An Autoimmune Protocol
We are hearing the use of this word a lot when it comes to disease. Simply explained, it’s when the immune system loses its ability to protect you, and instead becomes your enemy and attacks you. This may seem like a very loose definition, but it will conjure up an image of what really unfolds. The immune barrier is really your entire gut, most people don’t understand what is the gut, where it starts and where it ends. The gut is this long tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. It is the house of what we call microbiota or the tiny microorganisms, these we first pick up when we are born. We are born pure, unfettered, without any contamination. But did you know that the moment you exit the birth canal, you start picking up the microbes from your environment. As Raphael Kellman says in The Microbiome Diet, ‘You become 90 percent microbe’. If we look at ourselves, we are 10 percent human and 90 percent microbes. The health of this ecosystem is extremely important when we are talking about your autoimmune health.
The Immune Barrier: Your Gut
Think of your immune system as the gatekeeper to your health. It protects you against external pathogens, parasites, viruses and most of all disease. Your immune system is further classified into the innate immune system and adaptive immune system. If you have a cut, bruise or injury, your innate immune system kicks in. The adaptive immune system has its own memory and remembers past injuries. When your system is attacked repeatedly by a host of bad microorganisms, your innate and adaptive immune systems have to keep getting into gear, which overtaxes them. Now while fighting these invaders, antibodies (basically proteins created in response to driving harmful pathogens out) are created by the immune system. To protect you, the antibodies attack healthy cell tissue as well—creating a state of chaos within the body. Let’s look at the biggest autoimmune ailment facing us today—malfunction of the thyroid. Like a garbage truck that comes in to collect garbage, the antibodies clean up good and bad cell tissues of the thyroid, causing the body to switch to an autoimmune state. Hence, prolonged imbalance of microbes in the gut will eventually leads to an autoimmune state.
Autoimmune conditions do not just come on suddenly; they creep up over time. It is my belief that acute stress over a prolonged period of time will eventually cause you to get there as well. The body will throw you signals, much ahead of you being hit with an autoimmune condition. Typically, these are: constant allergies, headaches, skin issues, asthma, dryness in throat or mouth, thyroid, pain in joints or tissues, irritable bowel disorder, chronic fatigue, thyroid (hypo or hyper) and are the most common ones known to us: Rheumatoid arthritis, Graves disease associated with hyperthryroid, hashimoto’s disease associated with hypothyroid, lupus, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondilitis, type 1 diabetes, alopecia, sjogren’s syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, eczema, myasthenia gravis, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and sarcoidosis (some of them).
Inflammation and autoimmune disease
A common thread among the people who suffer with an autoimmune condition is that it is accompanied with Inflammation. If I told you to close your eyes, and think of inflammation – do it as we speak – what comes to your mind? This is what my mind will conjure: redness, swelling, rawness, pain and infection. Even if you thought of two of the aspects I listed, then we are on the same page. Inflammation is the body’s coping mechanism to outside elements that it cannot assimilate or recognize. So now imagine all that I had told you to visualize happening to someone inside their body over time. This then turns into systemic inflammation. Modern medicine has recently started recognizing the correlation between systemic inflammation and disease. You could have varying degrees of inflammation, and in many ways, the Macrobiotic diet by controlling certain factors i.e., bringing in the balance of yin and yang helps keep the body’s inflammatory response under check.
One of my patients, Arshiya came to me for her psoriasis. She had been everywhere for a cure. First of course, the traditional route of allopathy; they gave her drugs and topical creams which suppressed the condition only temporarily. She never knew that diet had a deep connection and was a precursor to her condition and the only way to get rid of her psoriasis completely. She showed me her skin, which was in bad shape. She had the prettiest face, but she was shamed of her patches. She also complained of constipation, and a diagnosis revealed that she was depleted of the good microbes in her gut. She did have a leaky gut, which had laid the foundation for a lifelong system of inflammation. It had led her to this autoimmune state of psoriasis.
What is leaky gut?
So what essentially is Leaky Gut Syndrome? Our intestinal lining is slightly permeable; in that, it usually does not allow for any seepage, but very minute escaping of nutrients and water to escape the barrier of the gut. This happens as a normal part of the digestion process. Sometime this permeability becomes more porous– allowing toxins to escape as well, directly into the blood stream, causing a host of issues. An overgrowth of bad microorganisms (dysbiosis) an cause the outer lining of the intestines to become porous by eating into the mucous lining of the wall of the intestines. In a healthy gut, the so-called cells are packed well together to prevent seepage of any kind. However, in a gut that is out of balance, this doesn’t happen and the joints between these mucosal cells give way, as explained earlier, there is a loosening of the ‘tight junctions’ (TJ) in of the cells of the intestinal lining, causing a leaky gut and bad microbes, nutrients, and dangerous pathogens let into your blood stream.
How do I help autoimmune conditions?
The first step is to help the immune system re-build itself again, by assisting it with the right foods. I do not believe in bombarding you with supplements right away, as the immune system needs to go back to its old memory of survival, which is relying on good solid nutrition to bounce back. A diet that is built upon nourishing gut bacteria, is essential and the key to turn things around.
The basic foods that get you out of an autoimmune state (all foods feed gut bacteria with the fibre in them)
- Complex carbohydrates are a good source of fibre, and also promotes smooth functioning of the digestive tract; ensuring proper waste elimination. Here, I cannot emphasize the necessity of whole grains from a brown/red rice to any good millet that really aids with the amounts of antioxidants and anti-aging benefits (brown rice alone has 70 anti-aging antioxidants).
- Good quality protein helps you stay satiated and repairs the collagen fibres in a leaky gut. Protein also maintains our muscles; your intestinal lining has muscle fibres; this means lean protein if you eat fish and meats and plant-based protein if you are a vegetarian/vegan. Excess protein (animal protein) is not good for your skin. We don’t want those pathways getting blocked we must maintain the quality of blood being clean and not toxic.
- Vegetables, which not only have good quality fibre; especially coloured vegetables that have plenty of beta carotene that converts to Vitamin A to repair skin (of the gut lining). Plus, leafy greens and green vegetables (also in the form of barley grass or wheat grass), these mimic the blood structure and are necessary for cleansing the blood and the much needed chlorophyll they provide.
- Fermented foods, serve a crucial part of any diet plan supplying good amounts of probiotics to nourish our guts. Foods like sauerkraut, quick pickles, non-dairy kefir, kimchi are highly recommended.
- Nuts and seeds bring in the trace minerals, good fats and oils that are needed.
- Fruits again provide a plethora of vitamins and antioxidants to help gut repair.
- Just the right amount of water or liquids as too much will loosen and expand our tissues, a lot of water comes from the foods you eat. An excess of liquids puts a pressure on the kidneys, bladder and sweat glands as well; making us tired over time. We need just enough, one way of measuring this is to ask ourselves: are we really thirsty?
- Adding sea vegetables like spirulina helps in detoxification, vitamins, protein, minerals and antioxidants.
- Top up the diet with turmeric and collagen from bone broth or a vegan source, to repair gut lining.
- If you come to me, then under my supervision I recommend a list of supplements as well which are non-invasive to help your condition stay away from flare-ups.