Autoimmune diseaseAutoimmune diseases have become increasingly more common. Medical doctors are taught that our health is the result of our genes, and that health is preprogrammed and predetermined. This view rejects the possibility that health reflects an accumulation of choices that we make and the environmental impact around us. The reality is our health and well-being are the result of how our environment interacts with our genes.

There are different autoimmune diseases within all specialties and all of these are looked at differently, however, they all have the same common triggers. Therefore, we can take a similar approach in treating all autoimmune disorders. If we know what causes the immune system to attack itself and we know some of the triggers for what causes a malfunction in the immune system, which we do, we can successful treat these conditions.

Autoimmunity occurs a few 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 and its appears to be foreign to the body. In addition, this can happen with heavy metal toxicities such as mercury. Second, is called molecular mimicry. This occurs when the body makes an antibody (a protein in the body that attacks objects in the body that appear to be foreign) to a specific antigen. These antigens can resemble certain proteins in the body and the antibodies attack our body’s own tissues. Third, is the development of the T cells (the immune system). This can be affected by genetics, stress, and environmental triggers. Environmental triggers are what integrative doctors mainly work with in functional medicine. These can be food triggers such as gluten or food sensitivities that can trigger inflammation as well as anything coming in with the food such as toxins or molds. In addition, the nutrient status of the person. This can be antioxidant status, vitamins, essential fatty acids, vitamin D, etc. Also, gut health. This includes “leaky gut” and dysbiosis. Finally, there are toxins that can be affect the status of the immune system. These are heavy metals, xenobiotics, as well as the total toxic burden in the body.

Many autoimmune conditions need to be addressed by optimizing gut health. Dietary approaches provide the most effective means to returning balance and dysfunction with the gastrointestinal system. Patients may need anti-microbials, botanicals, enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics to optimize the gastrointestinal environment. Integrative health care practitioners can offer hope to these patients. Diagnostic considerations include stool testing, organic acid testing, food antibody testing, as well as gluten sensitivity testing or elimination of gluten from the diet.

Gastrointestinal support following the 4-R approach

This focuses on eliminating pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Botanical extracts have a long history as natural antimicrobials. They offer a broad spectrum of activity against common pathogens in conditions of dysbiosis and are relatively sparing of normal flora. These may include tribulus extract, berberine sulfate, sweet wormwood, black walnut, grapefruit extract, bearberry extract, and caprylic acid. GI Microb-X is a blend of these botanical extracts that are commonly seen on sensitivity testing stool profiles by major functional laboratories.

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

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

Glutamine is the most important nutritional substance for healthy intestinal cells and main fuel of the colonocytes of the large intestine. Glutamine is essential in maintaining proper gastrointestinal intestinal functional and preventing “leaky gut”. N-Acetyl Glucosamine also supports proper mucosal health and reduces intestinal permeability. In addition, it inhibits the growth and functional of abnormal T-cells that incorrectly direct the immune system to attack specific tissues of the body, such as in autoimmune disease. GI-Revive is a synergistic formula that contains L-Glutamine, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, and several mucilaginous relaxing herbs (DGL, slippery elm, marshmallow, chamomile, okra, and cat’claw) that soothe and coat the intestinal lining and promote healing of inflamed tissue.

What appears to happen with most autoimmune dieases is there are multiple triggers chronically stimulating the immune system over a long period of time in multiple ways. As a result, our immune system gets into an overloaded, overwhelmed state and loses its ability to function. Lifestyle choices and environmental exposures filtered through genetic predisposition are fundamental factors in the expression of disease, and a successful treatment approach must address these factors.

Integrative Gastroenterology. Gerard E. Mullin
Immunity and Autoimmunity: A Four-Step Program for Restoring Immune Health and Treating Autoimmune Disease by Susan Blum, MD
Scientific American. September 2013. Everything you know about calories is wrong by Rob Dunn

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