Autoimmune disease is starting to get the recognition that it deserves – it has long been thought of as an umbrella of various illnesses which attack ‘self-tissue’ with different presenting symptoms but as the research has developed we are now understanding more about the mechanisms underlying these diseases which all have a common cause.
I attended a seminar with Tom O’Bryan last weekend on Autoimmunity who discussed this matter in detail, and the current findings imply that the best way to treat autoimmunity is to ‘fix’ the underlying causes rather than to aid the presenting symptoms. This functional medicine approach to the treatment of autoimmune disease usually comes with much speculation but it is a method I strongly support, and I can make most sense of.
So, what goes wrong in autoimmune disease?
It seems that the one of the most important factors in autoimmune disease is ‘molecular mimicry’ which to put simply, is where our body’s immune system attacks a foreign particle in our blood stream to protect us, for example, a virus, which happens to look very similar to say one of our own thyroid cells, and it gets confused which one is which. The immune system then starts attacking our thyroid cells (to protect us!) and we end up with an autoimmune disease such as Hashimotos Thyroiditis. These so called ‘autoantibodies’ which attack our thyroid gland (‘self’) need to be desensitised and the ‘trigger’ for their action removed from the body to cure ourselves of these diseases.
It is now hypothesised that a number of these autoantibodies are triggered by food particles which can cross from our digestive system, such as the stomach and intestines, into our blood stream due to an increasing incidence of compromised gut function known as ‘intestinal permeability’. This often means that the wall of the digestive system has larger openings than it should have, which lets undigested food particles into the blood.
Other important components of autoimmunity are;
- having a family history of autoimmune disease,
- the health and tolerance of the person’s immune system and,
- toxic chemical exposure.
How to fix yourself
Tom O’Bryan’s presentation proposed a dietary and supplementation strategy for fixing autoimmune disease as follows:
These suggestions are all areas that I intend to study further to determine what the best approach is on a case by case basis, as it might not be suitable in this form for everybody. For example, colostrum would not be appropriate for someone with a dairy allergy but is there an alternative? And glutamine feeds yeast, so it would not be beneficial for someone who suffers from candida overgrowth, it may even be detrimental, so you need to treat the yeast infection first before further interventions.
As with most things in life, an individualised course of action is always the most successful, but a framework to start from is useful and I will be using Tom’s advice to research these areas further to decide on my own opinion for the best approach to treat autoimmune disease.
In the meantime, start decreasing daily toxicity which can infest our cells and cause our bodies to start attacking these cells (again, to protect us!), potentially causing harm to our organs and body system.
Some of the main toxic offenders are:
- xenoestrogens found in plastics, and household ad cosmetic products in the form of phthalates, parabens and BPA.
- metals such as aluminium and mercury, found in foil wrapping, cookware and fish.
- moulds and pollutants in the air we breathe, from water damaged buildings, diesel engines and even wood-burning stove.
This is an extensive area which justifies a separate focus, but if you wish to make a few easy adaptations to your lifestyle it would be valuable to invest in some glass containers for water, hot drinks and food, rather than using plastic or metal ones. Also, if you are at risk of mould toxicity, use an air filter in your bedroom like I have, to help you sleep easy on a night. A lot of old properties in the UK do have toxic mould so unless you are prepared to invest heavily to remove the mould from the property (and the issue causing the mould) then I would suggest getting a filter as the second-best option.
Tom O’Bryan’s presentation was an inspiration and a motivation, it has given me the tools and a fresh insight into autoimmune diseases to start my own exploration into the subject. Small steps taken together, get us one step closer to finding a cure for these intricate illnesses – we may still have a long journey ahead of us, but we are certainly getting to closer to understanding the cause of these diseases and potential ways to fix them.