Over the last few months, we’ve been paying particular attention to your body’s built-in defense systems, both here on “Wellness Wednesday” and at the monthly Fundamental Foods Dinners we hold at my office. I believe there’s an epidemic growing in our nation, where people are being overtaken by diseases modern medicine can’t cure, and our only defense is to teach people how to protect themselves…from the inside out.
What diseases am I referring to?
Quiet But Dangerous
I’m not talking about the big names, like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. They get a lot of press, but 24 million people are suffering from diseases that don’t have $2 Billion foundations associated with them, even though they are just as dangerous as the others.
“Autoimmune Disorders” is a catch-all title for over 80 different maladies, where your body attacks itself instead of fighting off infections. You may know them better by names like:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Chron’s Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Gillian-Barre Syndrome
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Multiple Sclerosis
If this list looks familiar, it’s because it’s almost the same list I shared in my articles on inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s natural cellular defense against foreign invaders; autoimmune disease is a case of the immune system going rogue and attacking the cells it is designed to protect. We’ve talked about this in more detail before. In many cases, the symptoms are as innocuous as diarrhea, irritability, fatigue, and dry skin. Others can put you in a wheelchair, destroy your skin, or worse.
What complicates treatment is that it looks like a disease of an individual organ, so it is natural to want to treat that affected organ. Rheumatologists treat rheumatoid arthritis, dermatologists treat psoriasis, and so on.
Most medical websites will tell you the same thing: autoimmune diseases have no known cause and no known cure, they are passed through families (especially among women), and your best bet is to treat the symptoms as best you can. The best treatments known at this time suppress the immune system.
That’s why I don’t spend much time reading most medical websites. I want to find a cause and a cure.
Fortunately, autoimmune diseases have overplayed their hand, and the holistic health community is recognizing the patterns in their attack. I want to share with you a couple of simple things you can do to prevent autoimmune disease and its gang of thugs from overtaking any part of your body.
Keep (or Restore) A Healthy Gut
First of all, you need to rebuild and reinforce your immune system, and over half of your immune system lives in your gut. The trillions of cells known as the gut flora, is a living, intelligent bacterial colony that not only digests your food, it identifies, isolates, and removes toxins from your whole body. This is why I spend so much time on my blog hammering home the importance of a healthy gut.
The Standard American Diet, with its sugars, processed grains, and pesticides, wreaks havoc on your gut, day after day. Sadly, most people don’t make the connection between their diet and their health. Blame the marketing, blame the schools, blame the medical profession…ultimately, you are responsible for making the best choices with the information you have available to you.
At the center of the attack is gluten. Researchers hold different opinions about why this is true, but gluten is a major contributor to leaky gut. When the lining of your gut is compromised, it allows undigested food particles, microbes, and toxins, to leech out of your gut and enter your bloodstream. Your immune system recognizes them all as foreign invaders, and launches an all-out assault to fight them off. When that defensive assault goes crazy, it begins attacking healthy cells in the surrounding organs.
When I work with patients who present with brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, constipation, and other “red flag” symptoms, I often start them on a 28-day detox that clears from their systems the foods that typically cause allergic reactions, and gluten is the first target. We remove all the breads and grains, dairy products, legumes, and other food groups typically associated with food allergies. The best way to put out a fire is to stop pouring gasoline on it. In the same way, the best way to heal your gut is to remove the foods that irritate it, and that might include foods you love.
Over the 28 days, we gradually return things to their diet and look for reactions. I have patients who will never eat bread, pasta, potatoes, peppers, or ice cream again…and they are HAPPY about it. They remember how they used to feel, and they never want to go back to that pain.
Clear Out Toxins
In some cases, patients who have had viral or bacterial infections, like E. coli, need extra time to heal. Patients with amalgam fillings often take a little longer to heal, as well. People don’t realize this, but the mercury in those fillings leeches into your blood stream over time, especially after they have been in your mouth for a few years, and it is poisonous.
Manage Your Stress
One thing I urge all of my patients to do is to manage their stress. Now, I’m as guilty as the next guy, always pressing to accomplish more in my life, but we all need to give our bodies (and our minds) real rest. Not just sleep – I mean rest from pressure, stress, and anxiety. This isn’t a nice idea – for some people, it is a matter of life and death. Your organs need to relax, especially your heart. When you are stressed out, your immune system stays on DefCon 3, and your endocrine system continually pumps out adrenaline and cortisol. Those are great neurotransmitters to have working in your body in short bursts when you need them, but it you don’t shut off the faucet, they will burn your organs like battery acid.
To manage my stress, I like to exercise (I included my favorites in my “Move Right Monday” video series). Exercise is an amazing stress reliever and detoxifier, flushing toxins out through your sweat glands. I also like to pray and read my Bible. It helps me to realize that I am not the one with all the answers, and I don’t have to be.
Come and Learn More
There is so much more I can say here, but I encourage you to dig into the links I’ve peppered throughout this article, where you can find more information on specific topics we’ve covered here. If you live in the Naples area, be sure to join me for my next Fundamental Foods Night at my office in Naples. Thursday, April 13th, we’ll start at 6:30 p.m. Bring a dish to share or $10 cash and get ready for a deep-dive study of how you can protect yourself from autoimmune diseases. I really think you’ll enjoy it. You can RSVP through our Facebook page.
Also, if you have a friend who is struggling with health issues they can’t seem to pin down, consider sharing this article with them. It might help them to answer some nagging questions, or at least send them down a path of learning.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas