Autoimmune Disease, There is Another Way - Innovative Health (2022)

Reversing Autoimmune Disorders by Treating the Root Cause

Dr. Kevin Ritzenthaler, DC, DCBCN

Autoimmune diseases are reaching epidemic levels, in part, because there are so many of them. Current medicine lists between 80 and 100 different types of autoimmune disorders or diseases. Some of the more common ones include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Hashimoto’s Disease, Grave’s Disease, and Lupus.

Once diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, many believe their only option is to manage the symptoms while waiting for modern medicine to find a cure for the disorder. I’m here to tell you that is not the case.

A functional medicine approach to autoimmune disorders has the possibility of reversing the disease process by enabling your body to heal itself.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. If this were true, why wouldn’t your doctor have talked to you about this? Fundamentally, conventional medicine and functional medicine take a very different approach to chronic disease.

Shift from Traditional to Functional Medicine Mindset

When it comes to autoimmune disorders, traditional medicine tends to focus on stopping attacks and managing symptoms. This may be accomplished by using pharmaceutical drugs to depress the immune system, reduce inflammation, or alleviate other symptoms. This is necessary and can provide much needed relief to patients. When other approaches fail, it may be the only recourse that remains.

However, these treatments are occurring after the fact. They focus on stopping attacks in progress and relieving the symptoms of the attack. While this can help patients, if you want restore true health, then you need to figure out WHY the immune system went from functioning normally to attacking your body. This did not occur in a vacuum.

(Video) IMI: unravelling the enigmas of autoimmune disorders

Something happened to cause your body to go into this abnormal state of hyperimmunity. That is the focus of functional medicine. The functional medicine approach is not as concerned with the symptoms of a particular disease as much as it is with the underlying cause of the disease.

When the body functions properly, symptoms diminish, and illness is no longer present.

Functional medicine and traditional medicine might seem to be at odds with one another. But the reality is, they do not need to be.

Spectrum of Autoimmune Disorders

An autoimmune disorder, by definition, is when your immune system mistakes healthy cells as a threat and responds by attacking them. While traditional medicine may treat different autoimmune disorders as separate and distinct, the functional medicine approach views them on a continuum.

There are many, many disorders caused by autoimmunity. Some of the most prevalent include the following:

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)– the immune system attacks the protective covering of nerves (myelin). This creates scar tissue on the nerves and interrupts messages sent along the nerves to the brain and spinal cord.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – the immune system attacks the joints. The lining of the joints are impacted resulting in painful swelling and joint deformity. It can also lead to damage in other parts of the body, including the skin, lungs, eyes, heart and blood vessels.
  • Hashimoto’s disease – the immune system attacks the thyroid, leading to an underactive thyroid (known as hypothyroidism) and interrupting hormone production.
  • Grave’s disease – the immune system attacks the thyroid, leading to an overactive thyroid (known as hyperthyroidism). This also affects hormone production.
  • Lupus -the immune system attacks tissues and organs. Lupus can affect the skin, kidneys, joints, blood cells, brain, lungs, and heart.

These are all conditions where the immune system is attacking otherwise healthy cells. A functional medicine practitioner isn’t as concerned with what’s being attacked as much as why the attack is occurring.

Underlying Causes of Autoimmune Disorders

The science of functional medicine has uncovered a handful of common reasons that may cause the body to go into a hyperimmune state.

Food Sensitivities and Leaky Gut Impact Autoimmunity

If you read my articles, you’ll recognize that that food sensitivities and GI tract health are a common theme. Why is that? It’s because 80% of your immune system lives in your gut. Digest that for a moment (yes, pun intended).Autoimmune Disease, There is Another Way - Innovative Health (1)

(Video) Innovative transplant offers hope for patients with rare autoimmune disorder

That sheds new light on the phrase “you are what you eat”.

There is a myriad of reasons why you may develop sensitivities to particular foods, and it can be difficult to know which foods cause problems for you. (To better understand this, read my article, “What’s Really Causing Your GI Issues – Food Sensitivites, a Common and Misunderstood Culprit”). When your body is constantly reacting to a food to which you have a sensitivity, you are damaging your GI tract.

A properly functioning GI tract, or gut, must be somewhat permeable in order to absorb the nutrients from our food. However, when the gut is exposed to certain foods, infections, toxins, and stress, it can become “leaky” allowing toxins, microorganisms (including bacteria), and undigested foods to leak into your blood stream. It can also prevent the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. This can cause inflammation within the body which, in turn, can result in autoimmune disease.

Chronic Viral Infections and Autoimmune Disorders

Throughout your life, you’ve been exposed to a variety of viral infections including, the flu, chickenpox, HPV (human papillomavirus), and mononucleosis, to name a few. Once contracted, they can stay with you for the rest of your life, going in and out of dormant states. Chickenpox is a classic example. We get chickenpox, deal with the symptoms, and then it will go dormant and can live within our nerves for decades. As we age, and our immune system’s ability to protect our body decreases, the chickenpox virus can resurface as shingles.

Scientists have long suspected that viruses may be linked to the development of autoimmune disorders. Some people are simply better able to tolerate the low-level viruses than others. If you’re a person who is not able to tolerate the viruses, or if your immune system is otherwise compromised, it can trigger the hyperimmune state that leads to autoimmune dysfunction.

Toxicity and Autoimmune Disease

Toxicity is another common problem in today’s world. Whether we realize it or not, toxicity levels in our environment and within our bodies are on the rise. We are exposed to toxins in the air we breathe, water we drink, and on the foods that we eat. Additionally, many of the products in our home are made from chemicals whose health impact has not been fully tested and may be negatively impacting our health.

In some instances, toxic exposure can damage or alter your body on the cellular level. These changes can make it such that your body mistakes these cells as foreign tissue and goes on the attack. In other cases, the effect is less direct, causing chronic inflammation which, in turn, leads to hyperimmunity.

Nutrient Deficiencies Affect Autoimmunity

Your body is a complex machine. When it does not have the proper amount of key nutrients as fuel, it cannot function properly. Unfortunately, the average American diet is woefully low in nutritive foods, contributing to many of the chronic conditions we see today.

(Video) New Research Shows Key To Global Spread Of Autoimmune Disease is the WESTERN DIET

I could list many vitamins and nutrients that play a role in immune dysfunction, including vitamins A, D, and K as well as Omega 3s, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, and Selenium. But before you head to the supplement aisle, it’s important to know what’s happening in your body. A functional medicine practitioner will test to see which nutrients are below the optimal level in your body and then recommend ways to increase them, both naturally and through supplementation.

There’s another factor to consider here, and that’s the difference between “normal” and “optimal” levels of any nutrient. Let’s use vitamin D as an example. When testing a population for vitamin D levels, the results of thousands of individuals are charted. Researchers will use that data to determine the “normal” level of vitamin D across the population. These results indicate that vitamin D concentrations in the low 30’s would be “normal”. However, research shows that the “optimal” level of vitamin D is actually between 50-75. This can lead to many patients believing that their “normal” levels of vitamin D are sufficient, when in fact, they are not.

Treating Autoimmune Disorders

As I stated earlier, the functional medicine treatment approach to autoimmune disease doesn’t look at the disease itself. The goal is to fix the function of the immune system. There’s a reason why the immune system is not functioning properly – our goal is to uncover and correct those reasons. Sometimes you can identify and correct them, other times you cannot. But there’s always an underlying reason for the dysfunction.

The approach we take will differ for each patient, but the first step is always to take a detailed health history. What we learn about that individual patient’s history will point us in the direction of detailed testing necessary to uncover the root of the problem.

After testing is complete, we move on to working to correct the problems that we have found. This is a multi-faceted approach that includes dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes, and nutraceutical supplementation.

You might be asking yourself, “Why didn’t my doctor tell me any of this?” And that brings us back to the shift in focus from symptoms to causes.

In today’s world, medicine is focused on symptom relief. Upon diagnosis, the doctor-patient conversation usually focuses on “living with” or managing the symptoms of the condition. It’s a foregone conclusion that you have the disorder and your only option is to figure out how to live with it.

Pharmaceutical companies exist because of a desire to relieve symptoms. There are brilliant minds working very hard to improve muscle function, for example, in MS patients. Great strides have been made on the symptomatic front, and patients have benefited from these discoveries.

(Video) Autoimmune Disease

But managing the symptoms of a disease is not the same as getting better.Autoimmune Disease, There is Another Way - Innovative Health (2)

Equally great strides are being made on the functional medicine front in uncovering the root causes of autoimmune disorders and understanding how to reverse them. In fact, it’s been said that we’ve learned more about the gut in the past 5 years than was known in the previous 50 years.

And that’s the key to true health–a better understanding of bodily function combined with newer, more advanced tools to uncover biochemical imbalances that lead to dysfunction.

Functional medicine has been called the future of medicine. But, that future is here now in the offices of functional medicine practitioners across the country. To learn if Functional Medicine could help you, call 715-355-4224 to schedule a no-charge consultation at Innovative Health in Weston, Wisconsin.

→ Learn More About Functional Medicine

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FAQs

How can I fix my autoimmune disease naturally? ›

Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally. Exercise regularly — it's a natural anti-inflammatory. Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.

Will we be able to cure autoimmune diseases? ›

Treatment for autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders in general cannot be cured, but the condition can be controlled in many cases. Historically, treatments include: anti-inflammatory drugs – to reduce inflammation and pain. corticosteroids – to reduce inflammation.

Can vitamin D reverse autoimmune disease? ›

In a new study, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital found the people who took vitamin D, or vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, had a significantly lower rate of autoimmune diseases — such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, autoimmune thyroid disease, and psoriasis — than people who took a ...

What is the root cause of autoimmune disease? ›

The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. One theory is that some microorganisms (such as bacteria or viruses) or drugs may trigger changes that confuse the immune system. This may happen more often in people who have genes that make them more prone to autoimmune disorders.

What foods heal autoimmune? ›

Good foods

Antioxidant foods: Berries, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables (kale, cabbage, etc.), beans, tomatoes and beets. Omega-3 fatty acids: Olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts or soybeans.

What helps fight autoimmune? ›

Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally. Exercise regularly — it's a natural anti-inflammatory. Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.

Why is autoimmune so common now? ›

Fast foods like these have become very popular around the world, but eating them regularly could be responsible for the global spike in cases of autoimmune diseases, scientists say. Autoimmune conditions are those where the body's immune system confuses healthy cells with unwelcome micro-organic intruders.

What climate is best for autoimmune diseases? ›

Another brief response from a different physician (not a study, just clinical advice) advises that in most cases the best weather for autoimmune patients is warm and dry, such as in the Southwest.

Do people with autoimmune live long? ›

In the large majority of cases, autoimmune diseases are not fatal, and those living with an autoimmune disease can expect to live a regular lifespan. There are some autoimmune diseases that can be fatal or lead to life-threatening complications, but these diseases are rare.

What herbs cure autoimmune disease? ›

IMMUNE MODULATING HERBS
  • Hops (Humulus lupus): ...
  • Artemisia (Artemisia annua) Qinghao: ...
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax spp.): ...
  • Indian Sarsaparilla Vine (Hemidesmus indicus): ...
  • Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma spp.): ...
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): ...
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica): ...
  • Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa):
1 Sept 2012

What is the best vitamin for autoimmune disease? ›

The new, long-term clinical study has now found that vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, or both reduce the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

Is Turmeric Good for autoimmune disease? ›

Turmeric is especially beneficial for fighting inflammation, and research shows that it may help soothe some autoimmune or inflammation-related symptoms.

What are the 2 general causes of autoimmune diseases? ›

BOTTOM LINE: Researchers don't know exactly what causes autoimmune diseases. Genetics, diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals might be involved.

Who tends to get autoimmune diseases? ›

Who is at risk for autoimmune diseases? Millions of Americans of all ages have autoimmune diseases. Women develop many types of autoimmune diseases much more often than men. And if you have one autoimmune disease, you are more likely to get another.

Who is most likely to develop an autoimmune disease? ›

Autoimmune disease affects 23.5 million Americans, and nearly 80 percent of those are women. If you're one of the millions of women affected by this group of diseases, which includes lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, you may be wondering why your immune system is attacking itself.

Are eggs good for autoimmune? ›

Abstain from Eggs

To a person with autoimmune, they can cause havoc that probably wouldn't happen in a healthy person. Eggs can allow proteins (usually lysozyme, from the egg white) to cross the gut barrier where they don't belong and contribute to molecular mimicry.

What foods make autoimmune diseases worse? ›

Foods such as red meat, dairy, pastry, and beverages containing caffeine and alcohol trigger systemic inflammation, aggravating the autoimmune disease.

What foods prevent autoimmune diseases? ›

Some of the foods to avoid that are known to affect the immune system in people with autoimmune diseases include: Nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. Grains like wheat, rice, oats, rye, barley, and foods made from grains such as breakfast cereals, bread, pasta.

What country has the most autoimmune diseases? ›

GlobalData epidemiology analysis of two common autoimmune diseases, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren's syndrome, found that the US and UK have higher prevalence rates than other countries.

Why is there no cure for autoimmune diseases? ›

A cure for autoimmune disease is much more challenging. Unlike cancer or infection, where the goal is to get rid of bad cells in the body, we must maintain an immune system. The key is to reduce inflammation by resetting the controls and help tissues and organs regenerate from the damage caused by inflammation.

Are autoimmune diseases caused by stress? ›

A new study has raised the possibility that stress may cause autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, because it found a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases among people who were previously diagnosed with stress-related disorders.

Do autoimmune diseases get better with age? ›

Older persons have higher autoimmunity but a lower prevalence of autoimmune diseases. A possible explanation for this is the expansion of many protective regulatory mechanisms highly characteristic in the elderly.

Can Sun trigger autoimmune? ›

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may be associated with the development of certain autoimmune diseases, particularly in women, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Does heat help autoimmune disease? ›

For many people with an autoimmune disease, the extreme heat of summer makes their symptoms worse. It can trigger flare-ups that include excessive fatigue, muscle aches, pain, inflammation and swelling.

Can autoimmune cause death? ›

Systemic autoimmune diseases constitute a rare group of causes of death, but contribute to mortality through multiple comorbidities.

What are the most fatal autoimmune diseases? ›

Five Fatal Autoimmune Diseases:
  • Giant Cell Myocarditis. Giant cell myocarditis is a very rare autoimmune disorder causing inflammation of the heart. ...
  • Vasculitis. ...
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) ...
  • Lupus. ...
  • Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

Is autoimmune a disability? ›

Dozens of autoimmune diseases can seriously affect our ability to work and even prevent us from maintaining employment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes this fact and makes disability payments available to those who meet certain eligibility standards associated with their disorder.

Can an autoimmune disease reverse itself? ›

Autoimmune disease is a sign that there is something deeper going on in your body, and by getting to the root cause you can reverse your condition and live a symptom-free life.

Is Ginger good for autoimmune? ›

Studies by a team at the University of Michigan now suggest that 6-gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger root, has therapeutic effects against certain autoimmune diseases, including lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), in mice, by countering the release of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs).

What supplements should people with autoimmune disease avoid? ›

Avoid high doses of vitamin C, beta carotene, cat's claw, echinacea and ginseng, among others. Why add fuel to the fire? Doing so may cause you to slip out of remission and into more misery.

Does coffee help autoimmune disease? ›

Coffee consumption may have a protective role against autoimmune diseases, such as lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, and Crohn's disease [14] . Coffee contains lipidic molecules and antioxidant materials which scavenge free radicals and induce the activation of DNA repair and detoxification enzymes [15]. ...

What can I drink with autoimmune disease? ›

There's no perfect drink for people with autoimmune diseases. However, polyphenol-rich dry red wine and clear liquors mixed with soda waters or lower sugar swaps, like some green juices, are your friends. Hard kombuchas with no added sugar also go down easy and support your gut with probiotics.

What is the most common autoimmune disease in the world? ›

Nearly 4% of the world's population is affected by one of more than 80 different autoimmune diseases, the most common of which include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn's disease, psoriasis and scleroderma.

Can autoimmune disease be cured with diet? ›

Autoimmune diseases cannot be cured, but their symptoms may be managed. The AIP diet aims to help you do so by helping you identify which foods may be triggering your specific symptoms. Evidence regarding the efficacy of this diet is currently limited to people with IBD and Hashimoto's disease.

What are 5 common symptoms of an autoimmune disorder? ›

Autoimmune diseases can affect many types of tissues and nearly any organ in your body. They may cause a variety of symptoms including pain, tiredness (fatigue), rashes, nausea, headaches, dizziness and more. Specific symptoms depend on the exact disease.

Is autoimmune genetic? ›

Autoimmune disorders have a complex genetic basis; multiple genes contribute to disease risk, each with generally modest effects independently. In addition, it is now clear that common genes underlie multiple autoimmune disorders.

When did autoimmune diseases start? ›

Medical historians identify the mid-20th century as the time when the scientific and medical communities acknowledged the existence of autoimmune disease.

What herbs cure autoimmune disease? ›

IMMUNE MODULATING HERBS
  • Hops (Humulus lupus): ...
  • Artemisia (Artemisia annua) Qinghao: ...
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax spp.): ...
  • Indian Sarsaparilla Vine (Hemidesmus indicus): ...
  • Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma spp.): ...
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): ...
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica): ...
  • Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa):
1 Sept 2012

What should I avoid with autoimmune disease? ›

The Autoimmune Protocol Diet

Foods to avoid include grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, industrial seed oils, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, gum, alternative sweeteners, emulsifiers, and food thickeners, said Romano.

Can turmeric reverse autoimmune disease? ›

Turmeric is especially beneficial for fighting inflammation, and research shows that it may help soothe some autoimmune or inflammation-related symptoms.

Can an autoimmune disease reverse itself? ›

Autoimmune disease is a sign that there is something deeper going on in your body, and by getting to the root cause you can reverse your condition and live a symptom-free life.

Is Ginger good for autoimmune? ›

Studies by a team at the University of Michigan now suggest that 6-gingerol, the main bioactive compound in ginger root, has therapeutic effects against certain autoimmune diseases, including lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), in mice, by countering the release of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs).

Why are eggs not good for autoimmune disease? ›

Abstain from Eggs

To a person with autoimmune, they can cause havoc that probably wouldn't happen in a healthy person. Eggs can allow proteins (usually lysozyme, from the egg white) to cross the gut barrier where they don't belong and contribute to molecular mimicry.

What are the best vitamins for autoimmune disease? ›

The new, long-term clinical study has now found that vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, or both reduce the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

What increases autoimmune disease? ›

Regardless of the discrepancy, both agencies report that the prevalence of autoimmune disease is rising. “There are so many triggers for autoimmune disease, including stress, diet, lack of exercise, insufficient sleep and smoking.

Videos

1. The Future of Autoimmune Treatment
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2. The Power of Innovation: How Technology Will Power the Future of Health
(Northwell Health)
3. Solar power: why sunlight exposure may help prevent some autoimmune diseases but precipitate others
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4. Innovative Biomaterials-based Strategies to Combat Autoimmune Disease
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5. Functional Medicine Help for Crohn's Disease | Innovative Health
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6. Innovative Approaches to Understanding Eating Disorders
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