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The Role of Functional Medicine in the Treatment of Autoimmune Disease
By Dr. Marianne Beck

As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I see many patients with autoimmune disease. The two most common questions they ask are:
1- How did I get this autoimmune disease?
2- How can I treat and manage my autoimmune disease without drugs?
First, any autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the body’s organs and tissues. Your immune system can no longer recognize the difference between what belongs in your body (organs and tissues) and what does not belong in the body (bad bacteria, parasites, viruses, fungi etc.). Autoimmune disease usually remains silent and without symptoms for several years as the immune system destroys an organ or tissue. But, then as time goes on, and nothing is done to stop or lessen the autoimmune attack, symptoms begin to appear. Usually the symptoms are vague such as fatigue but as the autoimmune attack continues, more symptoms are noticed and the person visits their physician seeking a diagnosis.

Autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (the most common form of diagnosed hypothyroidism), Type 1 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Scleroderma, Grave’s Disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Biliary Cirrhosis, etc.  There are approximately 200 named Autoimmune Diseases and the list is growing!

The Triad of Autoimmune Disease:
We know from the scientific literature that 3 things need to be present in order to acquire an Autoimmune Disease:
1- The gene for that disease needs to be present in your DNA. In other words, in order to express Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, you must have the gene in your DNA, for this disease. Then you must “turn on this gene” in order get the disease. Once you turn a gene on, it can never be turned off!

2- You must have barrier compromise (Leaky Gut). Our body has many barriers such as the skin barrier, the blood brain barrier, the lung barrier etc.  If I get a cut on my hand, for instance, there is a chance of bacterial infection because the bacteria can get through the hole in my hand into the body. The largest and most important barrier system we have, that protects us from the outside world, is our gut lining. This is the lining that begins in the mouth and extends down into the intestines. This gut lining comes in contact with all of the food we eat and drink. The gut lining, if we were to remove it and flatten it out, is the size of two football fields!! In all autoimmune disease there is a breakdown in the gut lining which scientists call Leaky Gut or increased intestinal permeability. Now, with Leaky Gut, things can get into your body through the holes in the gut lining and into the blood stream where they do not belong. These can be things like parasite eggs on unwashed vegetables and fruits or bad bacteria found in foods or large undigested protein particles from foods containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley), dairy, soy etc. Once in the blood stream, the immune system wants to get rid of them so there is an immune attack by your white blood cells, not only on these parasites and bad bacteria, but on various tissues and organs of your body. It seems that the immune system is making a mistake in attacking your organs and tissues and this is where Autoimmune Disease gets its name. There are many reasons why a patient may have a Leaky Gut such as antibiotic use, medications, eating inflammatory foods, intestinal infections, hormonal deficiencies and emotional, chemical and physical stress. The Leaky Gut must be healed and sealed in order to diminish or stop the autoimmune attacks.

3- There are known environmental triggers for autoimmune disease that “turn your genes on” so that you express a particular autoimmune disease. The following are the most common environmental triggers:
• Food intolerances/sensitivities to gluten, dairy, soy, corn and other grains
• Hidden infections such as parasites, fungi, pathogenic bacteria and viruses mainly in the gut but also in the bloodstream
• Chemical, heavy metal and pesticide exposure
• Vitamin D deficiency as well as other vitamin and mineral deficiencies
• Decreased glutathione and other antioxidants
• Blood sugar swings (hypo and hyperglycemia)
• Hormone imbalances: probably why women suffer from more autoimmune diseases than men

From a Functional Medicine standpoint, there are so many things that you can do if you get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and most have to do with diet and lifestyle changes. Your Medical Doctor will look to prescribe immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisone, Humira, Enbrel and even methyltrexate for an autoimmune disease in order to stop your hyperactive immune system from destroying your organs or tissues. However, you need your immune system! That is why these drugs come with so many warnings about causing cancer or even death!  You do not want your immune system “shut down”—you want it balanced. But most of all you want to find the root cause of WHY you have your autoimmune disease. This is where Functional Medicine shines! Instead of “giving a pill for an ill”, Functional Medicine doctors specialize in teaching the proper diet and lifestyle changes that are necessary, fix any specific nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar and hormonal imbalances, get rid of any hidden infections, test for chemical and heavy metal toxicity and get rid of these toxins—all for one reason: to stop the destruction of your organs and tissues from autoimmune disease so you can live a better life.

If you are finally tired of being "sick and tired", contact Dr. Marianne Beck at Women's BestHealth today. Call 954-782-4855 to to set up an appointment.

Women's BestHealth is a functional medicine and nutritional health center specializing in women's health issues and wellness. Dr. Marianne Beck, founder and director, provides natural treatment for menopause, perimenopause, adrenal fatigue/stress, thyroid problems, Hashimoto's, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems and autoimmune disease. We offer our services locally in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Serving: South Florida (South Fl), Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Sunrise, Oakland park, Pompano Beach, Deerfield, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Miramar, Coral Springs, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coconut Creek, Weston, Hollywood, Plantation, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Marianne Beck, D.C., Functional Medicine Practitioner and Director, Women's BestHealth