The Autoimmune Crisis: What To Do About It

November 22, 2011 · 20 comments

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Autoimmune diseases are rampant today. The conventional medical paradigm is to diagnose each different set of symptoms as a unique and separate condition and to treat these symptoms with powerful drugs. This never gets to the actual root cause of the disease.

Alternatively, the holistic model is to seek out and treat the actual cause of illness. There is much research suggesting that chronic inflammation is at the bottom of a great many diseases that plague us today.

That begs the question, where does this inflammation come from? Generally, the answer to that is toxic environmental exposures such as in food, water, drugs, air, etc. Heredity can also predispose one towards inflammation.

But the real question is what is autoimmunity and how does inflammation contribute to or even trigger it?

Most people do not realize that 80% of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract. That’s right. In the gut. That is why is it so important to have a healthy microbiome of gut bacteria (see more about gut bacteria here).

Cutting edge practitioners and researchers are starting to understand that the autoimmune epidemic is really arising from one cause: gut dysbiosis. Every single autoimmune disease can be traced to gut dysbiosis or leaky gut. (See Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride).

Conventional medicine is still not informed about the critical importance of good gut flora and a healthy mucosal lining. Even if they were, medical doctors are trained by the pharmaceutical companies and given perks for prescribing medications. Probiotic supplements are rarely recommended and special diets even less. (See information about the GAPS diet and how it is used to heal and seal the gut).

Let me back up and explain a little bit about the immune system. It is composed of a variety of white blood cells. One of those groups is called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are made up of two types: B-cells and T-cells.

Another white blood cell called a macrophage (sort of like an undercover officer or surveillance camera, looking for trouble) will detect an antigen (invader) and activate the immune system by sending a signal to T-cells ( patrol officers calling for backup). The T-cells alarm the whole defense system and initiate a two-tiered response.

The TH1 response (also known as cell mediated because it is activated when pathogens get inside the cell) is an immediate immune system defense that deals with acute infections like colds, flu or infected wounds. The T-helper cells (the National Guard) notify the immune system about the invader such as bacteria or any other foreign molecule. This stimulates the cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells to attack the invader (the Army and the Navy). The regulatory T-cells (the generals, who give the orders to cease fire) monitor the process. If the defense was successful and the bacteria was eliminated then the attack is stopped and everyone goes about their business.

The TH2 response is a delayed B-cell response. These cells are involved when the T-cells cannot eradicate a powerful antigen or even identify the invader. This is the part of the immune system that produces antibodies against the antigen to allow the body to overcome an infection.

The TH2 side of the immune system is also know as the humoral or antibody-mediated immunity. This side of the immune system attacks extracellular pathogens or invaders that are found outside the cells in blood and other body fluids.

When the immune system becomes damaged, one of the two arms (TH1 and TH2) becomes dominant. This causes the development of chronic allergies, autoimmune diseases and recurrent infections. The more unbalanced the relationship between Th1 and Th2, the more damage to the healthy tissue occurs and the more advanced the autoimmune disease may become.

Overactive TH2 (and suppressed TH1) is implicated in a wide variety of chronic illnesses and the majority of autoimmune diseases. Some examples are systemic autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and asthma.

TH1 dominant immune responses manifest as organ specific autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease.

In healthy individuals, TH1 and TH2 responses are balanced and able to switch back and forth according to the body’s requirements. These responses will activate when appropriate to eradicate a threat and then it will calm down appropriately until the next time an invader appears.

What does all this have to do with inflammation? Every time an immune response is activated, chemicals called cytokines are released. These cytokines are purveyors of inflammation. Therefore, each time an immune response is initiated, inflammation occurs under the radar. If the person’s immune response is unbalanced in the two arms (Th1 and TH2) the response may be inappropriate and will create inflammation.

Inflammation is destructive and chronic inflammation is the basis of all kinds of degenerative diseases. I have already talked about the effects of gluten on susceptible individuals. But there are many other triggers because we are all individuals biochemically.

What is the solution? Take control of your health and learn all you can about what alternative medicine and healing diets have to offer. The real food movement is partially made up of many people recovering from “incurable” diseases. There are many online classes that offer the most applicable information and personal stories of success.

This post is shared at: Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day, Sustainable Ways, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Sunday School, Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Barnyard Hop, Homemaker Monday, Real Food 101, Temp my Tummy Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday Tidbits, Hearth & Soul Hop, Gluten-Free Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Simple Lives Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 momnivore's dilemma November 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

Jill-

Thanks for posting this.  I am going to share it on my personal FB page, as well as with many a friend that “doesn’t get it”.

I’m still newish to the real food community, but by the power of ghee and kombucha alone, I am sold.

Now of to read NT for a second time.  I feel like the Good Will Hunting of real food.

BTW:  Do you have any recommendations of credible nutrition programs?  I already have 2 degrees, but really want to pursue this professionally…

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2 Jill November 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

Hi Nicolette,
Thanks so much for your comments! By the way, I love your blog! This information is so important — that’s why I write about it. Thanks for sharing this post.

As far as nutrition programs — that can be tricky. As you may know the American Dietetic Association is trying to take over ALL nutrition programs so that they can control what is taught — and we know who controls the ADA — Pepsi, Con Agra, Mars… all the junk manufacturers. I will be posting more about this but here is the first post I did about it.

http://realfoodforager.com/2011/05/dietetic-association-vying-for-monopoly/

There are many programs and certifications — you need to really research them to find out what they are teaching and if it will actually give you the credential you want. After all, it’s time and money spent.

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3 momnivore's dilemma November 23, 2011 at 3:34 am

do you have a pinterest?  I just took a moment and shared this across all my SM accounts.

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4 Jill November 23, 2011 at 11:52 am

No pininterest yet — but now that you mention it I guess I should find out what that is all about! My goal for this year is to learn all the social media branches and use them!!

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5 claireberlin November 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Jill: You Rock! Thank you so much for this article and your fantastic use of scientific information on the subject matter!

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6 Amee November 29, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Hi, I am now following you from Madame Deals please come and visit my site and enter to win over $2000 in prizes including $250 in apple giftcards.
Thank youAmee

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7 April Harris November 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this very interesting and comprehensive post with the Hearth and Soul hop. 

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8 Abe Bettinger March 1, 2012 at 4:39 am

Thanks for the science. I agree with you completely. Although something i feel is difficult and obscure to express is the dilution of alternative therapies. This is rampant in my perspective, since the flood of new herbalist and alternative practitoners eager to “practice” and “learn” tend to want to influence the sick to follow their therapies. The bar is essentially very low, and people like to pride themselves as “doctor/healer/herbalist etc.” such a proclamation has become a red flag in my pursuit of healing my own “incurable” Illness as those who advertise tend to be inexperienced or weak in ability. This is why i say diluted, Those in more compromised states of health have to sift through this to find the benefits and non-benifits. Conventional Diagnosis sucks , but sometimes gives explanation to the pathology of a condition, the roots of illness have a common origin , but should they all be treated the same way? Its up to me to heal, and i know my holy grail is here somewhere, but damn i feel alone. Do you know anyone who has had success with curing/reversal of PSC(primary sclerosing cholangitus) and is at least 10 years past diagnosis? that would be very helpful…

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9 Jill March 1, 2012 at 6:26 am

Hi Abe,
I understand your concern with alternative practitioners. That is one of the issues with the Dietetic Association vying to take over all “nutritionists”. I would not want to get nutrition advice from a conventional registered dietician…

That said, there are two alternative therapies that you could research. One is low dose naltrexone — go to LDN.org. It is used for autoimmune and cancer treatments.

The other is a little more obscure and has to do with the hygiene hypothesis. I will be posting on this subject shortly so stay tuned.

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10 Jessica August 7, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Thank you so much for posting about this! I have felt for a while that eating real foods and taking control of my health was up to me, but this is the first thing I have read that actually laid out what is probably a big cause of my problems. Thank you for being specific about the type 1 diabetes, and not just diabetes in general. I knew diabetes was an autoimmune disease, but didn’t really know what that meant. Thanks again for all your clear information.

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11 Jill August 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Hi Jessica,
Thanks so much for your feedback I really appreciate it!

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12 review of the diet solution program January 30, 2013 at 5:52 am

A blend of good vitamins and nutrients is necessary to ensure that your
body to work well. Eating out and frequenting dining
halls, in addition to eating unhealthy food, are some
from the easiest methods to disrupt formerly healthy diet
plan.

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