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 leaky gut and autoimmunity copy

One of the primary things we look for when someone has autoimmunity is leaky gut, a condition in which the intestinal wall is damaged, as it is usually a key factor. Autoimmunity is an extremely common disorder today in which the immune system attacks and destroys part of the body. Common autoimmune disorders include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and vitiligo. However, there are many more.

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut, a condition in which inflammation damages the intestinal wall and makes it overly porous, creates a hyper inflammatory state in the body that can predispose one to autoimmunity. Also known as intestinal permeability, it has been shown to play a role in triggering and exacerbating autoimmunity.

Leaky gut is still a relatively new concept. Science once believed the digestive system’s only role was to digest foods and absorb nutrients. Now we know it also serves as barrier between the outside world and the inside of the body, and that it is home base to the immune system.

When you consistently eat foods that are inflammatory (junk foods, sugars, foods to which you are sensitive), are exposed to infectious yeast and bacteria, live with constant stress, take certain medications, or drink too much alcohol, the integrity of the gut and the immune system breaks down. As a result, the immune system becomes hyper zealous and can begin to attack the body, creating autoimmunity.

Repairing leaky gut can help improve autoimmunity

Now that researchers have established the role of leaky gut in autoimmunity, they suggest we can slow down the autoimmune process or even send it into remission by repairing a leaky gut wall. Repairing leaky gut prevents undigested foods and other foreign invaders from escaping into the bloodstream where they trigger the immune system. When you are dealing with autoimmunity, you do not want to give the immune system a reason to be activated unnecessarily. If every meal and snack you eat contains a food that activates your immune system, you are keeping inflammation alive. An anti-inflammatory diet and repairing leaky gut are key to managing your autoimmune condition.

Symptoms of leaky gut

Obvious symptoms of leaky gut are digestive symptoms, including bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, and food sensitivities.

However, many people with leaky gut have no gut symptoms. Instead, they may have problems with their joints, skin, lungs, mood, brain function, or fatigue, depending on how inflammation affects that person.

When autoimmunity causes leaky gut

Sometimes autoimmunity itself causes leaky gut as it creates chronic inflammation that can damage the gut wall. This is particularly true in the case of autoimmunity to gut tissue, which may cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

In these cases it’s especially important to follow a leaky gut diet and to focus on nutritional compounds that dampen inflammation. Ask my office for more information.

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cyrex 5 panel autoimmunity copy

Do you have chronic, mysterious symptoms that drag your life down but your lab tests come back normal? You may have an autoimmune reaction, a disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys a part of your body.

Autoimmunity can strike any tissue or compound in the body and symptoms will vary based on the part of the body attacked. However, people with autoimmunity have many symptoms in common:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen Glands
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Low-grade fevers

Conventional medicine has yet to fully recognize autoimmunity

Identifying autoimmunity can bring considerable relief. It validates you are not lazy, crazy, or that it’s all in your head, as many people struggling with autoimmunity are made to feel.

Autoimmunity has exploded in incidence in recent years and neither medicine nor society fully accepts it unless it is at its most severe, end stages. Autoimmunity can slowly undermine your health and quality of life for years of decades before it is medically recognized.

This leaves those with autoimmunity alone in their struggle, wondering what’s wrong and why no one will acknowledge their suffering. Identifying an autoimmune process with proper testing provides solid proof for the fatigue that keeps you pinned to the couch, chronic pain, unexplainable weight gain or loss, depression, poor brain function, and other symptoms.

Testing for autoimmunity

You can identify autoimmunity by screening for antibodies against a particular tissue with a blood test. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that attach to the affected tissue to tag it for destruction. You can screen for antibodies to thyroid tissue, joint tissue, brain tissue, the pancreas, and other tissues in the body.

For instance, the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? talks about screening for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease, by running antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme that is a catalyst for thyroid hormone production, and thyroglobulin (TGB), a protein involved in thyroid hormone production. If those values come back positive then you know autoimmunity is responsible for low thyroid symptoms causing weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and more.

Screening for individual autoimmune reactions is difficult and costly and conventional medicine does not offer treatments to manage autoimmunity until it is in more severe stages. This is why doctors don’t screen for it more routinely. Also, many types of autoimmunity are still considered obscure. The average doctor will not think to test for autoimmunity the brain, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, or bladder muscle, even though these autoimmune disorders are more common than people realize.

Modern, comprehensive testing for autoimmunity

Fortunately, we now have a lab test called the Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen  through Cyrex Labs, that screens for antibodies to 24 different tissues at once much more affordably than running them individually. It can help both the patient and practitioner understand what is causing symptoms.

A positive (or equivocal) response indicates the immune system is tagging that particular tissue for destruction. However, it’s important to know that a positive result does not necessarily mean you have autoimmune disease. It could indicate your body is in the early stage of autoimmunity, which may be silent or causing less severe symptoms. By following autoimmune management protocols you may be able to keep it in a silent or less severe stage indefinitely.

The Cyrex Array 5 panel screens for the following antibodies to indicate specific autoimmune reactions:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: neurological autoimmunity

To learn more about how to find the cause of your chronic symptoms of how to manage your autoimmunity, contact my office.

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423 resvero curcumin

When it comes to battling inflammation and autoimmunity, research shows resveratrol and curcumin work better when taken together than separately.

Supplemental resveratrol is derived from Japanese knotweed and the compound is also found in the skin of red grapes. Curcumin is derived from the curry spice turmeric. Both are well known for their antioxidant, inflammation-quenching qualities when taken in therapeutic doses — simply eating curry or drinking wine are not going to impart much beneficial effect. Studies of the compounds look at large doses that can only come from supplementation.

Although each is a powerful anti-inflammatory alone, research shows that taking resveratrol and curcumin together creates a synergistic effect, making them potent tools for quenching the inflammation and damage associated with autoimmune flare-ups and chronic inflammation.

Resveratrol and curcumin combined battle autoimmune, inflammatory disorders

Examples of these disorders include autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, arthritis, brain fog, gut pain and inflammation, multiple food and chemical sensitivities, fibromyalgia, asthma, eczema and psoriasis, and other conditions related to inflammation or autoimmune disease.

Studies have increasingly spotlighted an important immune pathway in autoimmunity and inflammation called TH-17. While TH-17 helps defend us from viruses and bacteria, over activation of TH-17 triggers autoimmune flare-ups and chronic inflammation. When it comes to quenching these flare-ups, TH-17 is the target.

This is where resveratrol and curcumin come in, working together to dampen the activation of TH-17, thus protecting tissue from inflammation and damage.

Resveratrol and curcumin combat inflammation from excess body fat

One of the more unhealthy aspects of excess body fat is that it causes chronic inflammation that feeds autoimmune or inflammatory disorders. This is a double whammy for the person struggling with weight gain due to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Research shows that resveratrol and curcumin in combination significantly reduce the inflammation caused by excess fat.

These two compounds have also been shown to help manage hair losspsoriasisjoint disease, and other inflammatory disorders.

Immune regulation

Resveratrol and curcumin also support “regulatory T cells,” cells that regulate the immune system. When regulatory T cells don’t work efficiently, the immune system can become overzealous and promote inflammation and autoimmunity.

Other compounds that support regulatory T cells include vitamin D3, vitamin A, fish oil or krill oil, specific probiotic strains, nutrients that boost activity of glutathione  our master antioxidant, and nutrients that act on nitric oxide pathways.

Resveratrol curcumin combo is inflammation-quenching breakthrough

The research on TH-17 gives functional medicine practitioners new tools with which to better manage autoimmunity and chronic inflammation. Ask my office for advice on highly absorbable forms of curcumin and resveratrol in therapeutic amounts.

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silent autoimmunity copy

Autoimmune disease has become frighteningly common today. This degenerative condition, which can affect any tissue in the body or brain, happens when the immune system attacks and destroys the body as if it were a foreign invader. Chances are either you or someone you know has an autoimmune disease. Some of the more commonly known autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and psoriasis.

Although the statistics for autoimmune disease are alarming enough — it affects one in five people, the majority of them women — these numbers do not tell the whole story. The truth is the autoimmune process typically is underway long before the tissue damage is advanced enough for it to be diagnosed as a “disease.”

In fact, some people go an entire lifetime suffering from the symptoms of an autoimmune reaction that never progresses to the disease stage. This is because tissue damage and symptoms have to be quite severe or life threatening before conventional medicine can offer remedies in the way of steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgical removal.

This means untold numbers of people suffer from autoimmune reactions that cause symptoms but are not advanced enough to be diagnosed as disease. This creates confusion and frustration for the suffering patient.

For instance, someone with an autoimmune reaction to the pancreas may struggle with keeping her blood sugar stable despite eating a very good diet. This is because she is on the path to possibly developing type 1 diabetes. It’s estimated 10 percent of those with type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-induced condition, also have pancreatic autoimmunity and thus markers for type 1 diabetes autoimmunity. Another example is autoimmunity that causes hypothyroidism — Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Patients are given thyroid hormone in ever increasing doses but are not instructed on how to dampen or halt the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland.

People can also have symptoms that suggest multiple sclerosis, arthritis, brain disorders (depression, anxiety, loss of balance, loss of memory, etc.), poor adrenal function, irritable bowel, and others because their immune system is attacking the glands or tissues associated with those symptoms. However, the tissue destruction is not advanced enough to be labeled as a disease and hence medicine has little or nothing to offer.

Fortunately, functional medicine shines in this arena. Specialized lab testing can determine whether autoimmunity is affecting a number of different tissues. Testing can identify (or rule out) the source of chronic, mysterious, and undiagnosable symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, chronic pain, declining brain function, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, and more.

This information can validate patients who have long been dismissed or belittled by their doctors for “making things up.” Testing can also uncover autoimmune reactions that are not causing any symptoms. For instance, a person may be producing antibodies (an autoimmune marker) to the sheaths that coat the nerves. In its progressed stage, this becomes multiple sclerosis. Knowing this kind of information can give you more incentive to avoid inflammatory foods and pursue other lifestyle choices that may lower your risk of that silent autoimmune reaction becoming a disease.

In functional medicine we use a variety of strategies to dampen autoimmunity and relieve symptoms. These strategies include an anti-inflammatory diet that removes foods to which you are sensitive and stabilizes blood sugar, minimizing your exposure to toxic chemicals and metals, adopting lifestyle habits that minimize stress and maximize well being (socializing, exercise, play time, laughter, etc.), and the use of natural compounds that dampen inflammation and support the balance of immunity, stress, gut health, and blood sugar.

Ask my office for more information.

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407 endorphins and immunity

We all like things that make us high on life — that feel-good rush after exercising, a good belly laugh, playful activities with friends, meditation, a good massage, or a loved one’s touch. These are examples of things that release endorphins, the body’s chemicals that give us a natural high. But endorphins do more that make us feel good; endorphins are necessary for proper immune function. In fact, some studies suggest people with chronic illness suffer from low endorphins. If you have an autoimmune disease, chronic pain, or chronic illness, boosting your endorphins could help you better manage your health.

We are an endorphin-deprived society, what with our emphasis on being busy. Not only does this result in less happiness, but it also predisposes the immune system to malfunction so that one is more apt to develop chronic pain or illness.

Most immune cells have receptors for endorphins and need endorphins to function properly. Studies suggest low endorphins play a role in autoimmunity, when the immune system erroneously attacks and destroys tissue in the body, such as the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism), the pancreas (Type 1 diabetes), or the nervous system (multiple sclerosis).

Although many factors are linked with autoimmunity, including environmental toxins and poor diet, endorphins are not to be overlooked. Some research shows people with chronic illness have low endorphins. Low endorphin production is caused by alcohol fetal exposure, alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety, depression, and chronic psychological stress, factors that can tip the immune system out of balance.

One way to help manage your autoimmune condition, chronic illness, or chronic pain is to work to boost the production of endorphins. Here are some endorphin-boosting tips:

  • Strenuous exercise (the intensity varies from person to person; be careful not to over exercise as that will cause inflammation)
  • Acupuncture or massage therapy
  • Sex
  • Meditation
  • Laughter
  • Healthy socialization
  • Play
  • Low-dose naltrexone therapy (this is a therapy using low doses of the opiate-blocking drug naltrexone to stimulate the body’s own production of endorphins)

Managing autoimmunity and chronic illness is a multi-faceted approach

Endorphins are but one factor to consider when managing autoimmune disease or another chronic condition. Other things to consider include gluten sensitivity, food intolerances, chemical intolerances, quality of diet, leaky gut, inflammation, nutritional status, brain health, and more.

For more information about managing your autoimmune or chronic condition, contact my office.

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scoop on nightshades

If you’re following the strict leaky gut or autoimmune diet, you may have noticed nightshades are on the list of foods to avoid. Many common and much-loved vegetables belong to the nightshade family, including eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet and hot peppers (but not black pepper), and chili-based spices, including paprika. What many people don’t realize is nightshades contain compounds that can contribute to their pain, digestive issues, and inflammation. Some people are sensitive to nightshades so it’s important to determine whether they might play a role in your symptoms.

The word nightshade typically conjures images of notorious toxic plants such as jimson weed, petunias, and deadly nightshade. The nightshade family, called Solanacea, has more than 2,000 species, most of which are inedible and many of which are highly poisonous. However, many edible plants also fall into the nightshade family.

Below are some of the other less well-known nightshades:

  • Bush tomato
  • Goji berries (a.k.a. wolfberry)
  • Naranjillas
  • Pepinos
  • Pimientos
  • Tamarillos
  • Tomatillos

What’s the problem with nightshades?

Several natural compounds in nightshades can make them problematic: saponins, lectins, and capsaicin. These compounds make nightshades a common food sensitivity, and they can lead to leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes overly porous. A leaky gut allows unwanted pathogens into the bloodstream, leading to health issues including inflammation, allergies, and autoimmunity.  Researchers also suggest that even moderate consumption of nightshades can contribute to a variety of health conditions, arthritis in particular.

Saponins in nightshades

Saponins are compounds that have detergent-like properties and are designed to protect plants from microbes and insects. When consumed by humans, saponins can create holes in the gut wall, increasing leaky gut and allowing pathogens and toxins into the bloodstream. Saponins also have properties that can encourage the immune system to make inflammatory messengers that cause inflammation in the body.

Peppers are high in saponins. Ripe tomatoes have low levels of saponins, while green tomatoes and hot-house tomatoes (those that are harvested before they are ripe), are exceedingly high in saponins.

Lectins in nightshades

Another compound found in nightshades that can be problematic for some people is lectin. Lectins are a concern because they resist digestion, are able to withstand the heat of cooking (which means they are intact when you eat them), and help create a leaky gut. They can penetrate the protective mucus of the small intestine where they promote cell division at the wrong time and even cause cell death. Lectins can also perforate the intestinal wall, and trick the immune system into thinking there’s an intruder, causing an allergic reaction.

Tomato lectin is known to enter the blood stream relatively quickly in humans, while potato lectins have been found to irritate the immune system and produce symptoms of food hypersensitivity in both allergenic and non-allergenic patients.

Capsaicin in nightshades

Capsaicin is a stimulant found in chili peppers that helps give them their heat. While a variety of health benefits have been attributed to capsaicin, it is also a potent irritant to mucous membranes and may contribute to leaky gut as well.

Yams and sweet potatoes are not nightshades

Yams are in the same family as sweet potatoes; true yams are not very common in the United States. Fortunately, sweet potatoes and true yams are not part of the nightshade family despite their names, and do not exhibit the same tendencies as nightshades toward promoting leaky gut and inflammation in the body.

Anyone wishing to improve digestive health and manage inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases, or allergies may want to consider drastically reducing or even eliminating their consumption of nightshades to determine whether they are a problem. Ask my office for more information about the leaky gut, or autoimmune, diet.

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324 heart autoimmunity

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting about 11 percent of the population. For the majority of people, heart disease is driven by diet and lifestyle factors, however research shows an increasing number of heart disease cases can also have an autoimmune component. This means the immune system is mistakenly attacking and destroying heart tissue, causing symptoms and weakening the heart.

Typically heart disease is linked with a diet high in processed foods, sugars and refined carbohydrates, lack of activity, and obesity. The good news is that means people who make the effort can ameliorate or reverse their condition through a whole foods diet and exercise.

However, when an autoimmune reaction is part of the picture, the approach is more complicated. If the autoimmunity has destroyed enough tissue, it can be too late to reverse the condition and its symptoms. With autoimmune rates exploding in recent years, hopefully more doctors will screen for autoimmunity so an autoimmune heart condition can be caught in time to manage it.

Heart autoimmunity

The symptoms of an autoimmune reaction against the heart mimic heart disease symptoms. They include cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), fluid retention, tiring easily, chest pain, breathlessness, palpitations, edema with exercise, and difficulty breathing. An unmanaged autoimmune reaction to the heart can cause inflammation, scarring, and, in rare cases, sudden death. Also, poor heart function affects the lungs, liver, and other organs and systems in the body.

Typically, doctors in the standard health care model do not screen for autoimmunity until the end stages of disease when symptoms are severe. Fortunately, you can identify an autoimmune reaction before it’s too late with a blood serum antibody panel.

This panel screens for autoimmunity against heart tissue by checking for myocardial (a protein the heart releases in response to stress) or alpha-myosin (cardiac tissue) antibodies. If these come back positive it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle.

If you know you have an autoimmune condition, you can take the steps to potentially slow or halt its progression through proven diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy strategies. You should also regularly monitor your heart health.

Gluten sensitivity affects heart autoimmunity

Sometimes gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are associated with cardiomyopathy and a gluten-free diet can improve the condition, sometimes profoundly. For some it even reverses the condition. Cardiomyopathy has also been shown to worsen in those with celiac disease who continue to eat gluten. People with cardiomyopathy or a history of heart inflammation should always screen for gluten sensitivity using newer, more advanced testing since a gluten-free diet may significantly improve the condition.

Other strategies for heart autoimmunity

When a person tests positive for autoimmunity, a gluten-free diet should be adopted given the links between gluten and autoimmune disease, including heart autoimmunity. A more intensive autoimmune diet may be necessary to repair the gut, dampen overall inflammation, and help balance the immune system.

Ask about my office about nutritional therapy strategies to manage heart autoimmunity.

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