Don’t you just hate it when you’re trying to find out a definition of a word or sentence, and the answer is not only vague but the same vague answer is repeated by many over and over. For instance, autoimmune disease. What is it?
We know that it’s your body attacking itself, but does that make sense? What does it mean that your body is attacking itself? How does this happen? What is the outcome of this situation? Who does it affect? What can we do about it?
Then the next question is why do we hear so much about it today? Has it always been so prevalent? And, if it’s so prevalent today, what is being done about it?
Well, you know what they say…
Follow the money. Shall we?
It’s estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from at least one autoimmune disease. Note to self: you can have more than one at the same time. And, it’s estimated that $591 million dollars are spent on researching the subject.
That may seem like a lot until of moola until you look at other diseases and their dollar statistics. Here are a few examples: 12 million Americans are estimated to suffer from cancer and the research budget looks something like $6.1 billion. Or, take heart disease, where 25 million Americans are estimated to suffer from with a $2.4 billion research budget.
Is it that autoimmune disease is just not so important? Oh contraire says the research. Here are a few things that are being uncovered.
Autoimmune disease can be linked to a number of conditions. For starters: Graves disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease, renal disease, neurodegenerative disease, osteoporosis, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, lupus and yes, even cancer. There are more than 100 confirmed diseases that have their beginnings with autoimmune disease. Yikes!
So it seems autoimmune disease plays hard ball. Just like it’s hard to see the pitch coming, autoimmune disease is hard to diagnose. Perhaps, that’s why it is so underdiagnosed so severely. You and your doctor have to be like Sherlock Holmes to figure out where all the clues lead.
Autoimmune disease presents itself as a whole host of vague symptoms that seem commonplace and too small for us to pay attention to. At first glance, it would seem pretty unlikely that these symptoms could point to such calamitous diseases. These symptoms show up as itches, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, joint aches, sleep disturbances, etc.
These symptoms are easy to overlook and seem so unrelated to anything else that might be going on that we just endure them. Besides, they are still very tolerable and just considered to be a ‘normal’ and maybe a ‘not-so-fun’ life experience. In fact, these small little life experiences are so commonplace that we use as small talk…all the time.
And while autoimmune disease is hard to diagnose, it’s even harder to treat. If we haven’t pieced together the clues, this vague, small, commonplace symptom can, and often does, blossom into a full-on disease. This is when it gets our attention.
It’s at this point that we’re often prescribed immune suppressant drugs, or the whole pharma arsenal gets put into play as we immediately look to treating the symptom, not the cause. As far as the immune system is concerned, we’re far down the road, and things can go sideways easily.
Let’s take a step back and look at some of the things we do know.
Piecing Together Clues
Our immune system, which is normally our protectorate, experiences a sequence of events and when it reaches overload, it attacks our proteins, cells and tissues as a result. It’s like a perfect storm.
It starts with a huge buildup of damage in the cells. This buildup comes from the environment we live in (chemicals, pollutants, toxins, bacteria, viruses, fungal and parasitic infections) and the environment we create (food and lifestyle).
Because there’s this huge buildup of damage in the cells, the immune system’s fail-safe triggers actually fail. Keep in mind that a HUGE buildup of DAMAGE has been accumulating in the cells.
We take a closer look our role in building up the buildup, so keep reading.
A Perfect Storm
The third part of the perfect storm is that an event has to happen to trigger it all. Here’s where stress, emotional disturbances and things that we encounter on life’s highway comes in, again very commonplace.
Here’s the kicker. While autoimmune disease often runs through families, and, if you’ve been diagnosed with one, you’re more likely to have another; the bigger role is played by the environment (the one we create and the one we live in).
Research shows that while our genes make up approximately 1/3 of the puzzle, the environment makes up approximately 2/3’s of the puzzle.
Here’s the good news…well, maybe not quite yet, but we’re on our way…
Our diet and lifestyle plays a LARGE role in how all of this manifests. The food we eat and the lifestyle we subscribe to creates an environment in our microbiome, our GI tract, our gut, as it were. How this microbiome communicates with the body creates chain reactions in with our hormones, chemicals, organs, brain, rhythms, etc. pretty much the whole workings of the body. This is key.
Our microbiome seems to rule the roost.
It is the microbiome that, in fact, keeps the peace. It maintains the balance between the immune system and any invading microbes and keeps them in check. Healthy gut, healthy immune system, gives us a much better chance at living a healthy, vibrant life.
If our microbiome gets out of balance, the immune system’s fail-safe triggers fail, and we then experience an event that pushes us over the top
This event can take various forms, i.e., an infection, toxin exposure, emotional disturbances and stress, as we mentioned before. But severe nutritional deficiency can also be a trigger.
Here’s the good news, for sure this time.
How We Can Influence the Outcome
Our diet and lifestyle have a direct influence to our gut and its balance (about 60% — now, that’s Huge!). This influence is so direct, it’s impossible to separate the two.
Food is information to our gut and thus to our body. And, more perfectly, we can influence the outcome.
Now, that’s good news!
How wonderful it is to have an opportunity to correct something that can go so terribly wrong just by switching some things. This 60% switch is an approach that is the least invasive, extremely available to us, and the least costly to take. Not only that, there are so many other benefits that we haven’t even touched on that can come from such a directional change that it sometimes baffles me why we don’t do it. It can’t be all about comfort, can it? Or, can it? Take a look here.
So if the composition of our gut bacteria is influenced by our diet to a tune of 60%, what’s the other 40%? The other 40% consist of factors we have less control over, i.e., pollution, heavy metal exposures, toxins, etc.
Side note: with our current environmental crises, it’s time to shift our efforts into high gear. There are many ways to contribute to lessening these harmful substances in our environment. Check out www.ewg.org as a place to start in our daily lives.
In the meantime, consider how much work our livers have to do to detoxify our bodies with such a huge onslaught of daily toxins just through the air we breathe and the water we drink. Now add industrialized and processed food to the mix. Aiyaya!
Bring About Change
We can bring about a change in how our immune system reacts and the information it conveys to the rest of the body. Eating the standard American diet (referred to as the SAD diet), however, is not the path to follow.
While the SAD diet is energy rich, it is nutrient poor and contains lots of sugar, refined grains, processed oils; overall the SAD diet is generally devoid of vitamins and minerals.
It is possible to fix the deficiencies, roll back some of the damage and reduce the inflammation. First, becoming aware of how deficiencies can show up and recognize that making a change is on the menu.
Even if doing a deep dive isn’t on your radar quite yet, just by adding some superfoods to your diet and start cutting out the processed foods, you will begin to make headway into balancing your microbiome and adding support to your immune system.
In my life, as well as in my practice, we see that us humans have a hard time just letting go, whether it’s assumed ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, or built-in emotional responses, or bad habits…you name it.
Making a directional change in our diet is one of those that can be very uncomfortable. Overall, we have to consider the types food choices we make to put in our bodies, the amount we feed ourselves, and the number of times during a day we feed ourselves.
I get that it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but the mind is a powerful tool. There are tools and techniques, charts, cheat sheets, lists and resources that can guide you to re-shape your path and trim your birthday suit.
Begin your journey with a Discovery Session where you learn how to put a step-by-step plan into place, to make small shifts that over time that turn into big results.
Once you understand the process, it’s much more likely you’ll be able to keep it up. You’ll be motivated because you’ll feel better, look better, your health will improve, your energy with abound, and you’ll be able to stay younger for longer!
You’ll feel so good experiencing and celebrating your re-discovered youthful zest, you’ll see that it’s these rewards that provide the oomph to create a long-lasting, sustainable lifestyle. Just think how many doors having better health can open up.
Now, that’s a thought that can stir things up.