HOW TO GET YOUR LIFE BACK FROM AN AUTOIMMUNE CONDITION
The purpose of this handout is to give you a greater
understanding of what can be done to minimize and control your autoimmune
disease. Once you have an autoimmune condition, you will always have this
condition. The object is to keep it under control so that you have many more
‘good days” than “bad days” and minimize the chances of acquiring additional
autoimmune diseases. I strongly recommend you read this handout several times
so that you truly understand what is happening in your body.
Your immune system is made up of two components:
1. White blood cells (WBC’s)
2. The “barrier systems”: your skin, lungs, mucous
membranes, digestive tract (gut) lining and the blood-brain barrier.
Your white blood cells have really two purposes:
1. To destroy anything that doesn’t belong in your body such
as viruses, “ bad” bacteria, parasites, yeast etc
2. To remove bodily cells that are dying and no longer serve
Our bodies are in a constant state of transition with cells
constantly dying and being replaced by newer and better functioning cells. For
example, our red blood cells live approximately 120 days before they die and
are carried to the spleen for removal. If our immune system is not functioning
properly, these dying cells tend to linger in the body too long, replicate and
can become what we call tumors. This can be the start of cancer!! Yes, you need
a well functioning immune system to prevent cancer!
Now, let’s clear the air on the difference between the
definition of autoimmune reactions and autoimmune disease. Autoimmune reactions
are when the immune system is mistakenly attacking your own body. This can be
an attack on ANY tissue in your body: your thyroid as in Hashimoto‘s Thyroid,
your cartilage and joints as in rheumatoid arthritis, your central nervous
system as in MS, your connective tissues as in Lupus etc….
It is important to note that these REACTIONS can occur for
years before the autoimmune process gets to the point when the tissue
destruction is great enough to have symptoms. When you get symptoms, then the
process is now a DISEASE and it is at this point and ONLY at this point that it
gets recognized by your doctor, even though the process has been going on for
many years. It would be extremely beneficial to detect these reactions early on
and “head them off at the pass” BEFORE they get to the tissue destruction
phase. There is now an immunological testing lab, Cyrex Labs, that can measure
abnormal immune reactions against 96 different tissues in your body. This
allows us, as functional medicine practitioners, to intervene early and prevent
future tissue destruction.
The medical approach to autoimmune disease is a ‘one size
fits all” approach that has serious negative side effects to your heath and
DOES NOT address the underlying causes as to why the immune system is not
working properly. It is the medical perspective that if the immune system is
“misbehaving”, then, let’s give the patient pharmaceuticals to suppress it
(Prednisone, Humira, Enbril etc…). This will, in most cases, temporarily help
with symptoms because it is “shutting down” the immune system and halting
autoimmune attacks. The problem is that YOU NEED YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM ! In
addition, it is not addressing the UNDERLYING TRIGGERS to the autoimmune
attacks. Listen to the side effects mentioned on the commercials for Enbril or
other immuno-suppressant drugs---
“the use of this drug may increase the risk of lymphomas and
other types of cancers”!
So, how is functional medicine different when it comes to
managing autoimmune disease?
These are the issues we tackle when managing your autoimmune
1-REMOVAL OF AUTOIMMUNE TRIGGERS:
• Removal of gut infections (remember 70-80% of your immune
cells are in your gut!), other infections in the body and environmental toxins.
• Identification of food sensitivities and removal from your
diet: If you are eating something and your immune system thinks it is a germ
and attacks it, this is known as a food sensitivity. If you continue to consume
these foods, you will weaken your immune system and never get your disease
under control and never achieve health. We use Cyrex Labs for food sensitivity
• Repair Leaky Gut syndrome: Your small intestine is where
90% of your nutrient absorption takes place. This part of your anatomy is like
a screen door on your house. The purpose of the screen door is to keep things
out of your house that don’t belong inside your house. When we constantly
expose our gut to foods we are sensitive to, toxins, processed foods or gut
infections (bad bacteria/parasites/yeasts), holes develop in our “screen door”
and the permeability of our gut lining is increased. When this happens, larger
than normal molecules (gluten, dairy, soy proteins, bad bacteria, parasites
yeasts, etc), make their way into the body where they DO NOT belong. This sets
into action an immune response causing inflammation in the gut, body and brain!
No wonder why diseases like arthritis, cancer, heart disease, depression,
anxiety and all chronic illnesses in general, are on the rise when our body has
to constantly fight this immune inflammatory response. Hippocrates, the father
of medicine said, ”Look to the gut, there you will find the cause of all human
• Identification and correction of dysbiosis: The average
human adult has 4 pounds of “good bacteria” in the gut. This is known as
“normal flora”. There are many different bacteria species that are part of this
normal flora. If they are not in proportion to each other, this can trigger
autoimmune attacks and other health issues like malabsorption of food and
nutrients, infections, leaky gut and inflammation, just to name a few.
• Abnormal blood sugar: This is also known as dysglycemia.
If your blood glucose levels are spiking too high (hyperglycemia) or falling
too low (hypoglycemia), this not only leads to weight gain, irritability, mood
swings, food cravings, hair loss etc, but it causes major stress on your immune
• Anemia: Most of us think that if we are anemic, we only
feel fatigue. This is true, however if you are anemic, your blood cells have
great difficulty bringing nutrition and oxygen to the cells of your body, especially
your upper and lower extremities and your brain!
• Poor Adrenal Gland Function: Your adrenal glands (two
small glands that sit on top of your kidneys) are responsible for the
manufacture of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA etc). We all think
of stress as being emotional/mental stress, however, stress can be physical
(over training or exercising), eating too much sugar or foods you are sensitive
to, having gut infections, having an autoimmune disease etc. All of these
factors cause the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and we know increased
cortisol is a major factor in the development of leaky gut syndrome. Your
brain, via the Hypothalamus and Pituitary gland, control your adrenal function,
your thyroid function and the function of your testes or ovaries. When women
start to go through menopause, the adrenal glands “take over” for the ovaries
in the production of the sex hormones.
• Brain function: (Hippocampus/Hypothalamus/Pituitary) and
brain neurotransmitter function (serotonin/dopamine/GABA/acetylcholine),
digestive function (liver, gallbladder, stomach), thyroid hormone production
and hormone imbalances all need to be addressed when dealing with autoimmune
2-BALANCE THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Without getting too technical, there are 2 parts to the
The TH-1 side and the TH-2 side
• The TH1 (T helper-1) cells are the white blood cells that attack germs (antigens) or what the
immune system perceives as a germ.
• The TH2 (T helper-2)
cells are white blood cells that “tag” and engulf the intruding antigen and
form antibodies (immunoglobulins) so that if we are ever exposed to the
intruder again, these cells will “remember” it and get rid of the antigen more efficiently and less violently. It is
these antibodies that we test for to see if you are autoimmune or have food
sensitivities. You should NOT have high amounts of antibodies against your own
tissues or against food.
In autoimmune disease, it is well known that the TH-1 and
TH-2 systems are out of balance and that one side (either TH-1 or TH-2) has
become overactive. The Th-3 system (called regulatory T-cells) makes sure that
the communication between TH-1 and TH-2 is proper and that they are balanced.
IT IS THE BREAKDOWN OF THE TH-3 SYSTEM that leads to autoimmune reactions and
ultimately to autoimmune tissue destruction and disease.
BALANCING THESE PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS CRITICAL IN
IMPROVING HEALTH AND MANAGING AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS!
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