Autoimmune Disorders

A Discussion of Causes and Natural Support

Autoimmune disorders are conditions caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the very same body it was designed to protect. In autoimmune disorders, the immune system, an intricate and amazing defense mechanism of the body, somehow becomes misguided. The effect is the physical equivalent of “friendly fire,” but the results are far from benign or friendly.

Diseases Caused by Autoimmunity

Disease Affected Organ or Tissue Addison’s disease adrenal gland Asthma (many) air passages Atopic dermatitis skin Autoimmune hemolytic anemia red blood cell membranes Chronic active hepatitis liver Crohn’s disease GI tract Glomerulonephritis kidney Goodpasture’s syndrome kidney and lung Grave’s disease thyroid Hashimoto’s thyroiditis thyroid Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura platelets Insulin-dependent diabetes (Type I) pancreatic beta cells Multiple sclerosis brain and spinal cord Myasthenia gravis nerve and muscle synapses Pemphigus/pemphigoid skin Pernicious anemia gastric parietal cells Psoriasis skin Rheumatoid arthritis connective tissue Scleroderma heart, lungs, GI tract, kidney Sjogren’s syndrome liver, kidney, brain, thyroid, salivary glands Spontaneous infertility sperm Systemic lupus erythromatosis (SLE) DNA, platelets Vitiligo melanocytes

Autoimmune disorders can effect other organs and tissues, causing inflammation and degenerative changes in virtually any tissue in the body.

Although the symptoms of autoimmune disease vary, the underlying problem is the same. Normally, the body is able to distinguish between “self” and “non-self.” In autoimmune disorders, the immune system makes antibodies against “self” tissue and actually begins attacking “self.” Often, the attack against “self” progresses to such a degree as to cause tissue injury.

Causes of Autoimmune Disease

A number of different factors can cause autoimmune disease. Foreign antigens (substances not native to the body that trigger immune reactions) can trigger an autoimmune response. Such substances include drugs, heavy metals (found in cigarette smoke, drinking water, polluted air, food, etc), bacteria, viruses and vaccines. Infections and allergies (especially food allergies) are thought to play a major role. Nutritional deficiencies can  weaken the immune system and render it less able to defend the host against foreign “invasion.” Food allergies and sensitivities, an overgrowth of yeast or other non-native “bugs” in the intestinal tract, emotional distress (dis-stress)— in fact, anything that weakens and therefore alters immune system function can be a factor in causing autoimmune disease. Sometimes  genetic weakness appears to play a role.

Conventional Medicine Treatment of Autoimmune Disease

Conventional medicine treats autoimmune disorders by managing the symptoms and/or suppressing immune function. Suppression of the immune system with corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs can offer relief during and acute crisis, but they do not help correct the underlying cause of the problem. Many of these medications are quite toxic and cause further deterioration of the immune system.

Anti-inflammatory agents are also used to treat symptoms but they, too, do not contribute to cure. In fact, conventional medicine makes no attempt to cure autoimmune diseases, only to keep them in remission. The long-term prognosis is often a gradual worsening of the condition, usually marked by exacerbations (“flare-ups”) and remissions.

Natural Medicine Treatment of Autoimmune Disease

Since autoimmune diseases are caused by auto-antibodies, the question to ask is, “What is causing this person to make auto-antibodies?” Most natural medicine experts believe that autoantibodies are produced in response to an infection or allergen. When the offending infection(s) or allergen(s) is removed, production of these destructive autoantibodies stops.

With such a number of potential causative factors, evaluating the “particulars” of each individual case is important.  For this reason, a personal telephone consultation with Dr. Myatt is highly recommended.

There is still good news for sufferers of autoimmune disorders. Many factors that contribute to this problem can be identified and changed, thereby altering the course of the disease. By discontinuing sources of possible toxicity, improving nutritional status, strengthening the immune system and managing emotional stress in a productive way, there is much that can be done for autoimmune diseases. Even for people who may have a genetic weakness that predisposes to autoimmune disease, suffering is not inevitable. Most inborn weaknesses can be compensated for by healthful lifestyle and dietary practices. Dramatic improvements are possible for those who are willing to use health-promoting lifestyle changes and strategies!

Diet And Lifestyle Recommendations

Food allergies and/or sensitivities are felt to be a major factor in most autoimmune cases. Although many types of food allergy testing are available, most are not reliable. There is only one laboratory that I use and recommend for food allergy testing. Although the testing is not inexpensive, the results are invaluable for those with any autoimmune condition.

Primary Support

  • Maxi Multi: 3 caps, 3 times per day with meals. This daily “multiple” contains high potency antioxidants. If you use another formula, be sure to use only those that are hypoallergenic, since additives in vitamin supplements can cause reactions.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids:
    Flax seed meal
    , 2 teaspoons per day with food
    Flax seed capsules: 2-4 caps, 3 times per day (target dose range: 6-12 caps per day)
    Flax seed oil: 1 tablespoon per day
    Max EPA (Omega-3 rich fish oil): 1-2 caps, 3 times per day with meals (target dose: 3-6 caps per day).An imbalance of Omega 6: Omega 3 fatty acid ratios, common in the American diet, leads to hypersensitivity and excess inflammation. Increasing Omega-3 fatty acid intake decreases the tendency to inflammation and “hyper” immune reactions.
  • Similase: 1-2 caps, 3 times per day with meals. This digestive enzyme formula improves digestion and absorption of foods. It is known that incomplete protein digestion can trigger allergies, especially those that are food-related.
  • COX-2-Support: 3 caps, 1-2 times per day between meals. This is an all-natural, safe, effective herbal formula for normalizing inflammatory response.

Additional Support

  • DHEA: Low levels of DHEA are seen in many of the autoimmune diseases, and higher daily intake of DHEA is associated with improvement of symptoms in many. A typical daily dose of DHEA for autoimmunity would be 50-200mg per day. However, since DHEA is a hormone, doses in excess of 50mg per day should be supervised by a physician. A male hormone profile or female hormone profile which includes evaluation of DHEA should be performed at the beginning of treatment to monitor hormone levels.
  • Grape Seed Extract: 1 cap, 3 times per day with meals. (Target dose: 150-300mg daily). Grape seed extract acts as a natural anti-histamine with a more immediate effect than vitamin C. It is also a potent antioxidant.