The best and most efficient pharmacy is within your own systemRobert C Peale
In my experience, the most tragic part of being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition is being told that “no one knows” what causes it. Unfortunately, many people believe this to be true when it is not!
There is quite a bit of research that has taken place around the causes and triggers of autoimmune conditions. And while it may be hard to pinpoint the exact reason behind complex diseases like autoimmune conditions, this is because these conditions are multifactorial in nature and are often triggered by a combination of genetic and various lifestyle and dietary factors.
What we do know about autoimmune diseases
There is a combination of factors that is referred to as the “perfect storm” in creating chronic autoimmune activation.
I first became aware of this when dealing with my daughter’s severe eczema several years ago where the immune system has a very critical role to play. This is when I learned about the connection between immune dysregulation and gut health and it was by focusing on her gut health we finally managed to bring her eczema under control.
Ultimately, real disease reversal or healing from an autoimmune condition is only possible when we focus on the immune system which is the common denominator amongst the 100 different types of chronic autoimmune activaation today.
Going beyond symptom management
My own personal experience of focusing on gut health and and calming the immune system by going beyond symptom management opened my eyes to how chronic diseases should actually be approached. Ultimately, this is what led me to Functional medicine and Health Coaching.
Unfortunately, even though I was working with a London based FM practitioner who gave me all the guidance and direction I needed to make lifestyle choices that would help her heal her gut, the day to day planning was left to me. However, it was with the help of the guidance and support plus the research that I did on topics like diet, personal care products, daily toxin exposure, lifestyle changes, stress and emotional health that allowed us to deal with her health condition.
Ultimately, it was only by going beyond symptom management and finding out the interconnectednedness between key areas of her life and uncovering the triggers which led to restoring balance in her immune system.
The 3 important lessons I learned
Conventional thinking maintains that chronic diseases can never be reversed and is focused mostly on symptom management. However, my own personal experience and that of many others including clients I have worked with over the years have proved otherwise.
In fact, there were three very important lessons I learned while dealing with my daughter’s health issues-
One, It is important to find and address the root causes of any chronic disease irrespective of the diagnosis. This is because even if there is no “cure” in the conventional sense of the world, there is always something that one can do to have better health outcomes
Two, it is possible to arrest the autoimmune process and in many cases even reverse the dynamic. If we become aware of the mismatch between our lifestyle and our environment and the health outcomes that we want to have, we can start working towards addressing the root causes
Three, we need to support out body’s unique healing process by treating it as our friend rather than an enemy. Infact this was one of the most important lessons I learned during this entire journey
The perfect storm
According to one of the leading researcher on celiac disease and gluten intolerance and medical professional Dr Alessio Fasano, there is a “perfect storm” at play behind chronic autoimmune activation.
This is a combination of
-enhanced intestinal permeability
-plus some sort of environmental trigger (toxin or a microbe)
This trio of factors is what leads to the perfect “storm” behind your autoimmune condition. If you want to delve deeper into this topic, then you can check out the resources given at the end of this blog post.
All of this contributes to immune dysregulation, immune hyper-vigilance, plus an overexposure of the immune system to things in the gut that it should be protected from by having a healthy intestinal barrier function and some sort of a trigger. Many times it is a combination of triggers- a specific ongoing infection, a specific food, a specific bad bout of stress or emotional trauma.
Your immune system (and your body) is not broken
Autoimmune activation is actually a reflection of a number of drivers. But the main thing you need to understand is that your immune system has a number of inbuilt mechanisms which helps it to differentiate between host and foreign tissue. However, a hyper vigilant and long activated immune system that is reacting to threats continuously to a threat embedded in a particular tissue (a microbe) or countering a threat that looks very similar to that tissue (molecular mimicry) can override this mechanism.
These are many different things that your body can be responding to actually when it comes to the trigger- a toxin, microbe, stressful period, a period with much sleep. Underneath all of this if your immune system is already weak and imbalance, any of these triggers can be the straw that broke the camel’s back!
It is a combination of enhanced intestinal permeability and other factors like chronic inflammation, deficiency of nutrients supporting good immune function, chronic viral infections, molecular mimicry where a toxin looks too much like a microbe and a tissue looks too much of a threat as identified by the immune system.
And finally, you need to remember that the immune system has been designed to be very, very strong to counter any kind of threat and keep you alive. It is the ability to regulate the immune system and keep it in balance is what determines an appropriate versus over the top response.
Resources for further reading