“Reversing” disease is not the same as finding a “cure” for it.
Curing means that the disease never comes back again or you never have to face those symptoms again. This is only possible in the case of acute conditions and infectious diseases.
However, it is possible for you to get better no matter what autoimmune condition you have. You may not be completely “cured” of it, but you can certainly find a way to put it in remission.
Let me explain.
Chronic illnesses like autoimmune conditions arise due to underlying dysfunctions.
This is in terms of how each person’s body works in terms of cells, tissues and organs. These dysfunctions give rise to health issues that cannot be “cured” by any medications or removed by surgery. These may not also be diagnosed as any particular disease. Yet.
Non specific autoimmune conditions are extremely common. Also, chronic health problems prevent people from carrying out life’s responsibilities and living life to the fullest. In many small and big ways, it makes living an exhausting and painful experience.
Treating the symptoms, not the cause
These are recurring illnesses that don’t go away with time. In fact, they become progressively worse. In severe illnesses, severe pain, exhaustion, discomfort and limitations rob people of living a vibrant and happy life. This is actually a global epidemic.
These diseases arise for a variety of reasons and need a customised approach based on each person’s unique requirements.
Even if the diagnosis is the same.
For eg., three people diagnosed with eczema (a dry skin condition) may have to prioritise and address different areas of their health like gut health, detoxification process or their stress levels.
These diseases require us to focus on addressing the set of imbalances and deficiencies in our unique bodies.
Otherwise, like many people with a chronic illness, we can become stuck in a “revolving door of disease”
Medications and treatments for chronic illness
Unfortunately, the conventional approach is ineffective and can even become harmful over a long period of time. First, these medications usually increase in quantity and dosage over a period of time as the chronic illness becomes worse over time. Second, since this does nothing to address the real reasons why you have this disease, the chronic illness continues to persist and recur and actually gets worse with time. Third, this kind of polypharmacy does not ensure a return to good health but a diminished quality of life.
You see, it’s not that we should not be taking any medications or undergoing any medical treatment.
The thing is, medications and treatments are not long term solutions for chronic illnesses.
It would be safer and more effective to use fewer medications and at the lowest dose possible to manage the symptoms while making targeted changes in your diet and lifestyle to address the condition from the inside out.
The “perfect storm” behind autoimmune activation
In the case of autoimmune diseases, in particular, there is a specific loss of tolerance to self.
In other words, your immune system is unable to distinguish your own tissues and a real threat like microbes and toxins. It has a number of inbuilt mechanisms that helps it to differentiate between host and foreign tissue. So it’s not because your immune system has lost its mind and gone beserk that this happens.
A hyper vigilant and long activated immune system that is reacting to threats continuously can become dysregulated over time.
Your immune system’s self regulatory system can be overridden in certain circumstances. This can happen if your immune system is continually responding to a threat that is embedded in a particular tissue (a microbe). Or, it is responding to a threat that looks very similar to that tissue (molecular mimicry)
- Enhanced intestinal permeability aka leaky gut
2. Genetic factors
3. A weak or imbalanced immune system
and a trigger.
Sometimes the trigger is a specific ongoing infection, a specific food or a highly stressful or traumatic phase in life. Underneath there is a weak and imbalanced immune system which allows this chronic autoimmune activation. In this sense, autoimmune diseases are actually a dis-ease of the immune system. If this dis-ease is not addressed, then the immune system will go on to find another victim.
This explains why many people with one autoimmune disease can go on to develop multiple diseases over time.
In my guide on autoimmune diseases, I have curated a list of books, podcasts and other resources to help you understand why and how chronic illnesses like autoimmune conditions develop in detail.
An unconventional approach
The road to healing from autoimmune diseases lies in creating an environment in which your immune system feels “safe” enough to start calming down.
In any autoimmune disease, the immune system is imbalanced and overreactive causing a lot of inflammation. However, your immune is not broken or dumb. It is simply trying its best to adapt to the environment you are asking it to live in.
In other words, chronic autoimmune activation is a form of “maladaptation” by your immune system (and your body) to ensure survival in the current circumstances. When you can accept that your body is trying to protect you, it becomes much easier to create a healing environment.
In the conventional world, drugs are used to block, inhibit or alter the pathway of a particular biochemical reaction in our body which works extremely well in acute conditions. Treatment is organ-specific and works brilliantly in the case of emergencies and infectious diseases. This model is sadly insufficient and inadequate when dealing with chronic illnesses.
Chronic illness occurs due to a variety of causes each expressed in its own set of symptoms.
In the case of autoimmune diseases, it is very common to have non specific symptoms that don’t fit into any one particular diagnosis. However, it is still important to get tested because the symptoms don’t make a diagnosis, the lab tests do. In Functional Medicine, we take a completely different approach.
Instead of asking “WHAT disease does this person has?”,
we ask “WHAT kind of person has this disease?” .
I have written more about this topic in an earlier post .
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine focuses on the network of organ systems in our bodies- immunity and inflammation, toxins and detoxification, digestion and absorption, hormones and energy, neurotransmitters and mood, circulation and oxygen.
Using this systems approach, Functional Medicine practitioners like myself dig deeper into the roots and look for imbalances and deficiencies so that we create a personalised “health creation” programme for our clients. We look at the connection between your environment (both internal and external), lifestyle and behaviour and uncover the areas that need intervention. Most chronic diseases are actually preventable if an individualised approach is implemented.
This needs to cover areas like genetic factors, stress, environmental toxins, movement, and emotional and spiritual needs.
A key piece of this “environment” is our lifestyle
Our genes do not predetermine our health. In fact, one major environmental factor that changes our gene expression is our diet. If we treat “food as medicine” we can change the way our genes are stimulated and respond, thus creating health through changes in our biological functioning.
As a Health Coach, I help my clients modify the following aspects of their life to prevent or reverse illness.
- Sleep and relaxation
- Nutrition and hydration
- Exercise and movement
- Social relationships
These five factors make up your “environment”. However, there is usually a gap between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. In other words, there is a GAP between intention and behaviour.
A Functional Medicine Health Coach collaborates with the client as their equal partner and helps them to take charge of their own health.
As a coach, I encourage and support my clients as they make important lifestyle and dietary changes. More importantly, I utilise the process of enquiry, self reflection and powerful dialogue, to educate and inspire my clients to change behaviours, find meaning and create long term health.
“AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE 101”
A carefully curated and comprehensive collection of carefully selected books, podcasts, websites, blogs, and other resources from the field of Functional Medicine with a focus on autoimmune diseases
If have been looking to get ANSWERS to questions like
-Why do I have this disease?
-Will I get any better?
-Can anyone help me? Nothing is working
-Is there any hope for me to get my life back?
-I am still waiting for a diagnosis, which direction do I need to move towards?
then this GUIDE would a game changer for you!
“Autoimmune Disease 101” is a carefully curated and comprehensive collection of carefully selected books, podcasts, websites, blogs, and other resources from the field of Functional Medicine with a focus on autoimmune diseases.
The Functional Medicine model of care for chronic diseases seeks to answer the question “Why do you have this disease” so that you can get personalised and effective care for your unique condition.