6 Reversible root causes of inflammation in Autoimmune diseases
This is a very unfortunate case where the patient suffered a great deal before he found out the root cause of his problem. He was seen at the age of 43 by a functional physician after he was diagnosed with heart disease. His first diagnosis of thyroid disease was made when he was only 24 years old. Most people who are diagnosed with hyper or hypothyroid disease are not aware that these are
autoimmune diseases and individuals who have autoimmune thyroid disease are at risk of having other autoimmune conditions. This patient was started on a thyroid medication till he was 36 years old when he developed muscle pains, joint stiffness, swelling and weakness. He was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis. His doctor suggested that he start taking steroids. The steroids caused 35 pound weight gain, stomach reflux for which he was placed on a medication, osteoporosis and borderline Diabetes. Unfortunately the steroid was not adequate and he was started on an immune-modulator medication. Immune-modulator medications suppress the immune system function. He continued to suffer symptoms despite being on these meds. At the age of 43 he had a heart attack. He was not aware that patients diagnosed with autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and lupus are at a high risk of developing heart disease. His functional physician evaluated him for the root cause of his inflammation and found that he had an abnormal bowel flora with less of the beneficial bacteria and more of inflammation causing bacteria. These changes led to leaky gut and development of antibodies. This patient was motivated to find the cause and remove it to stop progression of his disease. He not only got off the immune-modulator medication but was able to significantly lower the dose of his steroids. His quality of life and symptoms improved significantly.
The rise in the prevalence of autoimmune disease is a threat for all Americans especially women. According to the National Institute for health, up to 23 million Americans are suffering from autoimmune diseases and 75% of them are women . It is one of the top 10 leading cause of death in women of all age groups up to 64 years of age. There are more than 80 illnesses that are classified as autoimmune diseases. The 10 most common ones are Graves' disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome, Vitiligo, Type 1 Diabetes, Pernicious anemia, Multiple Sclerosis and Glomerulonephritis.
There are 2 interconnected processes that underlie all autoimmune diseases, one is high degree of inflammation and the second is production of antibodies against different proteins in the body. Simply put, our immune system fails to recognize the difference between our own and foreign proteins. The result is an attack on our body from our immune system and resulting inflammation and damage. This resulting inflammation affects every part of the body and not just a single organ. For example, people diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis may have primarily joint symptoms but the inflammation affects the entire body. This leads to many other symptoms such as fatigue from inflammation of muscles, brain fog and anxiety from inflammation of the brain, hormonal imbalance, gut inflammation causing bowel issues and blood vessel inflammation leading heart disease and stroke.
Unfortunately, patients not only suffer from the disabling symptoms of the disease itself but are also affected adversely by the powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-modulator medications often prescribed for these conditions. There are 2 main classes of anti-inflammatory agents used for overcoming inflammation. The first class is Salicylates which includes Aspirin and Ibuprofen prescribed for joint aches and pains in these patients. Salicylates are known to cause kidney failure, Stomach ulcers and bleeding. What most people are not aware of is that Salicylates increase the risk of heart attack and stroke by 33% and double the risk of heart failure. Steroids are often prescribed in autoimmune diseases to suppress inflammation. They are well known for a lot of serious side effects such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, Diabetes, water retention, skin thinning, increase risk of infections, glaucoma, cataracts and mood changes. The next group of medications are the immune modulators such as Methotrexate and Cyclosporine. These medications are often used along with steroids for a fast symptomatic relief. Their side effects are much more serious than steroids. They modify the ability of the immune system to respond to potential internal and external threats hence these are also prescribed to transplant patients. Patients on these medications are at risk of serious and life threatening conditions such as Cancer, suppression of the bone marrow function and scarring of organs such as liver.
It is understandable that patients who are suffering from autoimmune diseases need to take these to control their symptoms and to gain the ability to sustain their ability to function. However, it is critical to realize that suppression of symptoms does not stop the progression of the disease or reverse the problem itself.
The most important question that needs to be addressed is what is the root cause of this inflammation and production of antibodies that are attacking the body itself. The only way to reverse the disease and/or prevent its progression is addressing the root cause of the problem.
The 6 potential causes of inflammation that need to be investigated and treated are
1. Research shows that Gut bacteria plays an important role in development of autoimmune disease. You need to find out about the profile of your gut bacteria. You can read more about the gut bacteria in this blog.
2. Infections can predispose the body's immune system to get activated and if the protein on the infectious agent resembles one of the proteins in the body then the body mistakenly attacks itself. This phenomenon is called molecular mimicry. Look for possible infections in your body and treat them effectively .
3. Environmental exposures such as exposure to mercury can predispose you to development of autoimmune disease. If you have been exposed then you need to find a way to get rid of it.
4. Food sensitivity particularly Gluten sensitivity can be an important source of inflammation. Each one of us is different in terms of our genetics, biochemical make-up and physiologic function, so there is no one size fits all diet. We need to find out what is it that work for us as a unique individual.
5. Leaky Gut Syndrome is a state of gut inflammation that allows undigested proteins to enter the body and cause the production of antibodies followed by inflammation.
6. Need to assess the factors that are preventing your Immune system to overcome the inflammation. When we have an infection. Our body has the ability to mount an inflammatory response and it also has the ability to appropriately stop this process once the infection is resolved. Unfortunately the immune system in patients with autoimmune diseases is unable to stop the inflammation. Many factors can contribute to it including sleep, hormones specifically cortisol, nutrition, state of mind (stress, anxiety, depression) and deficiency of nutrients.
Please share this information with all these who are suffering from pain, symptoms and diseases to empower and motivate them to take control of their healing journey. Stay Well because health is one of the most valuable assets that we possess.
Am J Med. 2010 Feb;123(2):183.e1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2009.06.030. Prevalence and relative risk of other autoimmune diseases in subjects with autoimmune thyroid disease.
Int Angiol. 2011 Feb;30(1):18-24. Cardiovascular risk and lupus disease.
Circ J. 2015 Mar 11. Modulation of Autoimmunity and Atherosclerosis.
Lancet. 2013 Aug 31;382(9894):769-79. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60900-9. Epub 2013 May 30. Vascular and upper gastrointestinal effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: meta-analyses of individual participant data from randomised trials. Coxib and traditional NSAID Trialists' (CNT) Collaboration, Bhala N, Emberson J, Merhi A, Abramson S, Arber N, Baron JA, Bombardier C, Cannon C, Farkouh ME, FitzGerald GA, Goss P, Halls H, Hawk E, Hawkey C, Hennekens C, Hochberg M, Holland LE, Kearney PM, Laine L, Lanas A, Lance P, Laupacis A, Oates J, Patrono C, Schnitzer TJ, Solomon S, Tugwell P, Wilson K, Wittes J, Baigent C.