By Dr. Jake Schmutz, NMD
We’ve all heard how a natural approach to food is the best. We know that we shouldn’t eat high fructose corn syrup. We’ve all wondered if we should be buying free range chicken eggs. We’ve visited local farmer markets to pick up local produce. We understand that there needs to be a natural approach when it comes to our food.
But what about a natural approach to our medicine? While a conventional medical approach has been working miracles for the past 50 years, we have lost a little of our magic for healing our bodies, not just treating the illness.
There are many natural and alternative approaches to illnesses and autoimmune diseases that, unfortunately, are not used nowadays. Healing our whole bodies is so much more complicated than just eliminating the symptoms of a disease.
To explain the alternative approach to autoimmune diseases completely, an understanding of two philosophical models needs to be explained. These two philosophical models are naturopathy and allopathy. Most Integrative and alternative physicians follow the model of naturopathy, which identifies a disease and works with the healing mechanisms of the body to bring about a cure. Its main focus is to identify the cause of the disease and stimulate the bodies’ own healing mechanisms to eliminate the disease.
The philosophical model that most conventional doctors follow is allopathy. This model treats a disease through identifying a disease’s pathology and uses treatments like drugs or surgery to suppress the symptoms of the disease. If the symptoms of the disease are eliminated the disease is cured according to the allopathic model.
A physician that specializes in integrative and alternative medicine would treat autoimmune disease first by looking for the causes of the autoimmune disease.
The main causes of autoimmune disease are food sensitivities, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, oxidative stress, hormonal imbalance, increased intestinal permeability, heavy metal toxicity and chemical sensitivity, and Chronic Infectious Diseases. To do this an integrative physician would take a thorough history and order laboratory tests to identify the cause of the autoimmune disease.
Explanation of the Causes of Autoimmune Disease
Food sensitivities: There are many foods that people can be sensitive to like wheat, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and many others. Food sensitivities are different than a food allergy. People with foods allergies usually have immediate reactions to a food right after eating, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, rash etc. Food sensitivities don’t have an immediate reaction after eating the food. It can take several hours or days for symptoms to become present and they are more subtle. They do not show up on conventional food allergy testing like the skin prick test, because these tests look at the IgE allergic response (the immediate response) and not the IgG4 immune response (the delayed response). Frequently eating a food we are sensitive to causes our immune system to be out of balance and leads to our immune cells seeing our own tissues as foreign.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: This condition occurs when the beneficial bacteria in our small and large intestine get replaced by bacteria that don’t belong there. Beneficial bacteria help digest our food, regulate our immune systems, prevent infection, and much more. So, when these beneficial bacteria get replaced by foreign non-beneficial bacteria it leads to poor absorption of food and dysregulation of the immune system. The foreign opportunistic bacteria causes the immune system to become overly stimulated leading to chronic inflammation. Also in the process, the immune system becomes confused between the foreign opportunistic bacteria and itself, leading to various autoimmune diseases. Symptoms of this condition are fatigue, gas and bloating shortly after a meal, mental fog, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain.
Oxidative stress: The body is constantly experiencing oxidative stress and the body usually has mechanisms to deal with this stress. Many individuals with autoimmune disease have a defect in a gene for the production of the enzyme 5MTHFR. This enzyme is needed for the production of the amino acid methionine, which is then converted to SAMe. SAMe is needed for various mechanisms in the body. A defect in this gene is quite common, and some studies say that 50% of the population has this gene defect. A defect in this gene can lead to dysregulation of inflammation in the body leading to the immune system attacking it’s self. Some common symptoms of deficiency in 5MTHFR are chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
Hormonal imbalance: Hormones are an integral part of managing many bodily functions in the body. The body usually keeps hormonal production in perfect balance. When this balance is off set, it leads to various symptoms in the body. Some of the symptoms experienced can look like autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimotos thyroiditis, and many more. A few examples of this are: an increased estrogen/progesterone ratio in women, decreased cortisol production from long term stress, and thyroid disorders. When there is too much estrogen produced or too little progesterone produced it leads to many symptoms that look like PMS, but it also can present itself as an autoimmune disease. Another example is when there isn’t enough cortisol produced to manage inflammation in the body and this leads to autoimmune diseases. Decreased thyroid production can lead to chronic pain all over the body presenting its self like an autoimmune disease.
Increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut): The understanding of how increased intestinal permeability leads to autoimmune disease is quite complex. I will give the most simplified explanation that I can give. Increased intestinal permeability occurs when the intestinal barrier is damaged and this causes the intestinal barrier to weaken and become leaky. This leads to absorption of undigested foods that aren’t supposed to enter the body to enter it. When these undigested foods are absorbed the immune system sees it as foreign and it is stimulated to attack the foreign material. Because of the constant stimulation of the immune system, immune cells, cross react with normal tissues in the body and leads to autoimmune diseases.
Heavy metal toxicity and chemical sensitivity: Sadly, we live in a toxic environment where every where we turn we are exposed to chemicals that are damaging to the body. There are many people that have difficulty eliminating these toxins from their body. These individuals experience many ill effects from chemical exposure. They experience fatigue, headaches, tremors, symptoms of autoimmune disease and many other symptoms.
Chronic infectious diseases: As we live on this earth, our bodies are constantly invaded by bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoas etc. Most of the time our bodies are strong enough to ward off these illnesses and no harm occurs. There are some bugs that are very difficult to get rid of. There are some individuals that have compromised immune systems and have difficulty fighting off bugs they come in contact with. Some examples of bugs that are very difficult to eliminate are Borellia burgdorferi, Babesia microti, Candida albicans, EBV, CMV and many others. The diseases created by these bugs can lead to hyperactivity of the immune system and cross reactions with normal tissues in the body. Many of these diseases present with symptoms of autoimmune disease and possibly produce autoimmune markers in blood tests.
As we can see, there are multiple causes of autoimmune disease. While we would all love to have a quick fix that works for everyone, our bodies are a lot more complicated than that. It takes a trained professional to know exactly what the cause is and the treatment protocol for your autoimmune disease. But there is hope for individuals with autoimmune disease. Who knows, it may be just as easy as not eating eggs.
This article was guest-written by Dr. Jake Schmutz, a specialist in Integrative and alternative medicine. For more detailed explanation and treatment of autoimmune diseases and other conditions, a virtual visit via webcam can be booked by visiting www.integrativemedica.com