Recently, on the Susie Larson show on KTIS Faith Radio, a listener called in with a question about autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is an extensive and complex topic, too extensive to cover in-depth on the radio program, or even within this article. To summarize the answer to the listener’s question, Yes, there are modifications you can make to manage this disease.
Autoimmune disease is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States. In its most basic definition, an autoimmune disease is the dysfunction of having a confused immune system. Something in your external or internal environment triggers the immune system to attack its own body. Typically, this occurs when your immune system has become overworked or undernourished. Here are the eight modifiable factors you can change to help heal, prevent, or manage an autoimmune disease.
- Vitamin D
Low vitamin D is a standard with almost all autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is the main manager of your immune system. Ideally, your vitamin D levels should be between 50 and 80. Vitamin D can be lowered when we avoid the sun, use excessive sunscreen, or when you have a congested digestive system which does not allow for fat soluble vitamin absorption and conversion.
- Food Allergies
Anytime you alter your food supply, there is an opportunity for your immune system to not recognize it the food. This can cause your immune system to become overtaxed and start reacting negatively towards your own food. It doesn’t have to be a pure food allergy to trigger autoimmunity. Something as simple as a food intolerance, or any type of food inflammatory reaction can cause your body to attack itself, resulting in an autoimmune disease.
When your body is under stress, it produces excessive amounts of free radicals. These free radicals are cleaned up using your immune system and antioxidants you ingest from your diet. A poor diet combined with stress will speed up the free radical production drastically. Poor sleep, and especially poor deep sleep, also fall into the category of stress. Managing a healthy emotional life goes a long way towards the prevention of an autoimmune disease.
- Pregnancy and Menopause
Pregnancy and menopause are known triggers for autoimmunity because the stress pregnancy puts on the body can be very hard on the immune system. It is important to eat healthy and manage your stress during any time of drastic natural hormonal changes. The hormonal changes can be managed using healthy immune and detoxification systems. Taking the proper amounts of Vitamin D, Omega 3 oils, and antioxidants are crucial to those systems. Working towards overall health prior to pregnancy or menopause is the best thing you can do to prevent an autoimmune disease being triggered during these times.
- Immune Regulators
Immune system regulators are very important when it comes to a balanced, non-confused immune system. These include: vitamin D; omega-3 oils; and glutathione as the primary regulators. Other important immune regulator includes a balance between the TH1, TH2 and TH3 systems. In addition, you may require a diet that includes immune-boosting supplements, herbs, and foods that stimulate one system over another. When in doubt, a high-antioxidant, low-inflammatory diet is always a great way to help boost your natural immune regulators.
- Hormone Imbalance- Estrogen
Hormone imbalance, specifically the hormone Estrogen, is one of the most common causes of autoimmunity; estrogen toxicity or estrogen dominance being the most common. Excess estrogen can displace your thyroid hormone causing less efficiency with the thyroid metabolism and eventually inducing an immune detoxification response that will trigger autoimmunity. Ensuring that you have proper balance with your: estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, and insulin are also very important for the preventions and management of an autoimmune disease.
- Environmental Toxins
A toxin is anything that your body does not recognize as something natural to you. If your body can’t use it, it’s considered a toxin. Man-made chemicals are everywhere, with approximately 1,100 new ones created each year. It is your immune system’s responsibility to recognize toxins and detoxify them from the body. This includes chemical compounds which mimic hormones, like estrogen, as well as very toxic heavy metals. Continued exposure to these toxins creates a burden on the immune system that is so high that it can become depleted quite quickly. You can reduce your exposure to environmental toxins by:
eating an organic, healthy diet; drinking clean, or purified water; reducing exposure to toxins that are in your makeup, hair or skin care; or even in the air you breathe. While you can’t eliminate environmental toxins completely, reducing exposure to them can go a long way towards helping reduce the workload of your immune system to clean them up.
- Blood Sugar Levels
Changes in blood sugar levels can also trigger an autoimmune reaction. If your blood sugar is too high for too long it can congest your lymph and immune system, which eventually reduces the proper management of the immune response. On the flip side, if your blood sugar drops too low and you have a hypoglycemic response, this triggers a significant stress hormone response which can drastically deplete your immune system. Even worse, is your blood sugar levels vacillate dramatically from low to high and back again. Eating a high glycemic diet can cause such a reactive hypoglycemia, inducing an autoimmune disease. Eat a low glycemic, high fiber diet can help to avoid this scenario.
The wonderful news for those who suffer from an autoimmune disease, is that these are all factors within your life that you possess the ability to modify. You can be in control of your health, through modifications that can treat, manage, and even prevent an autoimmune disease from affecting your life.
This blog is dedicated to the listener, Kristen, who asked the question. We hope it’ll be a good starting point for you and your journey with autoimmune disease. Feel free to share this with anyone you know who is suffering from an autoimmune disease.
To find out if you have an autoimmune disease, or to get help managing your autoimmune disease symptoms, please contact us at Synapse Center for Health and Healing at 651-209-9906.