Conventional medicine often addresses autoimmune disease by prescribing powerful immune-suppressing medication rather than searching for the cause. That’s like taking a lot of aspirin while you’re standing on a tack. The treatment is not more aspirin; the treatment is removing the tack!
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffers from an autoimmune condition, I’m sure you’re eager to find answers that rely less on risky pharmaceuticals and more on lifestyle remedies.
Conventional approaches don’t have a method for finding the insult causing the problem. You may have been prescribed mega-doses of intravenous steroids or prednisone, hormones, painkillers, acid blockers, methotrexate, or TNF alpha blocker (a strong immunosuppressant drug) for your autoimmune condition and still not finding relief. In fact, you might be feeling worse.
Every autoimmune disease becomes connected by one central biochemical process: a runaway immune response resulting from your body attacking its own tissues.
Functional Medicine provides a map to find out which molecule the cells are mimicking. It looks at the root cause of the inflammation and asks why that inflammation exists.
If we can identify the underlying sources of inflammation, we can heal the body. The underlying causes may include stress, hidden infections, food allergies or sensitivities, toxic exposure, genetic predisposition, nutrient deficiencies and leaky gut.
If you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Physicians are mostly taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, NOT by their underlying cause.
Functional Medicine is a hidden movement sweeping across the globe and it is based on a different method of diagnosing and treating disease — one that focuses on causes not symptoms, one that is based on an understanding of the dynamic way our genes interact with our environment, one that goes beyond simply treating diseases based on their label.
Functional Medicine teaches practitioners to understand the body as a system; to seek the causes of illness; to understand the body’s basic functional systems, where they go awry and how to restore balance; to understand the interconnections between symptoms and organs rather than segregate diseases into specialties.
This approach is a fundamentally different way of solving medical problems, one that allows us to decipher the origins of illness and identify the disturbances in biology that lead to symptoms.
If you have an autoimmune disease, I strongly encourage you to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner to identify and eliminate the root cause(s). Sometimes this requires detective work, trial and error and patience, but the results are worth it.
When patients visit me to determine the root of their problem, I often implement these 10 strategies and the patient typically sees vast improvement.
10 Strategies that May Help Reverse Autoimmune Disease
- Eat a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods including wild fish and other sources of omega-3 fats, red and purple berries (these are rich in polyphenols), dark green leafy vegetables, orange sweet potatoes and nuts. Add anti-inflammatory herbs, including turmeric (a source of curcumin), ginger, and rosemary, to your diet daily. Eliminate inflammatory foods such as refined, omega-6 and inflammatory oils, including corn, soy and safflower oils.
- Check for hidden infections. These include yeast, viruses, bacteria and Lyme. You will want to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner to identify and eliminate these infections.
- Check for hidden food allergies. Again, your Functional Medicine practitioner can do this with IgG food testing.
- Test for Celiac Disease. This is a blood test any doctor can do.
- Test for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity.
- Fix your gut. About 60 percent of your immune system lies right under the single-cell-layer lining of your gut. If this surface breaks down, your immune system will get activated and start reacting to foods, toxins, and bugs in your gut. The easiest way to begin healing your gut involves eating a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet and removing gluten and other food sensitivities.
- Implement supplements. Nutrients like fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics can help calm your immune response naturally. Also consider anti-inflammatory nutrients like quercetin, grape seed extract, and rutin.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is a natural anti-inflammatory. You don’t have to go to the gym, run on a treadmill, and pump iron to stay in shape. Just start moving around more. Go for walks with your friends or family. Go out and do some gardening. Play Frisbee in the park with your kids. Pick up a tennis racket and just knock a tennis ball around. Anything you can do to get out and move your body can be considered exercise. So don’t think that you absolutely have to go to the gym to get fit. Just use your body more.
- Practice deep relaxation. Stress worsens your immune response. Calming techniques including yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, massage, or my calming music can reduce stress and anxiety to promote relaxation.
- Sleep for 8 hours every night. The research is clear: Lack of sleep or poor sleep damages your metabolism, causes cravings for sugar and carbs, makes you eat more, and drives up your risk of numerous conditions from diabesity to autoimmune disease. Getting enough sleep and sleeping well are essential for vibrant health and reversing inflammation. You can get 19 of my top sleep tips in this blog.
If you suffer from any autoimmune disease, have you become frustrated using a conventional-medicine approach? What do you find best helps improve your condition? Share your thoughts below.