It seems that autoimmune disorders are on the increase and more and more autoimmune diseases are being added to the list daily. What is causing this increase and what are autoimmune disorders anyway?
As Wikipedia suggests: ” an autoimmune disease is a condition arising from an abnormal immune response to a normal body part”. In other words the immune system, which is supposed to protect us from foreign invaders, somehow goes haywire and starts attacking itself instead. So we need to ask why does the immune system get confused and attack a normal body part, i.e. the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, the pancreas in diabetes type 1, the gut in coeliac disease, the thyroid in Graves disease, the bowel in inflammatory bowel disease, the skin in psoriasis etc? Wikipedia goes on to say that the cause is generally unknown but it can be genetic. This does not offer us much hope in avoiding these illnesses, especially if a family member already experienced it. Likewise treatment is not very appealing and most “experts” will tell you that autoimmune diseases are not curable but can only be managed with drugs, i.e. non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and immunosuppressants.
If various illnesses are on the increase, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is due to the results of our western lifestyle, i.e. a growing reliance on processed foods combined with increased toxins in our environment and stress.
So where does inflammation come into this? At the beginning of all disease and especially autoimmune disease, inflammation is occurring in the body. If inflammation is allowed to continue for too long, and there is a family history of autoimmune disease, combined with a weakening of the gut and some added stress then you have a recipe for disaster, or autoimmune disease. Some sources are now classifying cancer and even autism as autoimmune diseases. We know that inflammation is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong and the start of healing but inflammation left unattended will result in the eventual breakdown of our immune system.
How can we stop this? Anti-inflammatory foods are the new flavour of the month and luckily there are many to choose from. However, we need to cut out the offending inflammatory foods as well, heal the gut, which contains 80% of our immune system, get rid of as many toxins as we can in our environment and decrease our stress levels. Here is a step by step protocol that may be helpful to anyone wanting to address inflammation in their body and thereby decrease their likelihood of acquiring an autoimmune disease:
1. Heal the gut:
leaky gut is a condition where the intestinal walls become permeable and allow undigested food molecules to pass through and throw the immune system into havoc, working overtime to decipher self from non-self. Eliminating known allergens as well as gluten, dairy, alcohol, sugar, some medications like NSAID’s, birth-control pills and antibiotics, and reducing stress will help tremendously. Secondly treat any infections like candida, parasites and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) with herbs like wormwood, black walnut hulls, golden seal and garlic, as well as oregano oil and grapeseed extract. Soothe gut inflammation with herbs like licorice, marshmallow, aloe vera and calendula. Lastly restore beneficial bacteria with good prebiotics like slippery elm and probiotics, fermented foods and digestive enzymes.
2. Remove as many foods as possible that may contribute to inflammation and leaky gut:
These would include all processed foods (eat only whole foods), sugar, coffee, wheat, gluten, processed meats, trans fats (usually hidden in cakes, biscuits and crackers), margarine, polyunsaturated fats, dairy products and white potatoes. Some people may need to remove the solanacea family (tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, eggplant, potatoes and tobacco) and even others may need to remove all grains and eggs depending on the severity of the symptoms. A diet consisting of all other organic vegetables and juices, a small amount of organic fruit, wild caught fish and organic free range chicken if required would be optimal at least for a preliminary period of 30 days to reduce inflammation.
3. Include anti-inflammatory foods:
Like tumeric and ginger in vegetable soups adding in reishi mushrooms to boost the immune system. Use good fats like coconut oil for cooking and add olive oil and flaxseed oil to salads. Use avocados liberally.
4. Drink dandelion tea, chai tea and green tea to help detox the liver as well as pure filtered water.
5. Get rid of as many toxins and chemicals in your environment:
Including face and body products, cleaning products, furnishings, outdoor gardening products etc.
Avoid anything that is flame retardant in clothes or furnishings. Store food in glass containers rather than plastic. Become a chemical nazi!
6. Reduce stress levels:
By leading a simple life, spending more time in nature, meditating and being grateful for all that you have.
With so many people being diagnosed with some type of autoimmune disease and more and more autoimmune disorders being added to the list, we need to take control of our lives and recognise the causative factors.
For more detailed information on healing autoimmune disease, see The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers, M.D. Also, please seek advice from your health practitioner if you have or suspect you have an autoimmune disorder.
Suzanne Staples ND DBM
Naturopath Herbalist Homoeopath
Copyright Suzanne Staples