Copyright (c) 2014 LifeWorks Integrative health
Chances are you have heard of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. These are all common autoimmune diseases. However, there are many more autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases can affect the joints, muscles, skin, nervous system, endocrine gland and even the heart. In fact, autoimmune diseases are continuing to become more and more prevalent; with nearly 24 million Americans suffering from autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune diseases are more common in women than heart disease and breast cancer combined. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues opposed to attacking foreign invaders in the body — such as bacteria or a virus. There are number of causes of autoimmune diseases; including environmental toxins. Fortunately, functional medicine and autoimmune disease can go hand-in-hand. Continue reading to learn how functional medicine can be beneficial to those suffering from autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune Disease and Environmental Toxins:
Since the 1900 hundreds, humans have been introduced to over 80,000 different chemicals. While this may not be a huge surprise, did you know that only 550 of these chemicals have been tests for safety? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) indicates that nearly 2.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released each year from industrial facilities. In addition to this large number of toxic chemicals, 6 million pounds of mercury are leaked into our air each and every year.
In test of umbilical blood of newborns, researchers found 287 industrial chemicals — including flame-retardants, Teflon, pesticides, dioxins and mercury. Fetuses have been exposed to environmental toxins before they even enter this world. In addition to toxins released by industrial plants, there are toxins found in our foods and throughout our homes. Think of the products you use daily to clean your house. All of the products add to the toxic load in our bodies.
At this point, you may be thinking — how can so many toxins be in our bodies and why are we allowed to purchase these products with toxins in them? In the United States, products are placed on the shelves before being tested for safety. Products have to be proven harmful before they are removed from the shelves. In Europe, products have to be proven safe before they are even placed on the shelves.
With so many toxins in our environment, there is no doubt that autoimmune diseases are on the rise. With exposure to all of these environmental toxins, we are without a doubt increasing our risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
While it is very clear that environmental toxins are a major cause of autoimmune disease, conventional medicine rarely takes into account the environment when treating autoimmune conditions. Conventional medicine attempts to shut down the patient’s immune system response through use of powerful medications. These medications can include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Aleve. They may also include steroids, such as prednisone or anti-cancer medications — including methotrexate. Your doctor may also prescribe more recent medications like Enbrel or Remicade. These medicines block the effects of a powerful inflammatory molecule known as TNF alpha.
These drugs are likely to provide you with partial relief. Additionally, they often have side effects and have a negative effect on the immune system. The effects of these drugs can be so powerful that they increase your risk of cancer and other life-threatening infections. These drugs may bring short term relief. However, they do not address the root cause of your illness.
Functional Medicine and Autoimmune Disease: Treating the Causes of Your Disease
By using a functional medicine and autoimmune disease approach, many patients are able to successfully turn their health around. This is because we are able to address the underlying causes of their autoimmune disease — such as allergens, toxins, infections, poor diet and/or stress. Patients, with conditions including chronic fatigue, arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, have been able to find relief from their symptoms because functional medicine aims to find the root cause of an illness or disease.
By designing a healthy lifestyle program, patients are able to get their lives back on track and a lead much healthier lifestyle. A healthier lifestyle allows their bodies to be in an optimal state of health. With clean food, essential nutrients, exercise, clean water and oxygen, stress management and emotional support, functional medicine makes an optimal state of health possible for patients.
Functional Medicine and Autoimmune Disease: Recommendations
If you are suffering from an autoimmune disease, consider:
Testing for mercury and other heavy metals in the body.
Testing for celiac disease.
Identify your sources of inflammation and treat them.
Test and eliminate inflammatory (or allergenic) foods from your diet.
Practice stress management techniques.
Improve your immune system by opting for a plant-based diet.
Improve your body’s own detoxification system.