There are quite a few prevalent myths about how chronic disease develops and in particular around autoimmune conditions. I find that in the case of autoimmune conditions there are some very common myths that hold many people back from addressing the root causes of their chronic disease condition.
In this post, I bust 4 MYTHS that I hope will make you aware of the kind of approach you need to take when it comes to dealing with an autoimmune condition. This is also something that I myself became aware of when I started my Functional Medicine training at the School of Applied Functional Medicine and it really opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about autoimmune conditions.
The 4 most common myths around autoimmune disease
1. The body is weak and vulnerable and develops disease out of the blue
This is the first and the most prevalent myth that I have found in my coaching practice. We are constantly bombarded with messages from different places that lead us to think that our bodies are weak and vulnerable and that we develop an autoimmune condition (or a chronic disease) literally out of the blue, maybe even overnight. As a result when we are diagnosed with a disease we are taken completely by surprise.
What we fail to realise is that our bodies would have been dealing with some kind of imbalance or dysregulation for a while before we have any symptoms at all and initially start with some minor symptoms that we can end up ignoring. It is only much later when there is enough tissue and finally organ damage that we often get diagnosed.
2. The immune system is confused and starts attacking the body’s own tissues for no reason whatsoever
This is the second myth that I want to bust today. We often believe that when it comes to an autoimmune disease dynamic, our immune system starts running havoc and causing damage to our tissues. This is simply not true!
Very often, the reason why our immune system becomes hypervigilant and mistakes our own body tissue as foreign or as a threat has its roots in molecular mimicry (for example, mistaking gliadin, a protein found in gluten for that in the thyroid gland in autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimotos and Graves diseases) and the presence of a toxin or a microbe in a tissue for a long period of time.
As a part of our natural immune response, our immune system reacts strongly to the threat as well as the tissue it is a part of leading to tissue damage and eventually organ damage. Nutrient poor foods, toxin exposure, and chronic stress all contribute to this kind of immune dysregulation and hypervigilance.
3. Immunosuppressive drugs are evil
that are the only solution for those with autoimmune conditions because they counteract and reverse the disease
Both of these statements could not be further from the truth. Immunosuppressive medications are absolutely life saving and can be necessary for dealing with an autoimmune condition by preventing further damage to the tissue. This means that sometimes we have to take them because the medication would help us deal with the inflammation that would otherwise cause further damage while we get to the root of the autoimmune condition.
However, suppressing the immune system is not the same as dealing with immune dysregulation and does not help healing from it by addressing the root causes. These medications can also have dramatic downstream consequences including secondary autoimmune diseases or life threatening infections.
This was certainly what happened to my daughter as a result of the immunosuppressive medication she was given to help manage her eczema. What we did not know at the time was that it was simply helping to manage her severe symptoms but not helping her to address the root causes. As a result of an unintended and rare side effect, she ended in the hospital with a life threatening infection. In fact, this crisis in our family is actually what led me to Functional Medicine and later Health Coaching.
4. Autoimmune diseases are all somehow separate and unique and need to be all treated completely differently
There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases currently and I find that this is the myth that most of my clients are not really aware of. Autoimmune diseases are NOT really unique or separate.
Irrespective of what diagnosis you have, an autoimmune condition has at its root a certain level of immune dysregulation which leads to a chronically alert immune system and widespread inflammation that needs to be addressed.
Immune dysregulation is led by three main things
Nutrient poor or processed foods that are filled with chemicals like additives, preservatives, artificial food colourings and flavorings and foods that we are allergic to can contribute to stress and increase activation of our stress hormones. This can often lead our immune system to start reacting to these foods antigens and eventually our body’s own tissues as well.
Toxins use up a lot of nutrients in order to manage their metabolism in effect depleting our bodies of it and impairing our detoxification at the same time creating a double whammy in our bodies. They are also a source of physiological stress and impact our energy production at a cellular level. Toxins are seen as a threat by our immune system and contribute to immune system hypervigilance leading to chronic ongoing inflammation.
Chronic ongoing stress first and foremost impairs digestion and bringing on board nutrients that our bodies need on an ongoing basis. Stress also impairs detoxification and immune function and creates confusion around what our immune system should and should not be tolerating.
As you can see by now, these myths are what hold many people back from understanding and learning how to deal with their autoimmune conditions in a more effective manner.
An environment that heals
Whether it’s focusing on foods that are nourishing for your body and removing those which are harmful, incorporating a daily self care routine in your life to deal with stress and working on reducing and removing toxins from your immediate environment, there are many steps that you can take to deal with your autoimmune condition.
In fact, these are also the steps that one needs to take when dealing with really any kind of chronic condition. By changing the environment you are asking your body to live in you can learn how to change the way your body responds to the triggers all around you.
Providing a healing and supportive environment is actually one of the most important things that I educate my clients right at the very beginning of the coaching programme.
It is only when our bodies and our brains need to feel that it is safe to start the healing and repairing process that we can truly start addressing the root cause of any autoimmune or other chronic health condition.
If you are a woman dealing with autoimmune conditions and would like to know more about how you can work with me, click on the link below!