INFLAMMATION: IT’S A “HOT” TOPIC.
It seems connected to avirtually every known chronic disease — from diabetes to obesity, heart disease to cancer, autism to dementia… even depression.
Inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune disease are also increasing at dramatic rates. Doctors are trained to shut off inflammation with aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Motrin, steroids, and increasingly powerful immune suppressing medication with the usual associated side effects.
Doctors are really not trained to find and treat the underlying causes of inflammation in chronic disease. Hidden allergens, infections, environmental toxins, an inflammatory diet, and stress are the real causes of these inflammatory conditions, but that’s a big ‘ask’ for a 15 minute standard consultation.
Let’s look at one ‘niche’ of inflammation. Autoimmune diseases now affect 24 million people. They include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. And yet.. these are often addressed using powerful immune suppressing medication and not by addressing the cause. A bit like taking a lot of aspirin while you are standing on a tack. The treatment isn’t more aspirin or a strong immune suppressant. It’s removing the tack.
Inflammation Causes Disease
To cool off inflammation in the body, first we must find the source. Functional medicine, the emerging 21st century paradigm of systems medicine, teaches us to treat the cause, not only the symptoms, to ask the question WHY are you sick, not only WHAT disease do you have.
Autoimmunity: What it is and How it Occurs
We are facing an epidemic of allergic (60 million people), asthmatic (30 million people), and autoimmune disorders (24 million people). As we already said, autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis,celiac disease, thyroid disease, and the many other hard-to-classify syndromes in the 21st century.
These are all autoimmune conditions, and at their root they are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues. Your immune system is your defense against invaders. It’s your internal army and has to clearly distinguish friend from foe — to know you from others. Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissues get caught in friendly cross-fire.
Your body is fighting something — an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food or the stress response — and somehow it redirects its hostile attack on your joints, your brain, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body.
This immune confusion results from what is referred to as molecular mimicry. Conventional approaches don’t have a method for finding the insult causing the problem. Functional medicine provides a map to find out which molecule the cells are mimicking.
Where Do Autoimmune Disorders Happen?
Interestingly, autoimmune disorders occur almost exclusively in developed countries. People in poor nations without modern amenities like running water, flush toilets, washing machines, and sterile backyards just don’t get these diseases.
If you were a farm kid with lots of animals, you are also less likely to have any of these inflammatory disorders. Playing in the dirt, getting dirty, and being exposed to bugs and infections trains your immune system to recognize what is foreign and what is “you.”
In this country, autoimmune diseases, when taken all together, are a huge health burden. They are the eighth leading cause of death among women, shortening the average patient’s lifespan by eight years. The annual health care cost for autoimmune diseases is $120 billion a year representing nearly twice the economic health care burden of cancer (about $ 70 billion a year). (i)
Unfortunately, many of the conventional treatments available can make you feel worse. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, steroids, immune suppressants like methotrexate, and the new TNF-alpha blockers like Enbrel or Remicade can lead to intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, depression, psychosis, osteoporosis, muscle loss, and diabetes, not to mention overwhelming infection and cancer.
When used selectively these drugs can help people get their lives back. But they are really not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be the end of treatment, just a bridge to cool off inflammation while we treat the root cause of the disease.
9 Steps to Overcoming Autoimmune Disease
- Check for hidden infections — yeast, viruses, bacteria, Lyme, etc. — with the help of a doctor, and treat them.
- Check for hidden food allergens with IgG food testing or just try The UltraSimple Diet, which is designed to eliminate most food allergens.
- Get tested for celiac disease, which is a blood test that any doctor can do.
- Get checked for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity.
- Fix your gut. For details, see my blog on irritable bowel syndrome.
- Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally.
- Exercise steadily regularly — it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage. Stress worsens the immune response.
- Look at your inflammation habits in your food and water. Alkalize and get a regular supply of infused hydrogen water.
The answers may be right in front of you.
Treat the underlying causes of your illness and you will begin to experience vibrant health once more.
(i) Nakazawa, D. (2008). The Autoimmune Epidemic. Simon & Schuster. New York.
(ii) Siegel, C.A., Marden, S.M., Persing, S.M., et al. (2009). Risk of lymphoma associated with combination anti-tumor necrosis factor and immunomodulator therapy for the treatment of Crohn’s disease: a meta-analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 7(8): 874-81.
This is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice, legal advice or professional services. If you feel that you have a medical problem, you should seek the advice of your Physician or health care Practitioner.