Auto-Immune Diseases- Help the Immune System Function Properly
People often come to me for help in treating auto-immune conditions, since there are very few pharmaceutical options that help and most of them have many side effects. An auto-immune condition means the immune system is over-reacting against the bodies’ own proteins somewhere in the system.
There are more than eighty illnesses caused by auto-immunity, which are often chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening and they have been estimated to being among the ten leading causes of death among women in all age groups. Some of these are: alopecia, pancreatitis, vasculitis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, polymyositis, pemphigus, hepatitis, uveitis, celiac disease, Grave’s disease, Guillain barre, Hashimoto’s thryoiditis, lupus, myasthenia gravis, sjogren’s and arteritis.
There are many reasons why the immune system may have started over-reacting. It may have been preceded by a viral or bacterial infection, an extended period of stress that was not being managed well, over-indulgence in alcohol, drugs, poor food choices and/or beverages or a lack of nutrients for the immune system to function properly.
The first step is eat foods that stabilize the immune system and encourage it to function properly. Bioflavinoids, which give fruit and vegetables their dark colour, are very important for this. Therefore, it is essential to add dark green leafy vegetables to your soups, stir-fries or stews, such as collards, swiss chard, kale, cilantro, parsley or beet tops and berries, cherries, plums or prunes to your fruit salad or smoothies. Not only do they add bioflavinoids, but, they are alkalinizing, so, you detoxify much more effectively.
When your system removes toxins, metabolites and breakdown products efficiently, it minimizes the load. This minimizes an over-reaction from the immune system, since there is very little for it to react to and therefore settles nicely. Increasing seeds and fish, by replacing pork or beef helps, since these decrease inflammation and lessen the load on the immune system and minimize a histamine response. Testing for food allergies or sensitivities in an important step in the process. This maximizes the foods that benefit the immune system and help it function properly. Obviously, you want to remove processed, packaged foods due to all the chemicals and switch to herbal teas, like blueberry or raspberry. They have bioflavinoids and do not contain stimulants and are not acidic like coffee, tea, herba mate, honeybush, rooibos, Redbull or any other stimulant.
The second step is adding nutrients that help the immune system function properly. It is similar to an underfed child, if they do not have the nutrients to function efficiently, they tend to over-react to situations and the immune system is similar. If it is well fed, it will be able to handle metabolites and breakdown products much more effectively and remove them from the system, so, never getting over-whelmed and thus, less reactive.
The main bioflavinoid that re-establishes the balance of the immune system is Vitamin C in a non-acidic form, like an organic corn, berry or tapioca source. I have folks start at ¼ tsp or 1 capsule (about 1000 mg) and increase it every day until the person feels too rumbly or has loose stools. That is an indicator that there is enough in the body, so, decrease by ¼ tsp or 1 capsule and continue at that level until the same symptoms occur and reduce the amount again. If there are no symptoms, then stay at that level. Don’t be surprised if the beginning amount is fairly high.
A mixed bioflavinoid could also be used. I often add quercitin, sterols, apple pectin and chlorella. They all decrease the reaction of the immune system to any irritant. I will also add support to liver and kidney function, so, that elimination is maximized. Lipoic acid, methionine, cysteine all aid the liver in the breakdown of metabolites. Herbs can also be used for this, such as milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock, yellow dock, cleavers and nettles.
Thirdly, I will build up the good bacteria in the body. Our intestines, where most of the research has been focused, are home to about 500 species, or billions of living bacteria- 10 times the number of cells in our bodies. There is an interaction between our cells and the intestinal bacteria and about 75% of the immune cells of the body are in and around the intestines. The more helpers the immune system has, the less it over-reacts. So, a high quality enteric coated probiotic capsule with about 60 billion live bacteria is essential to the re-building of the immune system. A baby that did not have a vaginal delivery or was not breastfed or any adult who has been on antibiotics or immune suppressants like cortico-steroids, will be deficient in good bacteria.
Lastly, addressing any mental, emotional or physical stressors is important. Whether that is counselling, meditation, physical activity or yoga, handling life’s constant stressors minimizes cortisol, which suppresses immune function.
So, you can see there are many strategies that are effective in re-balancing the immune system.
Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.