As amazing as our bodies are, they are not able to completely withstand the onslaught of assaults imposed by modern life. The Standard American Diet, our fast-paced lifestyles and, in particular, widespread toxin exposure, have fueled a group of serious health epidemics often listed together under the umbrella of “Western diseases.” And autoimmune disease is quickly climbing to the top of this list.
Autoimmune (AI) diseases, of which there are more than 100 types, are all characterized by overactive, inflammatory and self-destructive immune responses. Essentially, the immune system turns against the body, wreaking havoc by attacking organs and tissues. And so far, there are no known cures. Conventional treatment options are designed to suppress immunity and inflammation with powerful drugs.
Like cancer, AI diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and many others are now being linked to environmental pollution and everyday poisons frequently found in conventional foods, household items and body products. The rising number of AI cases, especially clustered around areas of heavy pollution, can no longer be ignored.
But do you have to be genetically predisposed to be at risk?
The Role of Toxins And Allergens
For decades, the unanimous belief in the scientific and medical communities was that genes make you at risk for AI. These diseases were believed to be caused solely by genetic factors.
But research emerging from the relatively new field of immunotoxicology (the study of the effects of toxins on our immune systems) is disproving this assumption.
While experts still believe that a genetic predisposition to AI disease places some people at a higher risk, data from immunotoxicology studies at top research institutes demonstrate that the epidemic increase of AI disease is being influenced by something much more widespread.
Let’s face it — we live in a toxic world and must actively work to protect ourselves from the serious health effects that can result.
AI diseases include more than 100 individual illnesses such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes- 1, multiple sclerosis and celiac disease. These take place when the immune system can no longer distinguish its own healthy tissue from a harmful invader. In general terms, AI diseases can be described as an improperly developed immune system with communication breakdowns between regulator immune T cells (T-1 cells), which orchestrate and direct immune responses, and the more common T cells (T-2 cells) and lymphocyte immune cells, which are responsible for attacking harmful invaders . With AI diseases, T-2 cells circulate unsupervised and undereducated, destroying various areas of the body depending on the specific autoimmune condition.
Why are women three times more likely to develop an AI disease than men? This is a complex question that may never be completely answered by conventional medicine. From a biological perspective, there are numerous complexities that accompany AI disease responses. It may prove insightful, however, to examine the potentially larger presence of accumulated toxins in women’s bodies. These substances can bind to estrogen receptors, distort cellular immune signaling, mutate DNA and disrupt vital functions.
Women and men who live and work while immersed in environmental pollution and who continually are exposed to pesticides, dioxins, hydrocarbons and heavy metals are up to four times more likely to suffer an AI disease than the national average. A growing number of animal studies highlight the causative links between toxins and numerous AI diseases as well.
Researchers have found that even tiny doses of these poisons can alter immune cell function at every step along our complex cellular signaling pathways. This includes an increased likelihood of the debilitating uncontrolled inflammation flare-ups that are characteristic of many AI diseases.
For numerous elusive 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 inflammation-suppressing drugs, immune suppressors and antiviral drugs. This is a symptomatic approach that does not address the root or cause of the AI disease and can lead to severe side effects.
Diet is critical in the management of AI disease, since food allergies can play a large role in AI flare-ups. Managing AI disease through strict adherence to a healthy, unprocessed diet has proven successful in reducing the severity and frequency of these flare-ups.
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. Closely regulating diet, exercise, ample rest and sleep patterns is key.
When selecting nutritional supplements to manage AI diseases, the focus is 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. They help educate immune cells and direct appropriate immune responses, a critical part of the management of AI diseases. Medicinal mushrooms balance long-term and acute immune responses through the regulation of T1 and T2 cellular communication.
Botanicals that regulate inflammation are also critical in the management of AI diseases, along with high-powered antioxidants to scavenge free radicals and help soothe inflammatory responses. I especially recommend a Tibetan herbal formula to regulate healthy immune responses and balance inflammatory signaling. Nutrition and homeopathy can help in this area as well.
The natural, gentle chelation of heavy metals and environmental toxins is critical. Removing these poisons from the body is one of the most essential protocol considerations for the management of any AI disease. For natural chelation, I recommend a combination of modified citrus pectin and modified alginates, which have been clinically 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.