Lifestyle, diet and autoimmune disease seem to always travel together in the same sentence. Because so much research is being done today on autoimmune disease, we are finding out that lifestyle and diet have a whole lot to do with it.
So, just what is autoimmune disease? And how would lifestyle and diet come into the picture?
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.
The classic answer would be that autoimmune disease is about your body attacking itself, but why does that happen? What does it mean that your body is attacking itself? How does this happen? What is the outcome of this happening? Who does it affect? What can we do about it?
So, with all the research, how much is being done about it?
Well, you know what they say…follow the money. Shall we?
Autoimmune Research Dollars
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.
Other Diseases Research Dollars
Here are a few examples: 12 million Americans are estimated to suffer from cancer and the research budget looks something like $6.1 billion. 50 million estimated Autoimmune suffers; research dollars = $591 million.
Or, take heart disease, where 25 million Americans are estimated to suffer from with a $2.4 billion research budget. 50 million estimated Autoimmune suffers; research dollars = $591 million.
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 is Linked to Many but Hard to Detect
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. But, 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.
Too Small to Notice, Too Easy to Overlook
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. So, we just endure and tolerate them.
In fact, we so just considered them to be such a ‘normal’ experience, even if they’re not so fun, we use them as small talk, they’re so commonplace.
Hard to Diagnose; Even Harder to Treat
Our attention to possibly having autoimmune diseases comes late in the game. 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.
Environments and Our Immune System
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, and 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.
This includes our diet and lifestyle.
Keep in mind that a HUGE buildup of damage has been accumulating in the cells. Because of this huge buildup of damage, the immune system’s fail-safe triggers actually fail.
The third part of the perfect storm is that an event has to happen to trigger it all.
The Role We Play with Autoimmune Disease
Here’s where stress, emotional disturbances and things that we encounter on life’s highway comes in, again very commonplace.
Here’s the kicker. Autoimmune disease often runs through families.
If someone in your family has an autoimmune disease, you’ll likely have one, too. And, if you’ve been diagnosed with one autoimmune disease, you’re more likely to have another autoimmune disease.
Even though this is a big deal, the bigger role in autoimmune disease 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…
Lifestyle and Diet
Our diet and lifestyle plays a large role in how all of this manifests.
The diet and the lifestyle we subscribe to creates an environment in our microbiome, our GI tract, our gut, as it were. And, we are learning that a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system.
The microbiome or gut works to keep the peace and communicates with the whole body by working to maintain the balance between our immune system and keeping in check any invading microbes that wonder in.
Keeping our microbiome healthy gives us a much better chance at living a healthy vibrant life.
The key is by communicating with our body, our microbiome, in turn, creates a chain reaction with our hormones, chemicals, organs, brain, rhythms, etc. You could say that the microbiome pretty much rules the roost.
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 from a poor diet and a lifestyle full of stress, bad sleep with no recovery can also be a trigger.
Here’s the good news, for sure this time.
The Direct Influence of Lifestyle and Diet
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 because we can make choices in our diet, we can then 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.
We can actually hold back or minimize the responses of an autoimmune disease with a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle.
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?
The Other Influencers
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, a diet that doesn’t nourish us and a lifestyle with little activity and lots of stress, Aiyaya!
The SAD Diet
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.
Small Changes for Big Results in Our Diet and Lifestyle
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 making some small changes in your lifestyle can bring about big results over time.
I’ve have seen many successes with clients I’ve worked with to re-shape their path and they’re happy to say that they have trimmed their birthday suit. You can, too!
Begin your journey with our discovery questionnaire 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, place a priority on what is valuable to you, you can learn to make the evaluations about your diet and food choices with more confidence and sustainability. You’re then more likely 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.