INFLAMMATION IS A “HOT” TOPIC IN MEDICINE. It appears connected to almost every known chronic disease — from heart disease to cancer, diabetes to obesity, autism to dementia, and even depression. Other inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune disease are increasing at dramatic rates. As physicians we are trained to shut off inflammation with aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Motrin, steroids and increasingly more powerful immune suppressing medication with serious side effects. But allopathic providers are not trained to find and treat the underlying causes of inflammation in chronic disease; which we’ll discuss later in this post.
Autoimmune diseases, specifically, now affect 24 million people and include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. These are often addressed by powerful immune suppressing medication and not by addressing the cause. That’s like taking a lot of aspirin while you are standing on a tack. The treatment is not more aspirin or a strong immune suppressant, but removing the tack.
If you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Treat the fire, not the smoke. In allopathic medicine they are mostly taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, NOT by their underlying cause. Functional medicine, the emerging 21st paradigm of systems medicine teaches us to treat the cause, not only the symptoms, to ask the question WHY are you sick, not only WHAT disease do you have.
Functional medicine is a different way of thinking about disease that helps us understand and treat the real causes of inflammation instead of finding clever ways to shut it down or suppress it. Allopathic medicine as it is practiced today is like taking the battery out of a smoke detector while a fire burns down your house! While this can definitely be needed and even be life saving in certain situations, it is not effective for HEALING chronic dis-eases.
Looking at autoimmune diseases at their root we can see they are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body mistakenly attacking its own tissues.
Your immune system is your defense against invaders. It is your internal army and has to clearly distinguish friend from foe — to know you from “other.” Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissues get caught in friendly cross-fire. Your body is fighting something — an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food or the stress response — and somehow it redirects its hostile attack on your joints, your brain, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body.
This immune confusion results from what is referred to as molecular mimicry. Conventional approaches don’t have a method for finding the insult causing the problem. Functional medicine provides a map to find out which molecule the cells are mimicking.
Unfortunately, many of the conventional treatments available can make you feel worse. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, steroids, immune suppressants like methotrexate, prednisone, and the new TNF-alpha blockers like Enbrel or Remicade can lead to intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, depression, psychosis, osteoporosis, muscle loss, and diabetes, not to mention overwhelming infection and cancer.(ii)
When used selectively these drugs can help people get their lives back. But they are not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be the end of treatment, but a bridge to cool off inflammation while we treat the root cause of the disease. There is another way to deal with autoimmune conditions….
Address the Root Cause of the Inflammation
If you have an autoimmune disease, here is what you need to think about and do.
1. Check for hidden infections — yeast, viruses, bacteria, Lyme, etc. — with the help of a FM doctor or other FM Practitioner, and treat them.
2. Check for hidden food allergens with IgG food testing. Two of the most common are dairy and gluten (the protein in wheat).
3. Get tested for celiac disease, which is a blood test that any doctor can do.
4. Get checked for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity.
5. Heal your gut. One of the common denominators between AI dis-eases is leaky gut
6. Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally.
7. Exercise regularly — it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.
8. Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.
9. Get deep sound sleep to allow the body to heal
Give these steps a try — and see if you don’t start feeling less inflamed. As I said earlier, the answers are right in front of you. Treat the underlying causes of your illness and you will begin to experience vibrant health once more.
Interested in beginning your healing journey? Watch our free Autoimmunity Recovery Masterclass!
(i) Nakazawa, D. (2008). The Autoimmune Epidemic. Simon & Schuster. New York.
(ii) Siegel, C.A., Marden, S.M., Persing, S.M., et al. (2009). Risk of lymphoma associated with combination anti-tumor necrosis factor and immunomodulator therapy for the treatment of Crohn’s