The prevalence of autoimmune diseases is constantly on the rise in the U.S, currently affecting more than 80 million Americans. They include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis. Crohn`s disease, lupus, colitis, type I diabetes, and many more. The thing these diseases have in common is that the body starts perceiving healthy cells as foreign, and the immune system attacks them.
At their root, one biochemical processes connects these seemingly unrelated diseases: An immune response known as systematic inflammation, which causes the body to attack its own cells and tissues.
Autoimmunity develops when the immune system mistakes your own cells for foreign invaders, and your own tissue gets seized in the crossfire. The body is designed to combat detrimental things like stress response, allergens, and infection. While the reasons are not fully understands, the immune system sometimes attacks the joints, skin, brain, and even the whole body.
The problem with conventional medicine is that it acknowledges the problems, but stops there, without looking for the root cause. Instead, it keeps on inventing drugs to block something, again failing to answer to what caused this imbalance in the first place.
Isabel, a 10-year-old girl from Texas, went into her doctor`s office with one of the most severe forms of autoimmune disease. Her joints and face were swollen, and her immune system was attacking the whole body including the red and white blood cells, joints, skin, muscles, blood vessels, and the liver.
The tips of her fingers and toes were constantly cold, she was unable to squeeze her hand, she felt tired and miserable for losing her hair, and she suffered from rashes that severely irritated her skin.
Her treatment included high doses of intravenous steroids to keep her alive, aspirin, acid blockers, prednisone, and a chemotherapy drug called methotrexate. Then, the doctors wanted to give her yet another potent immune-suppressing drug which is known to increase the risk of cancer and death as it prevents the immune system from combating infections properly.
The good news is that when Isabel was seen by a functional medicine physician and said to stop eating sugar, dairy, and gluten as well as to take a few supplements, she managed to be symptom-free within a short period of time.
A Functional Medicine Perspective to Autoimmune Disease
Functional medicine focuses on the root cause of the disease. Once it determines the underlying trigger, it heals the body. The most common causes include hidden infections, toxic exposure, stress, food allergies, leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, and genetic predisposition.
Hence, functional medicine approaches the diagnosis and the treatment of a disease differently. It teaches the practitioners to look on the body as a system, to look for the causes, to understand body`s functional systems, and to learn how to restore balance.
From Conventional Illness to Functional Health
The only option for Isabel was taking drugs that shut down the immune system, increasing the risk for cancer, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, infection, and mental illness.
When she visited Dr. Hyman, her treatment notably changed, as he didn’t focus on what the name of her disease was, but where her inflammation originated from and how could it be reversed.
According to a review in the New England Journal of Medicine, “even in a genetically predisposed person, some trigger, an environmental exposure, or change in the internal environment – is usually required for [autoimmunity].”
When Dr. Hyman talked to Isabel, he found many potential triggers for her ongoing inflammation. She had all her immunizations prior 1999 when thimerosal was removed from vaccines, she had thimerosal-containing flu every year, she was being exposed to toxic mold at home, and her mother was exposed to fluoride during her pregnancy.
Thimerosal contains mercury, a well-known toxin. The problem became even bigger due to her diet, which included tuna and sushu, both of which contain mercury. She took antibiotics in the year before she got sick, and she also consumed loads of sugar and dairy.
All of the markers of inflammation were extremely high. Isabel`s bred blood and white blood count were low, her vitamin D was very low, and her mercury level was extremely high!
The first thing she did was removing all potential triggers of inflammation from food allergens, including gluten, sugar, and dairy. She was given fish oil, evening primrose oil, and vitamin B12, all of which are anti-inflammatory. She was also given nystatin and N-acetyl cysteine, the first one to treat yeast overgrowth and the latter to support her liver.
In two months, Isabel`s rash was gone, her hair was growing back, she didn’t have any joint pain, and her autoimmune markers were notably improved. Her liver function, level of inflammation, and muscle enzymes were all normal.
Then, the doctor added probiotics to her treatment to support healthy digestive function. She started taking DMSA as well, in order to help the body flush out mercury. To support her adrenal function and help get off predinose, she was given some herbs.
Within seven months, all of her tests were normal, including her white blood count. Her mercury level notably dropped and her gut inflammation was gone. The best news is that she wasn’t taking any of the medications and was feeling happy and normal.
10 Steps to Reverse Autoimmune Disease
Here are the best strategies to reverse rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases:
- Get tested for celiac disease
- Get tested for hidden infections like viruses, yeast, bacteria, or Lyme
- Get tested for heavy metal toxicity, particularly for mercury
- Try the Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, a plan designed to remove most allergens and lower inflammatory foods
- Fix the gut as leaky gut and other gut-related issues increase the risk for autoimmune diseases.
- Try anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger, curcumin, and Boswellia extract
- Use anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, fish oil, and probiotics
- Get eight hours of sleep every night
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Practice deep relaxation, such as yoga, massage, biofeedback, and deep breathing