What is autoimmune disease?

This month is Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month in the US. Every day I have been posting information about a new autoimmune disease on my Facebook page I’ve been learning a lot about all of these different autoimmune diseases, and let me tell you, some of them are truly horrifying! Like the one I just posted this morning Goodpasture Syndrome, which causes the kidneys and lungs to fail. I can’t even…

The one thing that I haven’t posted on my page is “what is autoimmune disease?” So I’ll go over that here instead, as it could get quite lengthy, and there may be a rant or 2 involved.

Any autoimmune disease is the result of the immune system going wonky and mistakenly attacking healthy human tissue, thinking it is a foreign invader. I like Dr. Tom O’Brien’s description of it best; think of your immune system like the military. There’s the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and each one of them have their duties in keeping your body healthy. Now think of autoimmune disease as a case of “friendly fire”. The military is in battle mode against something, perhaps a bacterial infection, and then all of a sudden, it starts attacking cells that *look* like the bacteria, but in fact are your healthy human cells. The term “molecular mimicry” has been coined to describe this friendly fire in the immune system.

I don’t want to get too sciency and bore you; if you do want to learn more about the science of it, go check out The Paleo Mom site.  Dr. Sarah Ballantyne is a PhD researcher who herself has autoimmune diseases, she makes the science understandable to those of us who got kicked out of high school biology ????  So, I’ll just stick with the basics, and then rant away. It’s my blog… *snarf*

So when the immune system goes wonky, and starts attacking its own human host, scientists have noted that three things have to be in place in order for this to happen. The person has the genes that predispose to autoimmune disease (there are several, and each link to specific diseases), the person has a leaky gut, and there is a trigger. A trigger could be a bacterial or viral infection. It could also be an emotional or physical trauma, such as death of a close loved one, or a car accident maybe.

When our guts become leaky, food is escaping the small intestine and getting into your body where it shouldn’t be. Your immune system then goes into hyper-alert to deal with all these foreign bodies. Think of this like the US government’s “defcon” alert system.  The longer the gut is leaky and the more food particles getting into your system, the higher the defcon, and the higher the risk of friendly fire.

So, what causes the gut to be leaky? Unfortunately, this seems to be partly our own fault, and through no fault of our own all at the same time. For children who are diagnosed with autoimmune disease, they may be somehow born with leaky gut, or quickly develop it after birth. Babies born via c-section are quite likely to develop leaky gut early in life, because they do not have the benefit of going through the mother’s birth canal to “inherit” their mother’s vaginal microbiome. They are quickly inundated with environmental bacteria instead, and have no “good bacteria” of their own to fight off the bad stuff, causing an overabundance of the wrong types of bacteria living in the gut.

Children given many courses of antibiotics in childhood for such things as ear infections, common colds (which are viruses remember, and antibiotics don’t do them any good at all! Stop taking antibiotics for head colds! Just stop!) and other infections. Antibiotics again cause an overabundance of bad bacteria in the gut, causing further damage. If your child has recurring infections and has been on many courses of antibiotics, PLEASE get them on some probiotics STAT! And start feeding them a gut healing diet with lots of collagen and nutrient dense foods!

Another cause of leaky gut is likely all of the nutrient deficient foods we’ve been eating now for a couple or 3 generations. Plus all of the herbicides and pesticides and GMOs being used in “conventional” farming. These are chemicals and genetically modified organisms that have never been in the human food supply prior to 1996 when they were introduced. And there are new GMOs introduced periodically, as the older ones become obsolete (weeds and pests become resistant). Our bodies just *do not* know what to do with all these foreign invaders, and our immune systems go to defcon 1. GMOs were released into the mainstream food supply without being tested first. We have been this giant worldwide science experiment since 1996, and we’re all paying dearly for it.

With the combination of GMO foods being entirely foreign, and our diets of convenience foods that really are nutritionally deficient (despite what the labels say, and what our governments tell us…remember, GMOs were put out to us without testing!) our bodies are run down, deficient in the nutrients needed for good health.

Now let’s get to how to figure out if we have an autoimmune disease, and what to do about it. How do we diagnose an autoimmune disease? Well, you know my journey to diagnosis was a long and winding road. I struggled for literally decades before I was diagnosed with celiac, which came after I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, and that was determined to have been active for probably 10 years or more! I have Sjogren’s as well, but it is “sero-negative”, meaning I have all of the “classic” symptoms of Sjogren’s, but the autoantibodies that are specific to Sjogren’s don’t show up in my blood. I do (did) test rather high for anti-nuclear antibodies however, which are indicative of several different autoimmune diseases, including Sjogren’s, Lupus, Thyroiditis, and others.

Once you test positive for ANA, your doctor may determine that this is possibly an autoimmune disease, and should start looking for disease specific autoantibodies that match up with your symptoms. Some doctors however will just stop there, saying that some people just have ANA for no apparent reason. Personally I disagree, and I’ll get to that in a sec. When you are trying to find a diagnosis, it will be difficult to figure out which disease(s) is causing your symptoms, because so many of them can start out with symptoms like fatigue, headache, muscle pain and weakness, which can be caused by so many things. In my own experience, this is where doctors give up and give a bullshit diagnosis like fibromyalgia, or IBS.

And this is where we have to start fighting for our own health! We can’t allow doctors to just give up on us with these bullshit diagnoses. I’ve stated before that I believe fibrmomyalgia and IBS are *symptoms* of something greater in the body going on, they are *not* diseases/disorders all of their own. Find the true cause of your pain, and you will better be able to treat it and get healthy again. If you give up and take the pills with the Kool-Aid, you’ll end up just getting sicker. Mostly from the drug treatments they give you! I’m “lucky” that my primary disease is celiac, and there aren’t any pills to treat it, so doctors just diagnose and shoo you out the door with the vague advice of “don’t eat pizza or drink beer” and that’s the end of it. Yeah…so not helpful…but so much better than immunosuppresants and harsh treatments which are offered for so many other autoimmune diseases.

Diagnosis is also difficult to pin down because labs and doctors are taught to *not* diagnose a specific disease unless there is a certain level of the antibodies in the blood. So you may test positive for say thyroid antibodies, or pancreas antibodies, but “not enough” to diagnose Grave’s disease or type 1 diabetes. This is where doctors say “let’s just wait and see what happens”. In the meantime, your immune system is attacking your body, causing more and more damage until so much damage has been done that your doctor can *finally* say “Yep, you have XXXX disease, let’s get you started on Prednisone and Cyclosporine.” Unless you have a Functional Medicine doctor, none of them will offer up the option of nutrient dense diet as treatment. They will likely say diet has nothing to do with your overall health, just make sure to not overeat calories, and take a multivitamin each day, you’re good. Ugh…

Part of the reason we got into this mess in the first place is our nutrient deficient lifestyles! How is it that doctors think the food that we put INSIDE our bodies has nothing to do with our health?

We’ve been force fed this crap for 3 or 4 generations now, and it HAS TO STOP! We know now that trans-fats are toxic fats that should have been eliminated from the food system decades ago. They were first introduced for human consumption in 1912, and it was known by about 1950 that they’re killing us. But they are still in our food system in manufactured foods like cookies, cakes, and breakfast cereals. Convenience foods like TV dinners were introduced in the 1950s for busy moms who just didn’t have the time to cook meals for their families. The low fat madness that Ancel Keys started in the late 1950s did some further damage that still persists, and it’s all gone downhill from there, leading to the previously mentioned GMOs that were introduced in 1996.

WE need to take our health into our own hands. WE need to stand up to our health care system and fight for our lives. How many times have you been to your doctor and say “I feel like shit doc, we have to figure this out” and they do some more blood tests, say “I dunno I can’t see anything wrong” and they send you on your way with a “get some rest, and make an appointment if your symptoms get worse”. This wait and see is nutz! By the time we wait long enough for them to see we’re sick, the damage could be so advanced that we can’t reverse it. This goes for autoimmune disease as much as it does for heart disease or type 2 diabetes. How about let’s assume that if we have autoantibodies in our blood, or if we have “pre-diabetes” that we nip that in the bud NOW, so we can prevent it getting worse with the “wait and see”? I seriously doubt this is going to put doctors out of business, their jobs are safe! People are still going to step on nails and get tetanus. People are still going to get into bar fights and need stitches. They’re still going to go to camping and get beaver fever. But maybe we’ll stop getting these chronic “wait and see” diseases if we just make some minor tweaks to our diets and to how our health care system looks at disease. These are preventable, and they are reversible without harsh chemical drugs. I myself have boggled my doctors by reversing autoimmune disease with diet alone. Dr. Terry Wahls reversed her multiple sclerosis with diet, got herself out of her wheelchair and back on her bike again. So many people from all walks of life, from all countries on the planet, have been treating and reversing their diseases with nutrient dense diet, where chemical drugs did nothing but cause even more problems (have you seen those commercials? Holy crap! Why would I want to take a drug that may cause me to get tuberculosis and lymphatic cancer? Um…no…just no!)

I know this is a long rant, but I wont apologize for being passionate about your health and welfare. Or mine for that matter. Did you know that you could potentially have a disease for as many as 10 years before symptoms actually present themselves? This includes cancer! But the evidence will be in your blood looooong before symptoms persist or become a nuisance, they just not may be at a level where your doctor has been trained to say “yep, you have a disease, let’s fix that. Here take 2 cups of kale and a litre of bone broth every day with some kimchi and I won’t need to see you again.” This is my dream.

If you’re tired of being sick, and tired of your doctor brushing you off and not having time for you to answer all your questions, or alleviate your stresses about your autoimmune disease. If you want to take your life back, call me. Let’s make time for YOU. Contact me for a FREE one hour health consultation. I would be honoured to support you in your journey to better health.

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