What is Autoimmune disease?
Our body has an immune system, which acts as a line of defense against pathogens, microbes, bacteria or viruses entering our system through various routes. It is like our internal army, which attacks the invaders and protects us. Autoimmunity develops when the internal defense system that fights any infection, allergen or toxin goes awry and starts attacking its own tissues like joints, glands and skin in the body.
Major causes of Autoimmune Disorders
Treatment offered by conventional medicine system:
Steroids: For suppressing the immune system
NSAID (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs): For suppressing the inflammation and pain
Anti Rheumatic Drugs: Interfere with DNA and cell replication
But this kind of treatment comes at a cost that on a myriad of side effects such as depression, mood swings, hair fall, dry skin, weight gain, bloating, constipation, sweating, metallic taste in mouth, loss of appetite, swelling, bloating, abnormality in lipid profile, high liver enzymes, iron deficiency, folic acid deficiency etc. There is actually an endless list you can’t imagine! The main goal of conventional treatment is to suppress the inflammation with medication.
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE & AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS
Functional medicine takes an altogether different approach towards disease. It is a branch of medicine that helps us to understand and treat the real causes of inflammation rather than finding clever ways to shut it down.
Autoimmune diseases are usually accompanied by systemic inflammation. The first and foremost step is to identify the actual & root cause of inflammation. The underlying causes include stress, hidden infection, food allergies, toxic exposure, genetic predisposition, nutrient deficiencies, and leaky gut.
Approach to Auto-immune diseases through Functional Medicine
Finding the under lying cause of autoimmune condition
Removing any kind of chronic infectious agent
Removing any kind of food allergens through elimination diet
Repairing the intestinal barrier and supporting digestive functions
Re-inoculating healthy microbes into the gastro intestinal tract
Supporting the body’s immune system with nutritional supplements like vitamins and minerals essential for optimal functioning of the immune system
Suppressing the overactive immune system by balancing Th1 and Th2 response
Lifestyle modification such as yoga and meditation
Rheumatoid Arthritis Case History
Maya, aged 35 was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis since 5 years and was regularly on steroids, pain killers and antacids. Her health was deteriorating day by day. When she came to me she complained of extreme hair loss, morning sickness and constipation. She was not feeling to have breakfast and was also suffering from extreme fatigue and mild depression.
We had a detailed discussion about all her problems. After consultation I came to know that she had a history of continuous migraine and headaches for which she used to take painkillers at least 3-4 times per week (such as paracetamol) for a period of 10 years. She also told that she was having antibiotics at least twice or thrice a year due to recurrent urine and throat infections. Maya was a strict vegetarian throughout her life. She got married at the age of 25 and faced many depressing events in her life after marriage. Three years after marriage she gave birth to a baby girl. But post delivery she started experiencing health and sleep disorders. At the age of thirty she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Maybe this must have provoked her to go on a typical diet in which she would have bread in the morning, rice at lunch and chapatis for dinner. She was Maya admits that she had a craving for yeast containing foods, cheese and bread. Binge eating was another problem she complained of (maybe due to fluctuating sugar levels).
What Nutritional Assessment and Comprehensive Stool Analysis showed?
After thorough analysis of Maya’s problems, we came to a conclusion that her body was extremely inflamed, which was further confirmed by the high hsCRP levels (optimal levels < 1).
Nutritional assessment questionnaire confirmed about possibility of leaky gut syndrome (due to the extensive use of paracetamol as pain killers damage the intestinal barrier) and antibiotics (kill the friendly flora also).
She was also suspected of SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) because of the over use of antacid as it suppressed the production of HCL in stomach. We then asked her to go for a comprehensive stool analysis test and the result was synonymous to what we had expected. Maya was suffering from yeast overgrowth (candida) and undergrowth of beneficial bacteria, especially lactobacillus. She was also diagnosed with growth of pathogenic bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae.
How we managed her condition through functional medicine?
We started Maya’s protocol by putting her on an elimination diet – by removing all the 7 known food allergens. Gluten is a proven causative food allergen in most cases of autoimmune conditions. We put her on anti fungal and antibacterial treatment and gave her nutrients such as Vitamin D, A, zinc, B12, Omega 3 to support her immune system which were found out of normal range (all of them support immune functions) in blood tests
And the result was…
After a gap of one month we had an appointment again and this time Maya reported that her pain had gone down by more than 50% and that she was feeling much better than before. She gladly informed us that she was relieved of persistent gastric problems and excessive hair fall. We were extremely happy to know that she had stopped taking antacids and slept properly for about 7- 8 hours every day.
Next step …..Gut Restoration Protocol
After removing all kinds of infections from her intestine, we started gut restoration protocol to improve her digestion as 80% of immune function is regulated by our digestive tract. So it is very important to restore all digestive functions and reintroduce the right kind of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract with the help of fermented foods or probiotic supplements. Here, we used Zinc and glutamine to repair the intestinal barrier. To get her off painkillers we gave her herbs like Boswellia and Curcumin that had anti inflammatory properties, and to replace the steroids we supported her adrenal glands with herbs like rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha and nutrients like vitamin C and B5.
“Here we would like to stress that we did not treat the patient’s rheumatoid arthritis but the underlying cause of her disease, which was directly related to autoimmune disorders”.