When the Body Attacks Itself
Dec 30, 2014 07:24PM
By Sylvia Haskvitz
Reported cases of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s and Lupus are soaring; one in 31 people in the U.S. now have autoimmune diseases and many functional doctors have uncovered connections between them.
Autoimmune disease develops when our immune system, which is in place to protect our body from disease, becomes non-discriminating and sees healthy cells as foreign invaders and attacks them. When the cells being attacked are in the thyroid, we may be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and if they are attacking our nerves’ myelin sheath, we may have multiple sclerosis.
Functional doctors are particularly addressing these issues, both to treat themselves and then help others that are suffering. Many conventional doctors suggest the pop a pill a day route for thyroid issues, for example. Functional doctors may instead ask, “Why is your body so angry?” and then look for and treat the root cause. According to Dr. Amy Myers, author of The Autoimmune Solution, and other experts, there are five factors in play:
Diet. One of the culprits in autoimmune disease is gluten. Gluten of the past was less hybridized and more recognized by the body. Today’s gluten (glue) is processed in a way that wreaks havoc with a large portion of the population’s health.
Leaky gut. Also called intestinal permeability, this condition is like a cheesecloth in the lining of the gut that only allow particles of a certain size and quality to get through. It gets “leaky” when there is a hole in the cheesecloth, and what gets through is not supporting our gut health.
Stress. How we respond to outside forces matters because the body secretes powerful hormones that affect our entire system.
Toxins. Environmental like mold, cleaning products, off-gassing pesticides and GMOs all play a role.
Genetics. We may have been born with the propensity for developing an autoimmune disease, and in order for that gene to be expressed, there needs to be a stressful event or something in the diet that triggers it.
We can take back our health, according to many functional medicine doctors. Most agree on removing gluten from the diet and exploring which other foods may be problematic. Frequent offenders may be dairy, eggs, soy and corn. We can also find more easeful ways to deal with stress in our life, be on the lookout for environmental and food toxins and remove the offending item or items. The one factor we don’t have control over is our genetics, but that occupies only a small part of the picture.
What we can do if we are struggling with an autoimmune disease is become the expert ourselves and experiment with taking gluten out of our diet and notice any changes. If we don’t notice any differences, dig deeper into what other foods may be a trigger. Manage stress with meditation, walks in nature and practice expressing ourselves.
It may be helpful to work with a practitioner whose values about health and well-being match our own.
Sylvia Haskvitz, MA, RD, is a CNVC certified trainer. Contact her at 520-572-9295 or [email protected].