Autoimmune Disease (Part 3) Fixing up the damage

This is the next installment of the autoimmune series.  The first two talked about what causes autoimmune disease, which is a a chronic inflammatory conditions.  There is also the persistent finding of leaky gut, which is caused by the chronic inflammation in the gut.  The leaky gut allows food particles, toxins, metals and other debris into the bloodstream.  The immune system attacks, and we end up with chronic autoimmune disease.

Fixing the autoimmune conditions isn't a quick and easy thing.  Very often the immune system is irreversibly damaged and remains on high alert.  But the symptoms can be controlled, and the gut can be fixed.  Obviously, the sooner the work starts, the more damage can be prevented.  

The really good news is that we live in an age where we have remarkable access to an entire spectrum of herbs, nutrient dense foods, quality supplements and of course medical treatment if we absolutely need it.  However in my experience most doctors are not properly trained on how to deal with autoimmune conditions for a number of reasons.

From  Natasha Campbell-McBride's book Gut Psychology Syndrome we get a great look at an immunologist's quest to fix the digestive tract.  She uses a three step process which involves:

1) Taking stress off the GI tract by removing known allergens from the diet, reducing the intake of foods and giving the system a chance to recover from the onslaught 

2) Patching up the holes, fixing the leaky gut using specific prebiotics and nutritional strategies as well as psychological aspects like reducing stress and anxiety, both of which harm the gut

3) Strengthening the digestive tract so that it can act efficiently, and prevent further leaky gut symptoms.  Adding foods back into the stomach and GI tract, and reinforcing the integrity of the system with probiotics and specific nutrients

Cleaning out the sytem

 There are a lot of things that we have to address here.  Some are common sense, some not so much.  But when it comes to the microbiome which comprises 90% of the human body and contains over 100 trillion cells, anything that harms gut bacteria is going to do some damage to the human body.

- Antibiotics taken for illness, as well as antibiotics in the meat we eat.

- Pesticides, insecticides, fungacides, larvacides that have saturated into the plants we eat

- Hand sanitizers and antimicrobial soaps and cleaners which enter our bodies in microscopic amounts

- Highly processed foods containing lots of refined sugars which feed bad bacteria and unbalance the microbial environment

Antibiotics are handed out like candy in this day and age, and there is usually no word from the provider about the protocol that MUST be administered to return the gut bacteria to a healthy balance.  Antibiotics don't just harm bad bacteria and infections.  They kill indiscriminately.  The hole that is left in the bacterial population following a round of antibiotics leaves the GI tract primed and ready for invasion.  

So after a round of antibiotics it is crucial, it is in fact imperative to take a round of prebiotics, preferably including fermented foods which contain the bacteria our bodies need.  This can be done by fermenting one's own food, taking a prebiotic tablet, eating pickled foods, and finding foods with bacterial cultures in them.  

One thing to watch out for though is false advertising.  Think yogurt is filled with bacteria?  Think again.  Most yogurt at the store is homogenized and pasteurized, which destroys the bacteria.  Yoplait yogurt is not going to help your digestive tract.

Refined sugars tend to feed and nourish the wrong types of bacteria.  To bring back balance, one should focus on cutting out the food that is feeding the enemy.  Keep in mind that even "bad" bacteria has a function, its just that our modern lifestyles have taken the microbiome out of balance.  

To tackle autoimmune disease also means cleaning up the cosmetics and home cleaning supplies.  These are often filled with harsh toxins.  I'm not advocating not using hand soap, but when we use all these disinfectants and antimicrobials we are also killing off good bacteria that not only live in our bodies but on it as well.  As in on our skin, on our faces, in our mouths, where the help the body.  

Mouthwash is one of the worst things that could possibly be put into someone's mouth.  It is literally like carpet bombing the entire area.  Yes, 99% of germs and bacteria are destroyed; the good and the bad.  Now, the next time you put something in your mouth after using mouthwash, all the billions of bacteria that are inevitably on that food are going to run into zero resistance in your mouth, and will take up residence!

Laundry detergents, dryer sheets, shaving creams, facial creams, serums, toothpastes, shampoo, soap...all of these can contain harsh chemicals.  Check for natural options.  You can buy aluminum free deodorants, fluoride free toothpaste, and more.  Aluminum and fluoride are toxins that kill essentially any living cell, bacterial or not.

Artificial sweeteners should be used in moderation.  A little bit here and there isn't going to hurt.  But filling our bodies with this fake crap constantly while in a state of microbial dysfunction is guaranteed disease.  Its only a matter of time.  Real sugar will always be better than artificial sweeteners in my opinion.  

So in conclusion, the key to fixing autoimmune disease is pretty simple:

1) Increase the amounts of nutrition into our bodies.  More food that is beneficial for bacterial optimization, more probiotics and prebiotics, and other digestive enhancers such as aloe vera, green tea, cinnamon, licorice root, shitaki mushroom, and countless others.  Use a search engine to expand your arsenal of microbe friendly foods.

2) Decrease the toxic load.  Slowly but surely replace toxic cleaners, cosmetics and other household items with more natural alternatives.  Decrease the known culprits form the diet; useless foods like fast food, sodas, candy, and all the other junk we unthinkingly devour throughout the day.  Dump the doritos.  Avoid antibiotics unless you absolutely need them.  Work on stress reduction, proper breathing. 

There is so much that can be done to counter autoimmune disease.  Just pick a few things to work on and...get to work.  Consult your physician and demand a list of healthy foods.  If he / she can't give them to you, find another doctor educated in rudimentary nutrition.  Read.  Study your disease.  Become a master of your own body and take back control.

Benjamin Hetzel