Can Autoimmune Disease Be Reversed?
Can Autoimmune Disease Be Reversed?
Autoimmune disease is something that responds well to Root Cause Medicine and quite poorly to traditional medicine. Why is that? Let’s take a look.
The human immune system is designed to protect the body. It defends you from foreign invaders and toxic substances. It is a brilliant system and quite complex in design. But with all its complexities, the simplicity is, as stated above, defense of the body.
Auto means self, and we just defined immune system. Therefore in autoimmune diseases, of which there are over 100, the immune system misidentifies the body for a foreign invader and attacks it. Traditional medicine tells those who are diagnosed with autoimmune disease that there is no cure, but the only recourse is to shut down the immune system with immune suppressing drugs, since the immune system is clearly out of control.
I never liked that approach, nor did it ever make sense to me that a system as brilliant as the human immune system could suddenly get “stupid” and start attacking the body indiscriminately. What made more sense was that the system had become overwhelmed and overtaxed somehow, and like anything that has too much on its plate, it couldn’t keep up and started making some errors.
Not only was this a theory that made sense, it was borne out in clinical practice with patients. We were so successful with this model that we included it in our first book, The Gluten Effect, published in 2009. There were some “attacks” that came in regarding a lack of corroboration from the research community, to which we responded we were sharing our clinical experience, not stating we were researchers. However, our exact model has since been substantiated in research and of late more data has emerged supporting our approach.
Since more and more individuals are suffering from autoimmune disease than ever before, increased awareness is crucial.
Why has incidence increased so dramatically? Our environment has created a greater stress load on our immune system, resulting in the overtaxed situation I mentioned above. Autoimmune disease does have a genetic component, but alterations in genes take a very long time, the dramatic increased incidence cannot be explained through genetics. Therefore it is agreed that the culprit is our unhealthy environment in the form of poor diet, drugs, toxins, etc. But that doesn’t mean help is out of reach.
Let’s get down to specifics:
- Where is the human immune system?
Seventy to 80% of your immune system is housed in your gut. Therefore, any foods, chemicals, or drugs you ingest to which you have a negative reaction, put a burden on your immune system.
- How does autoimmunity get created?
Initially the immune system is performing its job correctly. It is attacking a true foreign invader. It may be an infectious organism or a food that the body cannot tolerate, such as gluten. The continued presence of the invader, food or drug, weakens the immune system. Secondarily, damage is created to the lining of the gut, where the immune system is attempting to annihilate the “bad guy” and this creates a leaky gut.
- How does leaky gut fit into autoimmunity?
The leaky gut allows organisms and partially digested food to escape the gut out into the bloodstream. Seventy to 80% of the immune system is in the gut, but a percentage is also located out in the bloodstream. Due to the leakiness, immune cells in the blood are now barraged by hostile organisms and partially digested food particles, all labeled as “bad” because they never should have been allowed to leave the gut.
Note: even a perfect food such as organic kale, if only partially digested, is not recognized as healthy by the bloodstream. This is why full and complete digestion must occur before a food “leaves” the gut and travels out to the blood. Our digestive tract is designed this way, but in the presence of a leaky gut, this process is compromised as food “falls through” the gaps of the intestinal lining prematurely, before full digestion has occurred.
Once the organisms and large food particles enter the bloodstream, the immune system attacks them. Again, due to the leakiness, the immune system is barraged, constantly, by such items. It doesn’t take long for the immune system to weaken. It simply is not designed to be attacked so constantly. But it doesn’t go down easily – it’s designed to defend and it does so. In fact, it gets so riled up and so hypervigilant that it begins to make errors. Just as anyone who is overtired and overstressed would make a mistake, your immune system is no different.
- Why does the immune system attack your body’s organs?
In its overtaxed state the immune system revs itself up to a frenzy. It’s being attacked constantly and it responds as well as it can. In a situation called “molecular mimicry” the immune system, in full attack mode, mistakes something that looks very similar to the bad guy it’s been legitimately attacking (remember, it’s typically an infectious organism or a food reaction).
Imagine a perfect square – that square will represent the protein structure of the bad guy your immune system has been attacking, correctly. Now imagine just the tiniest corner removed from the top right of the square. It’s a very, very subtle alteration. That slightly altered square represents the protein structure of your thyroid.
Note: why protein? The immune system predominantly attacks and reacts to the protein portion of a food or organism. Think about gluten – it’s a protein. And of course, our human bodies are loaded with a variety of proteins.
Due to the immune system’s overtaxed and hypervigilant state, it confuses the thyroid protein, which recall is very, very similar to the legitimate bad guy, and therefore begins attacking it. The attack on your thyroid begins because your overstressed immune system confuses a protein in your thyroid for the protein of the bad guy. That’s why it’s called molecular mimicry, and it is well established as the initiator of autoimmune disease.
Once the attack on the thyroid protein begins, it continues. Ultimately that person will be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common autoimmune disease in our country with close to 4.5 million sufferers, most of whom are women.
Why does traditional medicine actually ignore the presence of the most common autoimmune disease in our country? This is a phenomena that our team has been discussing of late. Repeatedly we have met patients who have sought out our root cause medical care because they are receiving no treatment for their autoimmune disease.
The reasoning behind traditional medicine’s lack of treatment is that despite the presence of autoantibodies that indicate the immune system is indeed attacking the thyroid, thyroid function can be relatively normal. Due to that, no treatment is offered.
What’s wrong with ignoring the presence of autoimmune disease? There are several issues to consider:
- An individual with one autoimmune disease is approximately 5 times more likely to develop another. That of course makes sense if you don’t address the root cause of the problem, it will continue.
- A thyroid, in this example, that is being attacked will obviously not continue functioning normally forever. Instead of waiting until it’s diseased to the point that too much damage has occurred, it only makes sense to get to the root cause of the autoimmunity and handle it in its earliest stages.
- The legitimate “bad guy”, be it an infection or food, needs to be eradicated to give the immune system a well deserved break.
- A potential outcome of an overtaxed immune system is also cancer. The immune system is so overwhelmed that it cannot perform its standard day-to-day functions which include killing cancer cells and other infectious agents.
- A leaky gut, one of the root causes of autoimmune disease, must too be addressed to prevent the continuation of the problem.
Treatment and Reversal of Autoimmune Disease
While there are no guarantees, we have excellent success treating, and in many cases reversing, autoimmune disease. Some of our best success stories have been with Hashimoto’s and rheumatoid arthritis, the two most common autoimmune diseases, but we also have excellent success with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and others.
What is our treatment?
As you’ve likely gleaned, eliminating the presence of the original stressor, the infection or food, is vital. Remember that was what began the whole process – the immune system was just trying to do its job. Take the stressor out of the equation and you’ve taken a large burden off the immune system.
Next you must heal the leaky gut. Without this step, organisms and partially digested food continue to barrage the bloodstream and that must be stopped.
Hormonal imbalance if present must be dealt with.
Last the immune system must be rebuilt and strengthened.
If there are obstacles in achieving success with healing the gut or strengthening the immune system, a factor has been missed that continues to stress the immune system and weaken – it must be identified. We have tests that allow us to do this plus our decades of experience assist us in knowing where to look.
It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? In truth it’s not difficult; it just doesn’t involve taking a pill, and it does involve some lifestyle and dietary changes on the part of the patient.
Our success rate is dependent on how much damage has occurred. At the very least, taking the above steps can prevent the development of future autoimmune diseases. At the very best, as mentioned earlier, we see reversal of the condition.
I realize this flies in the face of what you will hear from any immunologist, gastroenterologist or endocrinologist. Honestly, I don’t care. I’ve grown weary of traditional doctors who maintain there is no cure, there is no cause (“some people are just unlucky and it runs in the family”) and the only “treatment” is destroying someone’s immune system, opening them up to a high risk of dying from infection or cancer. It’s just not true, and there is ample evidence to support the views in this article.
Many, women especially, as they develop autoimmunity about three times as often as men, continue to suffer with chronic symptoms creating major impact on their life and well being with no diagnosis. As much as autoimmune disease has increased in frequency, many suffering never receive a diagnosis.
Do you suffer from autoimmune disease or wonder if you do? Do you know someone who does? Please share this information.
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To reclaiming your best health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”