunscreen on your hands also increases the amount of BPA your body takes in from receipts. Cash stored with receipts in a wallet also become contaminated with BPA that raises blood levels when handled.

Why BPA is bad for health

So why should you care? BPA has estrogen-like qualities that meddle with hormone function and become a toxic burden. In rodents BPA has been proven to cause reproductive defects, cancer, and metabolic and immune problems. BPA is particularly threatening to a developing fetus as it can cause chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage. In children and adults BPA is linked to decreased sperm quality, early puberty and early breast development, ovarian and reproductive dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and obesity.

BPA and autoimmunity

Recent research also links BPA to the triggering and flaring of autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. BPA does this because it stimulates and disrupts various pathways in the immune system, which raises the risk of triggering autoimmune disease or flare-ups.

Where BPA is found

BPA is the main component of polycarbonate and is also found in water and beverage bottles, plastic lids, the lining of tin cans, food storage containers, dental sealants, contact lenses, and electronics. BPA contamination from canned foods is significant. One study found a person who eats canned soup versus fresh soup receives 1,000 percent more BPA because it is in the lining of the can. Plastics exposed to heat, light, or acids (such as soda) release considerably more BPA. Eating from a microwaved plastic container and drinking hot coffee through a plastic coffee lid, sugary soda from a plastic water bottle, or water from a plastic bottle that has been sitting in the sun are examples of ways you will increase your exposure to BPA.

BPA-free is no guarantee

Given the documented health risks it poses, BPA has been banned from use in baby bottles and sippy cups and many companies now offer BPA-free products. Unfortunately, researchers have found many non-BPA plastics still have synthetic estrogens similar to BPA. Some even have more. Basically, if it’s plastic, it’s a problem–- 95 percent of all plastic products can disrupt hormones, even if they carry a “BPA-free” label. Also, be aware that some metal water bottles are lined with plastic, negating the purpose of avoiding a plastic water bottle.

How to reduce your exposure to BPA

It’s important to reduce your exposure to BPA as much as possible. Minimize use of plastics and especially avoid drinking or eating from heated plastic. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria with cultured and fermented foods such as kimchi and taking probiotics is believed to help mitigate the absorption of BPA and help degrade it in the body.

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valentines day gifts chronic illness

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, have you thought about how to express your affection for someone you love who lives with a chronic illness? Chronic illness is at an all-time high in the United States, with 75 percent of our health care dollars going to treat such chronic illnesses as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. Because chronic illness is invisible to others, living with the symptoms of pain, fatigue, depression, and inflammation can be very stressful.

Chocolates not a good idea for chronically ill

The traditional gift of chocolate may not be the best idea; many chocolates are made in factories where they become cross-contaminated with gluten and other food allergens, and the sugar and caffeine in chocolate can exacerbate chronic health symptoms.

Be wary of Valentine’s Day dinner out for chronically ill

In fact, it’s best to avoid gifts that involve food; many people with chronic illness have sensitivities to a variety of foods. You don’t want that special dinner out to make your sweetheart sick. Also, chronic illness can cause constant exhaustion and your loved one may be more worn out more than he or she lets on. Play it safe and give something that is nurturing and relaxing. The best gift you can give may be one that offers a chance to slow down, be pampered or have time to do absolutely nothing.

Healthy and nurturing Valentine’s Day gifts

Below is a list of gift ideas that will let your sweetheart feel special, while helping to reduce the stress of living with a chronic illness and support health.

Give your loved one a spa day. Pampering can do wonders for stress levels. Take it up a notch and enjoy a spa with her. Many couples do!

A therapeutic massage can help relieve stress and support health. If your loved one has recently committed to a new workout routine, massage will be a welcome relief from sore muscles!

Gift certificates to do a chore that fatigues him or her, such as washing dishes, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, or childcare. Make sure to follow through!

Gift baskets make a fabulous Valentine’s gift. Fill it with things that support relaxation and support health, such as all-natural bath products.

A coupon for gentle yoga classes to help reduce stress.

A membership at the gym—for both of you—to support workout and health goals together. This is only for those who will take such a gift with a smile; it’s not a hint that they need to lose weight!

Hand-written coupons for letting he or she sleep in while you get the kids out of bed and take them to an event until noon. And don’t feed them a bunch of sugar while you’re out; the results when you return home will trump all the relaxation he or she had!

Write a sweet note reminding him or her that you are committed, regardless of the health struggles they are going through.

Buy the best book you can find about his or her health condition and commit to reading it so you can better understand how to support your loved one’s journey and discuss it with him or her. Again, make sure to follow through.

Tickets to a local comedy showlaughter is scientifically proven to be one of the best stress-relievers!

Buy passes for you both to have a leisurely afternoon at your favorite museum or event. If you have kids, hire a babysitter to watch the kids all day.

Make a list of 20, 30, even 50 things you love about him or her, roll it up and wrap it with a nice ribbon and place it next to the morning tea. What a way to start the day!

A love letter or poem. Nobody has to be Shakespeare to write about love and devotion.

Give a lovely plant to represent your growing relationship; unlike flowers that wilt in two days, a plant will be a lasting reminder of your love.

Handwritten coupons for walks together in a nearby park or a trail in the woods.

Whisk your special someone away for a surprise, like a balloon ride or a romantic boat tour down the river.

Take your sweetie to the place you met, or where you fell in love. Make sure to plan ahead for factors like weather and healthy food along the way.

Create a handmade scrapbook of your good times together, and leave room at the end for more photos!

Hand make a gift. Are you a great woodworker? Do you knit? Make a scarf for him to wear like a hug, or a lovely little box for her to keep her special jewelry in.

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do you have autoimmunity

Do you have chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other mysterious symptoms that make you miserable? But does your doctor say your lab tests are fine and you’re perfectly healthy? It could be you have an autoimmune reaction and don’t know it.

People can develop an autoimmune reaction to virtually any tissue, enzyme, or protein in their body. Autoimmunity means the immune system has failed to distinguish between foreign invaders, which it was designed to attack, and body tissue, which it was designed to protect. As a result, the immune system attacks and destroys specific parts of the body.

Symptoms of autoimmunity vary depending on which part of the body is being attacked, but they often include chronic pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, poor neurological function, chronic inflammation, digestive problems, or poor mood.

A primary characteristic of undiagnosed autoimmunity is chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms that seem irresolvable, despite “normal” lab tests and scans. Perhaps you even have been told your health symptoms are due to depression and you need to take antidepressants—this is not uncommon.

Autoimmunity may not be diagnosed as disease

What may be happening is that you have an autoimmune reaction to one or more parts of your body that is causing chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms, but the condition is not advanced enough to be diagnosed through conventional testing and qualified as a “disease.” As Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci, author of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? and Why Isn’t My Brain Working? explains, people can have symptoms years or even decades before being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

For instance, a person may have trouble controlling blood sugar despite a good diet because of an autoimmune reaction in the pancreas. However, not enough tissue has been destroyed for a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Or a person can have symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but not enough tissue has been destroyed for it to show up on an MRI. Or persistent and severe adrenal fatigue could be the result of autoimmunity in the adrenal glands that is not advanced enough to be diagnosed as Addison’s disease.

This is not to say you should assume a health problem is autoimmune in nature, but when it is persistent and stubborn, it is a possibility to consider.

You can test for autoimmunity before it progresses to disease

Fortunately, we have autoimmunity testing today that can screen for antibodies against multiple tissues to determine whether an autoimmune reaction is causing chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms. Antibodies are proteins that tag a foreign compound for the immune system to destroy and remove. When you produce higher than normal levels of antibodies to certain parts of the body (it’s normal for old and dying cells to be tagged for removal), this means you are having an autoimmune reaction against that tissue or enzyme.

When a person presents with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other persistent symptoms, screening for an autoimmune reaction can help us determine whether that plays a role in symptoms. If so, we then know we can work on balancing an overzealous and improperly functioning immune system. Also, if your test shows an autoimmune reaction but you have no symptoms, you now know that proper diet and lifestyle choices will help prevent the progression of autoimmunity.

Today we have many scientifically proven strategies to tame autoimmunity, improve function, and increase your well being. These include an autoimmune diet and nutritional compounds to balance the immune system and quench inflammation.

Ask my office how we can help you get to the bottom of mysterious conditions, such as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and other symptoms. Despite what your doctor may have told you, you are not making up your chronic symptoms or simply in need of antidepressants.

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