Autoimmunity & Functional Medicine
Autoimmunity has become a popular diagnosis in the past few years, but most doctors still don’t quite understand what it means. Autoimmunity is not just a single “disease” and shouldn’t be used as a blanket diagnosis when we can’t narrow down anything else. In fact, autoimmunity is a necessary and benign process that we need to clean up damaged and aging cells in the body. It is estimated that we generate a whole new body’s worth of cells every 7 years with the help of autoimmune activity.
Evidently, problems begin to occur when the immune cycle becomes chronically overactive in the context of uncontrolled inflammation. We now refer to autoimmunity as a spectrum because the process can be present for many years before the development of symptoms or full blown disease.
Brief review of the immune process
When faced with a toxin, our immune system fires up two main lines of defense: cytokines (first responders with pistols) and antibodies (military with heavy artillery). When the toxic exposure is too big for the first responders, our body sends in the military. The military antibodies may get rid of the invading toxin, but they create a bit of collateral damage in the process. At which point our body produces autoantibodies (secret spies) that are very specific and go to clean up the left over debris (damaged organ tissues).
So where does autoimmune disease come into the picture?
It comes in when infectious agents, bacteria, or foods confuse the bodies immune system because they are structurally similar to human tissue. In other words, the antibodies we create to protect us from toxins can easily mistake and destroy parts of our body that look similar to the toxins. This is referred to as molecular mimicry.
For example, Gluten from wheat, rye, or barley can not be broken down sufficiently by our bodies because we simply don’t possess the enzymes to digest it. This causes the body to create antibodies to attack the undigested gluten molecule that we perceive as a ‘foreign invader.’ Unfortunately this foreign invader resembles a protein structure around the brain, so our antibodies begin to attack the brain as well!
This is just one example, but it can occur with many other foods. The most common reactive groups are gluten, dairy, and sugar, but something else may be affecting you based on your genetics. Genes don’t determine that you’ll get a disease, but they determine where the weak links (susceptibility) exist in your body; therefore, one person’s exposure to a toxin may present completely different than another’s exposure to the same toxin.
Our bodies have a threshold for handling certain environmental exposures
Whether it be food, molds, pesticides, preservatives, or additives that are triggering your body’s immune system to attack itself (autoimmunity), we must recognize that the process will continue and perpetuate itself unless we eliminate the offending toxin (antigen).
When antibodies are created to attack a foreign invader, they are present in your system for between 3-5 months. That means that they can also be attacking your own body tissues throughout that time. If you have an undiagnosed food sensitivity and you continue to consume that food, then inflammation will accumulate even more. The same goes for sensitivities to environmental agents.
If this happens, then why is it so hard to diagnose autoimmunity before it becomes a disease?
Our bodies are incredibly resilient. Harmful antibodies are often circulating for years before we even develop symptoms, and it isn’t until peak inflammation and organ damage that we recognize it as disease; therefore, it is critical that we begin to pay attention to the seemingly minor symptoms that are warning our body about dysfunction.
Exposure to unhealthy antigens may present as but are not limited to the following symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating – Memory lapses
- Achiness – Muscle twitches
- Rashes – Skin infections – Acne
- Bloating – Constipation – Diarrhea
- Chronic colds
- Weight gain
- Depression – Anxiety – ADHD
These symptoms may be common, but they are not normal.
Don’t dismiss chronic symptoms. Begin to recognize links between what you put into your body and how it makes you feel.
- Cut out the most common autoimmune causing antigens: gluten, dairy, & sugar.
- Begin to rebuild the intestinal barrier with natural nutrient dense foods. This will strengthen your defense by preventing undigested food particles from entering the blood circulation.
- Consult your doctor about the possibility of other food & environmental sensitivities.
- To combat the inflammation produced by antigenic foods, there are a variety of anti-inflammatory foods that help support the body instead of break it down. The right food is ultimately our best medicine against autoimmunity.
At Cross-Up, we offer Alletess Allergy, Autoimmune, & Gastrointestinal Sensitivity testing to specifically indicate the wide range of foods, bugs, or environmental antigens that may be pushing you along the autoimmune spectrum.
If you or someone you know is suffering from unexplained symptoms and is interesting in learning more about autoimmunity and ways to combat it, then please have them contact us at Cross-Up Chiropractic.
1025 W Park Avenue, Libertyville IL 60048
Chiropractor, Family Health, Functional Medicine, Nutrition
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