FUNCTIONAL AND AUTOIMMUNE NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT ADVOCACY

What is immunity?

Our body’s immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs working to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders including bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses and allergens. The human body provides an ideal environment for many microbes. The immune system first works to keep them out, or works to destroy them if they enter the body. The immune system is likely the most complex system in the body. The gut is the largest immune function. How does the immune system work?

How does the immune system work?

Like a beehive! Millions and millions of cells, organized into sets and subsets, gather like clouds of bees swarming around a hive, and pass information back and forth in response to an infection. Once immune cells receive the alarm, they become activated and begin to produce powerful chemicals. These substances allow the cells to regulate their own growth and behavior, enlist other immune cells, and direct the new recruits to trouble spots. The immune system can even order human cells to kill themselves.

What is autoimmune disease?

Sometimes, the human immune system incorrectly attacks tissues, cells, and organs in the body instead of foreign invaders. No one knows precisely why. Diet, genetics, stress, air pollution, age, weight, activity level, and other factors may contribute. One in five people have autoimmune disease. One autoimmune disorder also seems to beget another, meaning autoimmune illness may multiply if not controlled. There are more than 100 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. Getting a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling. Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases, one important goal is to reduce inflammation.

How do I control inflammation?

First, by diet and increased health. If a patient cannot diminish their inflammation, doctors may try corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response. However, these drugs have severe side-effects, especially long-term.

What kinds of autoimmune disorders are there?

Autoimmune is classified into organ-specific and non-organ-specific types. Autoimmune processes can include slow destruction of a specific type of cells or tissue, stimulation of an organ into excessive growth, or interference in its function. Organs and tissues frequently affected include thyroid, pancreas, adrenal glands; red blood cells; connective tissues, skin muscles, and joints. Organ affected autoimmunes include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (thyroid gland), pernicious anemia (stomach), Addison’s disease (adrenal glands), and type 1 diabetes (pancreas). In non-organ-specific disorders, autoimmune activity is widely spread throughout the body. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus.

How is autoimmune disorder treated?

The least invasive treatment is nutrition, education, and improved overall health. This includes: 

  • Reducing inflammation with proper nutrition
  • Reducing immune system triggers with nutrition and herbal protocols
  • Reducing immune system suppressors, such as stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep
  • Physician remedies include correcting deficiencies. An example would be replacing hormones that are not being produced by the gland, such as thyroxin in autoimmune thyroid disease, or insulin in type 1 diabetes. In autoimmune blood disorders, treatment may involve replacing components of the blood by transfusion.
  • In severe cases, doctors may prescribe corticosteroid steroids such as cortef or prednisone, or powerful immunosuppressant drugs such as methotrexate, cyclophosphamide and azathioprine. All of these, however, can damage the body. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy is used in the treatment of various autoimmune diseases to reduce circulating immune complexes.

How will autoimmune disease affect me short-term?

Autoimmune disease may be persistent or manifest in flare-ups and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear. Remission can depend on diet and nutrition as well as reducing stress and triggers and strengthening the correct function of the immune system.

How will autoimmune disease affect me long-term?

Autoimmune diseases slowly begin to damage and debilitate the body. Left uncontrolled, this damage becomes permanent and sometimes life-threatening (for example, in cases of lupus or type II diabetes). Some diseases may require lifelong maintenance to reduce or avoid permanent damage. Some diseases, such as Hashimoto’s disease, may permanently cripple a human organ or gland.

How does a nutritional autoimmune specialist help me?

A nutritional autoimmune specialist can help a patient learn how to use nutrition and education as tools to decrease inflammation, reduce the triggers that cause autoimmune flareups, reduce physical stress, manage symptoms, and boost correct immune system function. A nutritional autoimmune specialist helps patients take control and responsibility for their disease without pharmaceutical drugs and their side effects as much as possible. Your specialist will help you manage inflammation/edema, pain, autoimmune triggers, stress/anxiety/nonclinical depression, amino acid-based nutrition, glycemic harm, weight, flare-ups, and electrolyte imbalances.

Who benefits from a nutritional autoimmune specialist?

    • Patients who prefer to manage their disease as much as possible with good nutrition and natural healing protocols.
    • Patients who are not willing to be a victim to their symptoms and diagnosis and instead prefer to take charge of their own health.
    • Patients who want to avoid the side-effects and/or expense of pharmaceutical drugs.
    • Patients who want someone who is able to take the time to educate them about their disease and the complex interaction of diet, nutrition, and function.
    • Patients who feel overlooked or underserved by the medical community or who have been frustrated in their attempts to manage their disease, or don’t know where to begin managing their disease.
    • Patients who have been frustrated in their attempts to get help or explanations or have been told their symptoms are a forgone conclusion or are “all in their head.”

How is a nutritional autoimmune specialist different than a medical doctor?

Nutritional specialists do not prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, do not perform surgery or laboratory tests (blood tests, for example). A nutritional autoimmune specialist may recommend that a patient see their physician for further testing (such as prediabetic testing), or for advanced treatments.

Sources:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Mayo Clinic
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA)

© 2017 Caleb Warnock. May not be shared, rewritten, distributed, or copies without the express written permission of the author. Used by permission from Caleb Warnock for Turning Hearts Together, LLC.