Inflammation and Autoimmune DiseaseErin, a 50 year old mother of 3 with a demanding full time job , sat in my office one day last year feeling overwhelmed and sick. Her job required that she spend a lot of time on the computer . Her hands were becoming so sore that she was finding it difficult to type on the keyboard. Every sentence felt like a Herculean effort. In addition to the gas and bloating in her gut that bothered her, she was having knee pain on both sides so it was becoming difficult to run. Running was her favorite form of exercise! And she was just so tired! When her schedule permitted, she would go to bed at 9PM and still wouldn’t wake rested. Her life was a mess! She was not feeling well and wondered if this was the beginning of the end! Would she always feel this way, she wondered?' After we ran some bloodwork, I discovered that she had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. While we addressed the thyroid, I decided it was important to also look into improving her gut health too!
All autoimmune diseases originate in the gut. This is just a fact. When the gut becomes irritated through poor diet, environmental toxins, stress, microbial infection or imbalance, or conditions like Celiac disease, the gut becomes inflamed. When the gut becomes inflamed, tiny molecules of various foods can pass through the gaps between the cells. Then the body starts to form antibodies to other foods. This is known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. When the body is repeatedly exposed to those foods, antigen-antibody complexes form and deposit in various parts of the body. For example, with people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the deposits happen in the joints, in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the deposits are in the thyroid, Ulcerative Colitis the colon, etc. These antigen-antibody complexes cause inflammation in the body as well!
The key ways to deal with any autoimmune disease and inflammation is to heal the gut and close the tight junctions between the cells to start to heal the leaky gut.
How does one heal the gut? First of all, the offending foods and allergens must be identified and eliminated from the diet. This usually means a RADICAL DIET CHANGE! This can be hard, and it CAN BE DONE and it will literally change your life for the better! Wouldn’t it be worth letting go of some foods to literally get your life back? In my practice I often order Food Allergy Testing to start with, then I may order a Comprehensive Stool Analysis to look into the microbiome and the health of the entire digestive tract.
Once the gut begins to heal and the body is cleansed from the offending foods, one of the first things patients notice is an improvement in digestive symptoms and a lessening of their aches and pains. This is a direct result of the inflammation levels in the body being reduced and often is noticeable within the first few weeks off of the offending foods.
But this is only the beginning of the story! Celiac and Crohns patients are usually just told by their Western Medical Doctors that all they have to do is to cut out gluten and that is the end of the story. Their body will heal on it’s own. This is COMPLETELY FALSE! Patients with Crohns and Celiac disease (and other autoimmune patients as well) often need to cut ALL GRAINS from their diet! And eliminate other foods as well. Some patients have such a microbial imbalance that they also need to eliminate certain fruits and vegetables to avoid certain naturally occurring sugars. They need to follow more of a FODMOPS diet.
The Western Medical Approach to managing inflammatory and autoimmune disorders certainly has its place. In severe cases patients often need to go on anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDS (like Naproxen or Ibuprofen) or immunosuppressive therapies (like Methotrexate) and even in some cases Targeted Molecular Therapies (the mibs and mabs). In fact, it is not my job or my role to pull patients off of their medications that their Western Doctors have placed them on. I do take issue with NSAIDS , Immunosuppressive drugs and Targeted Molecular Therapies being given as a first line permanent therapy with no hope for a cure while ignoring the super important role that gut health and diet play in managing these conditions. In fact, many of my patients who can strictly adhere to the diet regimens can with the help of their Western Doctor, eventually decrease their dosages of prescription medications. Some even are able to go off completely. And with the changes and the naturopathic approach, many find a reduction in the intensity, frequency and duration of their flareups. Sure, when life is stressful and throws curveballs there can still be flareups but they will be much more minor and workable.
Erin adhered to the individualized protocol I came up with for her. Her chronic decades-long digestive symptoms, the bloating and cramping have pretty much disappeared! Her hands very rarely hurt and when they do it is usually because she accidentally was exposed to one of her food allergens on vacation or at a dinner party. For this reason she now mainly cooks and eats at home so that she has more control over what goes into her body. Her autoimmune fatigue has greatly improved both from the thyroid medications her doctor prescribed as well as the antigen-antibody burden having dramatically decreased on the plan. She was promoted at her job and her family life is a lot more harmonious because she feels so much better. She is able to show up and be a better parent and a better partner to her husband as well! And she is running again due to lack of knee pain and recently did her best time yet in a popular 10K race, too!
With all the benefits she has gained from working with me for the last year, Erin says “ Changing my diet was so worth it! I am willing to give up any food in order to live my best life! I can’t imagine where I would be had I not sought you out for treatment! I was dying inside and depressed and I now have my life back!”