photo: Anthony Delanoix, Unsplash
There is close to one hundred different autoimmune diseases (and suspicion of many more) that affect our bodies in almost every level. Some affect our joints – like rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis – and others affect our nervous system, our muscles, our skin, our endocrine glands, our blood cells, and almost every part of our bodies. And as anyone living with autoimmune disease will tell you, it has a huge impact on quality of life and can even be life-threatening.
We think of all these diseases separately as they are treated independently, each by a different medical specialty according to each part of the body is being targeted. But we know now that these diseases are all more alike than they are different – they are all serious chronic diseases with an underlying problem in the immune system with just a few common root causes, most of which are ignored by most doctors.
The current medical approach
The current medical approach to treat autoimmune disease is to shut down the immune response with powerful medications including NSAIDs (like Advil, Ibuprofen and Naproxen), steroids (like Prednisone, Hydrocortisone and Betamethasone) and stronger immunosuppressant drugs including anticancer drugs (like methotrexate) and the new biologic drugs (like Simponi, Humira and Remicade) that block the effects of the inflammatory molecule TNF alpha. But these immunosuppressant drugs slow down the immune system so powerfully that they increase the risk of cancer or life-threatening infections. And they have frequent and serious side effects and often give only partial relief.
These drugs may be lifesaving for some in the short term (they were definitely for me – despite giving only partial relief, they made me have a “normal” life), but in the long term, they do nothing to address the root causes of the disease. In fact, some drugs can even interfere with your body’s ability to heal and contribute to the dysregulation of the immune system.
So what are the root causes of autoimmune disease?
Autoimmune disease is caused when the immune system loses the ability to distinguish self from foreign invaders. As we begin to learn more about the causes of autoimmune disease, it is becoming evident that genetic susceptibility it’s only a piece of the puzzle. It accounts for only about one-third of the risk to develop an autoimmune disease, determining which disease you are most susceptible to develop. In fact, fewer than 10% of those with genetic susceptibility actually develop the disease. So on top of that, the immune system must also be stimulated to attack. And research shows that the triggers or root causes of all autoimmune diseases are the same: infections, environmental toxins, allergens, stress and certain dietary factors. And while there is nothing that we can do about our genes, we do have control over our diet and lifestyle choices.
Diet and lifestyle factors are deeply associated with the development of autoimmune disease and with the body’s ability to heal. They have a big impact in the regulation of hormones, in the health of the gut and in the levels of inflammation in the body, all factors that are crucial for the regulation of the immune system. By addressing the root causes of your disease and supporting the normal functioning of the immune system through the autoimmune protocol you can actually recover from these conditions. You can regulate your immune system and become healthy again.
Related: How food influences the immune system
Prevent (further) damage
Currently, there are no decisive methods to determine if a person is at risk of developing an autoimmune disease or is in the early stages of autoimmunity. However, having family members with autoimmune disease increases your chance of developing one yourself, as the genes that make us susceptible to it are inherited. Early signs of autoimmune disease include allergies, anxiety and depression, digestive problems, extreme fatigue, migraines, rashes and other skin problems, resistance to weight loss, sleep disturbances and many others. If you have any of these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop an autoimmune disease, but by following a paleo diet (a regular paleo diet may be sufficient if you don’t have a fully developed autoimmune disease) you can still find relief from these symptoms and most importantly prevent autoimmune disease from developing.
What is perhaps even more alarming, is that there are some studies that have shown increased intestinal permeability in the healthy relatives of those with autoimmune disease. And increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is a requisite for the development of these diseases. (read also How food influences the immune system) As these people probably share some of the autoimmune susceptibility genes with the sick relative, this is a big sign of alarm, thus supporting the relevance for the healthy relatives to follow a paleo diet in order to prevent them from developing.
Once you develop an autoimmune disease, you are at a much higher risk of developing a second or a third condition. This is because your immune system already learned how to create autoantibodies (antibodies that recognize self) against some of your tissues, so it’s not hard for it to create autoantibodies to another cell type in your body. And any type of environmental triggers, such as infections, diet or stress can result in the formation of new autoantibodies and manifest as a new autoimmune disease. For example, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis have all been associated with celiac disease. So if you have one of these conditions, you are at a greater risk to develop celiac disease. This is exactly what happened with me - I started to have vitamin deficiencies and digestive issues associated with the ingestion of gluten, four years after the appearance of my ankylosing spondylitis (a form of autoimmune arthritis). This really outlines the importance of addressing dietary and lifestyle factors, especially if you already have an autoimmune disease. By following the autoimmune protocol you can stop the progression of your disease and prevent further damage to new tissues.
Hope is here
As new research is beginning to uncover the root causes of autoimmune disease, we begin to understand just how important it is to control dietary and lifestyle factors. Current treatment doesn’t typically include diet and lifestyle modifications - the gap between emerging research and integration into medical practice is enormous, as long as 20 years (!), particularly in the area of complex, chronic illness, such as autoimmune disease. But the evidence for their inclusion is growing. And they are already an integral part of the treatment in functional medicine, a recent medic specialty that treats the individual by addressing the underlying causes of the disease.
The autoimmune protocol is the best current approach to treat and prevent autoimmune disease - it is a powerful and highly effective tool to heal your body and regain your health in a completely natural way.
You don’t have to be sentenced to a life of pain, fatigue and a pile of prescription drugs with frightening side effects. With the diet and lifestyle changes from the autoimmune protocol, you can stop the progression of your disease and even put your disease into complete remission – without the use of drugs. And even if you have been suffering from an autoimmune disease for some time and you already have experienced some tissue damage, the autoimmune protocol will help you feel better, reverse the effects of the disease and help prevent your specific tissue damage from getting worse. Yes, you can reverse your disease and become healthy again!
When in 2015, after suffering from ankylosing spondylitis for four years, I began with symptoms from celiac disease and saw how little my doctors could do for me, I refused to accept that there was nothing I could do for my health. I was never a believer in “alternative” approaches to health, but after trying everything that current medicine has to offer with very few improvements and with new problems pilling up by the hour, I figured I had nothing to lose. Changing my diet literally changed my life - I regained my health and I feel better than ever. I do not require any medication anymore and I can successfully manage my disease only through my diet and lifestyle. And I am not the only one who has benefited from the autoimmune protocol – many, many others report similar successes. And you can change your life too and become healthy again, and all you have to do is give it a try!
So, are you ready to get started?
If you would like to know more about the autoimmune protocol and how to follow it read also the section
About AIP. Still have doubts? Join the Primal Wellness private Facebook group to get in touch with me and other persons following the autoimmune protocol, where I can answer all your questions.
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