We face an epidemic of autoimmune diseases, medical conditions that cause the body to attack itself and destroy its own tissues. Everyone who lives in today’s polluted world — exposed to toxins at home, outside and just about everywhere in the environment — is at risk. But you can take natural steps to regulate your immune system and help it ward off disease, not cause it.
While your body is designed to defend against a host of environmental invaders, it cannot completely withstand the adverse effects of poor diet, chronic stress and toxic buildup. These common factors can contribute to a group of serious health problems of epidemic proportions, including autoimmune (AI) disease, which is on the rise.
AI diseases comprise more than 100 unique types, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and many others. They are all characterized by inflammatory immune responses that cause the body to turn against its own systems and attack healthy organs and tissues.
You Are At Risk
Many AI diseases almost conclusively are proven to be linked directly to environmental pollution and the everyday poisons found in common foods, electronics, cookware, clothing, body products, mattresses, etc. The rising number of AI cases, particularly surrounding areas of heavier toxin exposure, can no longer be ignored.
At one time, your risk of AI was thought to be determined entirely by your genetics. However, research emerging from the new field of immunotoxicology — the study of the effects of toxins on our immune systems — is debunking that assumption.
While experts still believe that a genetic predisposition to AI disease places someone at a higher risk, data from immunotoxicology studies at top research institutes demonstrate that the epidemic increase of AI disease is being driven by our exposure to an increasingly toxic world. That is why it’s so important for us to actively protect ourselves from the serious health effects that can result.
The Nature Of Autoimmune Disease
In general terms, AI diseases are described as communication breakdowns between our body’s cells, where immune cells can no longer distinguish between our own healthy tissue and a harmful invader. This relates to deregulation of the part of the immune system known as our TH-1 and TH-2 T Helper Cells pathways. With AI diseases, TH-2 cells are over-expressed, overproducing pro-inflammatory cytokines, including those called IL-6.
Autoimmune Diseases In Men And Women
Women are three times more likely to develop an AI disease than men, which is a fact that may never be completely understood by conventional medicine. Examining this issue from holistic as well as biological perspectives can offer some possible insights as to why 75 percent of the 24 million Americans who suffer from AI diseases are women.
From a holistic viewpoint, we can focus on issues of stress, fast-paced lifestyles, exhaustion from multi-tasking careers with parenting, and other lifestyle complications. From a biological perspective, women can have a potentially larger presence of accumulated toxins which bind to estrogen receptors and distort cellular immune signaling, mutate DNA and disrupt vital functions.
Millions of American men are also victims. Certain AI diseases that develop in men tend to be more severe and include conditions like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, among others. The effects of these AI diseases — including the nerve or vascular damage associated with diabetes — can also contribute to other problems such as impotence, or erectile dysfunction (ED).
Most researchers agree that sex hormones play a large role in the difference between how AI diseases affect men and women. Many immune cells have receptors for sex hormones. When sex hormones or toxins that mimic sex hormones bind to these immune cells, they can change the cell’s behavior. Also, men tend to have a weaker inflammatory immune response than women. Since inflammation is a key component of many autoimmune diseases, the effects in women tend to be more serious.
It’s important to note that both men and women who live and work among environmental pollution and are frequently exposed to pesticides, heavy metals and other pollutants on a daily basis are up to four times more likely to develop an AI disease.
For numerous reasons, many AI diseases have been difficult to diagnose and manage, with no known Western medical cures. Conventional therapies focus on controlling flare-ups with anti-inflammatory drugs, immune suppressors, antiviral drugs and other medications. This is a symptomatic approach that does not address the root cause of the AI disease and can also lead to severe and debilitating side effects.
As an integrative physician, my strategy for managing AI disease is to focus on balance and regulation. Since the immune system has lost control of its regulatory mechanisms, the aim is to help re-establish these critical biological cycles.
Here are my top recommendations:
- Regulate your sleep patterns: Follow a strict sleep schedule to give your body the rest it needs. Going to bed early and at about the same time each night are important steps in helping to regulate other systems in your body, including your immune system.
- Engage in regular exercise: Follow a regular exercise regimen to help maintain proper regulation of immune and other functions. Simple 15-minute walks, as well as yoga and Qi Gong, are excellent forms of exercise that help reduce stress and maintain healthy circulation.
- Follow a strictly whole foods diet: Diet is critical in the management of AI disease. Food allergies to items such as gluten, sugar and dairy can play a large role in triggering flare-ups. Managing AI disease through strict adherence to a healthy, unprocessed diet has proven successful in reducing the severity and frequency of flare-ups.
- Natural Supplements: When selecting nutritional supplements to manage AI diseases, focus on regulation and balance of the immune system, rather than trying to avoid overstimulation of immune responses. This is where medicinal mushrooms play a large, though commonly misunderstood, role. Medicinal mushrooms are immune regulators that help educate immune cells and direct appropriate immune responses, which are critical in the management of AI diseases. Botanicals that regulate inflammation are also critical in the management of AI diseases, along with high-powered antioxidants to scavenge free radicals and soothe inflammatory responses.
- Detoxification: Gentle detoxification through the removal of heavy metals and toxins represents one of the most essential protocols for the management of any AI disease. For natural detoxification, I recommend a combination of modified citrus pectin and modified alginates, which have been proven to safely remove heavy metals and environmental toxins from the body. Avoid further exposure by choosing natural, organic alternatives to conventional food, body and household products that contain harmful chemicals.
Even though modern medicine has yet to offer a cure for AI diseases, it is important to note that these illnesses can often be successfully managed through proper regulation of the body’s response systems using diet, healthy lifestyle patterns and nutritional supplementation.