Patients with autoimmune diseases often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. If they do nothing, their condition usually gets worse. However, if they follow traditional medical treatments, the side effects of those treatments are also a concern. Before we discuss lifestyle modifications and changes in diet, you may want to make if you have an autoimmune disease, let me give you a simplified explanation of autoimmunity.
Normally your immune system recognizes what is “self “or what is “not-self.” Anything which is self (things that are normally found in your body such as your organs, skin, nerves and blood vessels) is tolerated. However, anything in the body which is identified as “not self “is attacked. Normally the body does a great job of differentiating which is which. But sometimes the line gets blurry and the body thinks “self” is “not self” and tries to destroy it, which means it tries to attack itself or at least a part of itself. The key is something goes wrong and your body starts to identify its own tissues as being a foreign substance.
So if the tissue that is being attacked is thyroid it might be called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. If the tissue is skin, it might be psoriasis. If the attacked tissue is joint tissue, it may be called rheumatoid arthritis; nerve tissue, we call it multiple sclerosis; connective tissue, we call it lupus. The big question is what causes that line of self vs. non-self to get blurry?
Some of the things that trigger that “blurry line” are heavy metals like: mercury, lead, cadmium, excess iron, and aluminum. Many doctors look at heavy metals as a contributing cause of Hashimoto’s, but they may be a factor in a number of different types of autoimmune diseases.
Another theory for the blurry line of autoimmunity revolves around chronic infections and chronic inflammation. One of the ways that white blood cells work is to neutralize the bacteria, yeast, or virus with free radicals. However, the body needs antioxidants to neutralize the excessive free radicals and prevent them from damaging the body. If you are deficient in antioxidants, the tissue surrounding the area where the infection is breeding will suffer. Antioxidant depletion can be caused by old age, stress, lack of sleep, hydrogenated oils, physical trauma, junk-food diets, and heavy metals.
Other researchers discuss that pesticides, plastics, food allergies, low cholesterol, vaccines, or vitamin D deficiency trigger the lack of discrimination between self vs. non self. But regardless of the ultimate cause, poor digestion and gut dysbiosis play a huge roll. If you don’t know, gut dysbiosis is a condition where the good bacteria and microorganisms that are normally found in your intestines are outnumbered by unhealthy bacteria, parasites, and yeasts. This can lead to an increase in permeability of the intestinal wall, also known as leaky gut. If the intestinal wall is “leaky”, things that should not be getting through it are. Because 50-70% of your immune system either originates or is located around the gut, this can cause your immune system to go into “overdrive”. The body can make antibodies for the things that “leak” through your gut and then attack other structures found naturally in your body that are similar. This process is called molecular mimicry. Basically molecular mimicry means that part of a given protein can resemble a part of another totally different protein.
In the next post, we’ll discuss a nutritional approach to helping some of these underlying causes of autoimmune conditions.