You have probably heard the term autoimmune, but do you know what it means? To put it simply, autoimmunity is when your body has an inappropriate immune reaction toward itself or certain organs and tissues within the body — basically, the immune system attacks the body rather than protecting it. This triggers a cascade of inflammation and causes a host of often debilitating symptoms.
Autoimmune diseases are caused when there are communication breakdowns between your body’s cells, and immune cells can no longer distinguish between your own opens in a new windowhealthy tissue and a harmful invader. Messages are scrambled between cells that orchestrate and direct immune responses, and the more common T and lymphocyte immune cells responsible for attacking harmful invaders. With autoimmune diseases, immune cells circulate without proper “training” and destroy various areas of the body, depending on the specific autoimmune condition.
Common Autoimmune Diseases
Scientists have identified roughly 80 autoimmune conditions (AI). Some of the more common ones include:
- Multiple sclerosis — affects nerve cells and the central nervous system
- Rheumatoid arthritis — attacks the joints
- Type 1 diabetes — affects insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
- Psoriasis — causes skin cells to multiply too quickly
- Pernicious anemia — involves a deficiency of a protein necessary for vitamin B12 absorption
- Lupus — affects multiple organs, including joints, kidneys, brain, skin, and heart.
- Celiac disease — eating anything with gluten triggers an attack on the small intestine
- Inflammatory bowel disease — causes inflammation in the intestinal wall lining.
- Sjögren’s syndrome — attacks lubrication glands in eyes and around the mouth
- Addisons’s disease — affects adrenal glands
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis — affects the thyroid
- Grave’s disease — affects the thyroid
Toxins and Your Health
For years, doctors and scientists believed autoimmune conditions were a result of genetic factors. However, recent research has uncovered other potential factors — particularly the influence of toxins on autoimmune diseases. There is an entire field of medicine dedicated to this topic: Immunotoxicology, or the study how toxins affect the immune system. Research is showing that rising autoimmune disease rates may be linked to our increasingly toxic environment.
According to a study presented at the 2022 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) Annual Meeting by Ahmed Obeidat, MD, PhD, rates of MS are as high as 1,000 cases per 100,000 in certain Wisconsin zip codes, particularly in the southeastern part of the state. To put in perspective, normal rates of MS in the midwest are 353 per 100,000. The reason? Obeidat discovered that many of his MS patients live near aluminum manufacturing plants. “Perhaps exposure to high levels of the metal [aluminum] can result in overactive and uncontrolled immune responses to other known risks [for MS] (such as EBV),” says Obeidat.
Earlier studies reporting on geographic MS clusters support the hypothesis that location of residence can affect exposure to various organic and inorganic substances linked to the development of MS, says Obeidat.
Natural Treatment Options for Autoimmune Conditions
Many autoimmune diseases are difficult to diagnose and manage, and currently there are no known Western medical cures. Conventional therapies use anti-inflammatory drugs, immune suppressors, antiviral drugs, and other medications to focus on controlling flare-ups. This is a symptomatic approach that does not address the root or cause of the autoimmune disease, and can also lead to unwanted side effects.
One strategy for managing autoimmune disease is to focus on opens in a new windowbalance and regulation to help re-establish the immune system’s critical biological cycles. Some methods include following a strict sleep schedule, engaging in regular exercise, adhering to a strict healthy diet such as the AIP Diet, taking nutritional supplements that focus on opens in a new windowregulation and balance of the immune system, and the removal of heavy metals and toxins. Stress relief is also extremely important, as chronic stress can contribute to autoimmune flare ups.
Medicinal mushroom supplements:
One of the most valuable forms of supplementation for AI diseases is medicinal mushrooms. Though commonly misunderstood to be immune enhancers, medicinal mushrooms are actually very effective immune regulators that help to educate immune cells and direct appropriate immune responses. 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. For more information about medicinal mushrooms, opens in a new windowdownload a complimentary medicinal mushroom wellness guide.
Gentle removal of heavy metals and toxins is one of the most essential protocol considerations for the management of any AI disease. A combination of modified citrus pectin and modified alginates is proven to safely remove heavy metals and environmental toxins from the body, without affecting essential minerals. It is also critical to avoid further exposure by choosing natural, organic alternatives to conventional food, body and household products that contain harmful chemicals.
It’s equally important to focus on daily detox defense against ubiquitous pesticides and herbicides such as glyphosate. A supplement that features a precise blend of evidence-based natural binders and detox agents can help target the most dangerous and pervasive pesticides in use today — including glyphosate —along with other agricultural toxins that permeate the environment.
Modern medicine may not have found a cure for autoimmune diseases, but through proper management and regulation of the body’s response systems using diet, healthy lifestyle patterns and nutritional supplementation, you can avoid toxic build up and reduce your risk of this increasingly common form of disease.