The old model of autoimmunity involves having the genetics for autoimmunity and experiencing a trigger. These days we know more about the root causes of autoimmunity and what we can do about it to live a full and rewarding life.
New Model of Autoimmunity
Genetics is much more complicated than just having a gene for an autoimmune disease. Due to our understanding of epigenetics – how our genes are changed or modified – we can change the way our genome is expressed.
According to Dr. Tim Gerstmar in an interview with Mike Mutzel, the new model to treat autoimmunity involves identifying and reducing the environmental triggers that drive the inflammation and modulating the immune system so that it does not overreact. Here’s how to do it.
Diet and Lifestyle are Key
- Diet – Whole real foods eliminating gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, sugar and additives. However, there is no one diet for all people. You have to find and discover which diet works best for you. Here is where any number of good diets can help, whether it is the Autoimmune Paleo Approach, the Paleo Diet, the SCD, the GAPS diet, the Weston Price Foundation protocols. Diet can make a huge change in how you manage the illness.
- Sleep – Good sleep is critical for good health. If sleep is a problem for you, this is where you need to start making changes. Here are some hacks for getting better sleep.
- Stress – Learning how to manage stress is a big issue and needs to be addressed. Here are some hacks for handling stress.
- Exercise – Starting an exercise program can make some people irritable. This doesn’t have to take a major amount of time – it just has to be consistent. Start with just a few minutes of movement. Exercise is also great for sweating, detoxification and stress reduction.
Healthy gut bacteria eat sugars, starches and fiber. Most fibers are FODMAPs – fermentable oligo and di-sacchrides, monosaccharides and polyols. Bacteria like to eat these foods but many people cannot tolerate too many FODMAPs (or any).
Evidence suggest that we need fibers in the diet in order to feed the gut bacteria. We can get these form fruits, vegetables and certain starches.
Current recommendations are for 35 grams of fiber a day. It has been estimated that prehistoric peoples ate up to 100 grams of fiber a day.
Jeff Leach of the American Gut project has been living in Tanzania for over a year and studying the Hadza. The Hadza are one of the few thriving and surviving hunter/gatherer tribes left on this earth. They have a lot of fiber in their diet and an amazingly diverse microbiome.
Current studies show that diversity is the key to a healthy microbiome.
However, people with digestive problems and autoimmunity (or SIBO) may have difficulty with fiber because these fibers feed the pathogenic bacteria.
The microbiome can change very rapidly depending upon what is eaten. The goal should be to try to eventually move to a higher fiber (FODMAP) diet because those are the foods that feeds a healthy and diverse microbiome.
Feed Your Bacteria With a New Hack
Polyphenols like spices can be beneficial for bacteria. For example cocoa powder has been shown to boost levels of bifido bacteria.
Berry powder, hawthorne, blueberries and other fruit and spice powders like tumeric can be helpful for the bacteria and have also been shown to be healthful as powerful anti-oxidents. Vinegar (balsamic) can also support some strains of bacteria. Some can tolerate these types of fibers even though they cannot tolerate FODMAPS as food.
Curcumin is highly anti-inflammatory and supports the liver and the detox pathways. There just doesn’t seem to be anything negative with tumeric/curcumin. You can cook with it and/or take it as a supplement. It works as a food for the microbiome and as a source of polyphenols. So either way, it works well.
Quality of Life
In this discussion of autoimmunity, Dr. Gerstmar shared his viewpoint towards treatment which I found to be extremely positive. Most patients go to alternative practitioners because they think/hope they can get off their medications and that is their primary goal. Dr. Gerstmar tries to put it in a different light – he suggests that the patient will become much healthier from the treatment and will have a much better quality of life. That right there is a success.
If that then allows the patient to lower or go off medications and still have the good quality of life that is a second success.
Of course one wants to stop taking medications but it has to come when the patient is ready and able because they have started making major changes in their diet and lifestyle as indicated above and they have stabilized the immune system.
Mindset Shifts to Reduce Inflammation
There is always an emotional component with autoimmunity. Introspection and/or spiritual discovery should be part of every healing journey. Psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) is an emerging field and the interaction between these systems in the body is scientific fact.
Additionally, adding downtime, or play, into your life can help you on your healing journey. In fact, for some, this may be the missing link.
Get your FREE registration to hear many fantastic interviews at the Functional Health Summit here.
See more about Dr. Gerstmar here. He will send you a free ebook on autoimmunity.