Immune System gone ROUGE
Despite the rise of autoimmune diseases in the US, not many people are familiar with the various types (over 100) and their “causes”. The immune system is the second most complex system in the body (aside from the nervous system) and includes your digestive system, skin, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and other small tissues and skin. All of these organs and tissues work together to keep your body healthy. Autoimmune diseases occur when somewhere along the way, your immune system goes rouge and starts attacking your own tissues. The cause is unknown, and their currently is no cure, but with some diet and lifestyle-changes, I should be able to live a mostly symptom free life.
The problem with our current medical system is that autoimmune diseases are not treated as a disease of the immune system as a whole. Instead, each patient is treated as a car with separate parts. So, when you’re experiencing pain and inflammation in several parts of your body, it can get exhausting running around to different specialists like rheumatologist, neurologists, endocrinologists, etc. to try and get a diagnosis. “People on average see six doctors over a period of 4 years before they get a diagnosis.” * Some people do not ever get diagnosed.
Note: This gets a little woo woo. Conventional doctors don’t believe in much about autoimmune diseases. They recognize they exist and know which pharmaceutical drug to give you if one shows up on your blood test, but for cases like me with contradictory blood work and symptoms, doctors don’t really know what to do. I’ve always been a strong believer of food as medicine and prioritizing overall wellness, and functional medicine practitioners believe that healthy eating and a stress-free lifestyle can work wonders for those with autoimmunity.
While an ultimate cause for autoimmune disease remains unknown, many factors are thought to be at play:
Prior virus infections
Environmental and chemical toxins
Leaky gut and diet
Almost always: a combination
Findings from my Testing
Genetics: I’m still waiting on my genetic tests to come back, but based off what we already know about my genes, I am more genetically at-risk for autoimmunity as compared to others.
Viruses: On top of that, I have had several harsh viruses throughout my life such as a horrible case of mono and the mumps in Europe. I tested really high for the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), which binds to your cells when you have mono. EBV is linked to an increase risk in autoimmune diseases.
Chronic Stress: I’ve always been an over-achiever, perfectionist, and major stresser, so we can check that one off the list. I’ll give you some insight on how I’m reducing my cortisol levels later, it’s nothing to complain about. Princess life here I come!
Detox: One of my tests revealed that I have the MTHFR gene mutation, which is a mutation that deceases my ability to detox and is linked to over 60 chronic health conditions, many of which are autoimmune diseases. I call it the mother f*cker gene. The gene helps my body methylate (detox, control inflammation, process fats) and produces gluthione, the body’s most potent detoxifier. Research has shown that those with autoimmunity and cancer have lower levels of glutathione compared to people without those conditions— fun!
Because I did not know I had the mother f*cker gene, my body has likely been building up toxins from my beauty products, cleaning products, environmental and chemical toxins, metals most likely due to my love of sushi, alcohol, etc. etc. There is no way to know for sure, but it is possible that my autoimmunity has developed from my body not methylating properly. Heavy metal testing coming soon!
Leaky Gut: Most traditional doctors don’t believe leaky gut is a thing. Well, I believe it is because I’ve got one! Leaky gut is when the tight junctions in our gut break apart, allowing junk such as toxins and undigested food particles into our bloodstream (nasty). Your immune system labels these “foreign invaders” in your blood and attacks them, resulting in inflammation that can lead to autoimmune diseases. We’re not perfect, and we all have or have had leaky gut at some point in our lives usually due to eating too much gluten, infections, toxins, and chronic stress. The problem is when the gates of our gut get rusted open and your immune system is constantly fighting these “invaders”. Eventually, the immune system can get hyperactive and begin attacking your own tissues too.
I’ve always been an organic shopper and clean eater. I rarely eat gluten, which is one of the major causes of leaky gut. I have two theories on this: Either my gut got all leaky in Florence when I had gluten for breakfast, lunch and dinner and topped that off with a bottle of wine, OR stress was the gate opener here. My history of harsh diseases could also be a culprit. Currently not sure!
Taking my Health into my Own Hands
Unfortunately, once you have an autoimmune condition and that genetic switch is turned on, it doesn’t turn off again. Conventional doctors tell you that you will need be on medications for life or take other drastic measures to control your autoimmunity, which when you’re 22 years old is a harsh pill to swallow. However, there are many studies out there of drastically reducing or completely reversing autoimmune responses. This is done solely by taking control of your own body to module your immune system and regain your health.
Heal my gut
Remove inflammatory food (Gluten, grains, dairy, legumes)
Remove IgG food sensitivities (will write about this later)
Avoid toxins: organic food, no plastic, all natural beauty and cleaning
Detox: especially with the mother f*cker mutation, detox is SO important for me to keep my toxin levels down. Find me in my infrared sauna and taking lots of supplements. L-Glutamine!
Schedule in some R&R: Chronic stress is like gasoline for autoimmune conditions. Reducing stress is something that I will have to prioritize daily: meditation, yoga, walking, and lots of weed (kidding)
Gone are the days of waking up for 7:00 am SoulCycle classes and busy-bee days. My future is full of barre and pilates, daily detox baths, sauna sessions, grocery delivery services (savoring that energy is key) and guiltless naps when needed! I told you it doesn’t sound so bad :).