Simply stated, autoimmune diseases occur from an activation of the immune response directed to make antigens or immune fighters that attack the individual’s own body, or “self”.
The autoimmune process is influenced by genes and is often triggered by an infection, most likely a virus. The combination of a genetic predisposition, with a high viral load trigger of Epstein Barr virus, for example, and a lowered immune surveillance could be the setup for a perfect storm to start the autoimmune cascade. Once this cascade is set in motion, symptoms and suffering is perpetuated by chronic, local and systemic, inflammation.
There are many safe and effective ways to provide naturopathic support to patients with autoimmune diseases. Naturopathic physicians will work with you to figure out the most likely target area first and focus there, or they may work on a combination of treatment approaches because of the individuals case complexity.
Inflammation is caused by proinflammatory cytokines (immune fighters) being activated and creating a systemic mess. Inflammation causes pain, which makes reducing inflammation really important. A naturopathic protocol will often recommend patients follow guidelines for an anti-inflammatory diet, identify and treat food sensitivities and provide supplementary anti-inflammatory recommendations like curcumin and omega 3’s.
If the patient’s goal is to support and improve on their immune surveillance, we will initially focus on reducing the stress load the person is carrying, or experiencing. When someone is in a stressed state, the immune system is put on the back burner and all of the body’s resources are focused on getting the person out of harm’s way, instead of having an appropriate immune response. The source of the chronic stress has to be identified. For many it is mental and emotional. For others it could be simply physiological (low vitamin D/ low iron). Still others, have a hormonal component or adrenal deficiency. While others have gut dysbiosis or even toxic overload. In our practice we have a plethora of tests to choose from in order to help us determine what the likely source and then the consequence in the person’s body is, by being under chronic stress. Common blood tests are helpful as well as tests that help us understand the gut microbiome, the toxic load in the body and how maladaptive the neuro / endocrine (hormone) system has become. Once we understand why the person’s body is over-reacting and creating an overreactive and inflammatory response, then we can create a holistic and individualized treatment plan.
If we find that the gut microbiome is suffering, out of balance or has some pathogenic microbes, those need to be addressed and treated. Antimicrobials, and biofilm disruptors, along with support for the gut immune system (Secretory IgA), will help with immune surveillance and maintain balance in the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, reducing gut inflammation by healing up a leaky gut will go a long way in regulating an appropriate immune response. One more important aspect of antimicrobial treatment will focus on viral load in the blood. If someone has a high IgG viral load (indicating past exposure) then we will treat the person with anti-viral herbs, like Lauricidin.
As you can see, there are many ways to approach an autoimmune disease. The following are general and favorite treatments recommendations that we use for many of our patients.
One of my favorite prescription is LDN, it helps with immune surveillance, reduces pain as well as inflammation. This is a compounded medication that needs to be prescribed by a physician. An anti-inflammatory diet, which has at is cornerstone, being gluten, dairy and egg free is also really important. Gluten interferes with the immune complexes in the gastrointestinal tract and is a source for triggering an ongoing inflammatory response, reducing the person’s immune response. Vitamin D is so very important to keep your immune system strong. Many people with autoimmune diseases have very low vitamin D. Get your levels checked to see your starting point and then your provider can gauge how much you may need to keep you in a healthy range.
The detoxification pathways are often hindered in people who have autoimmune diseases. The body has a difficult time getting rid of toxins and then they build up in the body. When the liver is unable to process out the toxins they get recycled back into the body and the metabolites are more toxic creating a high concentration of free radicals. Glutathione is a strong antioxidant that can squelch the free radicals and help improve the symptoms. It is imperative to work on these liver pathways, and liposomal glutathione is a good start.
By reducing stress, improving immune surveillance, addressing abnormal lab findings and reducing inflammation in the body the chronic and pro-inflammatory cascade of the autoimmune events that cause destruction in the body can be addressed and ultimately the patient experiences improved wellness and quality of life.