‘Well, whatever you do, your kidneys’ health will deteriorate. In a few years, you’ll need to start dialysis.’
Two years later, the rheumatologist’s words still resonate painfully in my ears. And the extremely brief, yet intense, look of despair in my father’s eyes will forever break my heart and make me furious at the same time.
That night, as I was driving back home from the doctor’s office, I took a deep breath and told my dad not to start the immunosuppressant prescribed by the physician. And my dad became the very first patient I walked through the autoimmune Paleo diet. Not only are his kidneys working much better but he is no longer taking any medications and has managed to lose 30cm2 of fat around his organs!
If you have an autoimmune disease, before you opt for pills, you might want to try the autoimmune Paleo lifestyle – it has done wonders for many of my patients. In this article, I will outline the protocol (diet, lifestyle and supplements) that can help you get your symptoms under remission.
Autoimmune diseases – When your body betrays you
The role of the immune system is to detect and attack foreign invaders by using antibodies to recognize specific proteins (antigens) in foreign cells. However, in some individuals, the body accidentally produces antibodies that target the body’s own cells – these are known as autoantibodies.
The good news is that the body has a natural backup system to get rid of cells that produce autoantibodies. But the unpleasant news is that, if this system fails, the immune system will be stimulated to attack, not only foreign proteins but the body’s own proteins as well. Symptoms of autoimmune diseases will start showing up once the immune system has caused enough damage to the cells.
- Alopecia (spot baldness)
- Arthritis – any type
- Celiac disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Grave’s disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Lichen planus
- Multiple sclerosis
- Pernicious anaemia
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Type 1 diabetes
You may have noticed that the above (non-exhaustive) list is very broad. Well, that’s because the nature of the autoimmune disease will depend on which proteins or cells are being attacked. For example, in arthritis, the tissues of the joints are attacked whereas, in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the immune system targets the thyroid. And of course, the symptoms will vary depending on where the damage occurs.
We still don’t know exactly why or how individuals develop these diseases but key factors include:
- A genetic susceptibility – different family members can develop various types of autoimmune disease.
- Environmental triggers – these include exposure to chemicals, heavy metals like mercury, pollutants, mycotoxins from molds, and hormones as well as different types of infections like Candida.
- Diet and lifestyle habits that increase intestinal permeability (also known as a ‘leaky gut’).
How are autoimmune diseases diagnosed?
Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases are difficult to diagnose until they have progressed to the point where the symptoms are severe, predictable and fall into a pattern that is consistent with a particular autoimmune disease. However, your medical history, physical exams, biopsies, blood tests and radiography results can help towards a diagnosis.
Tests that can help diagnose an autoimmune disorder
No single blood test can definitively determine that you have an autoimmune disease. Instead, an array of tests is usually needed. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine which of the following tests you would benefit from doing:
- Antinuclear antibodies
- Secretory IgA antibodies
- Complete blood count – you can also do a CBC with differential
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- Hormone levels
- Deficiencies of micronutrients
- Organ function
Is there a cure for autoimmune diseases?
Short answer: No (but there’s a solution).
The truth is that, once your body has learned to attack itself, it just won’t forget how to do that. And this is why the medical establishment considers autoimmune diseases as a life sentence. So, if you see a conventional doctor, your treatment, or management protocol, will typically include:
- Hormone replacement if you have a disease which causes hormone deficiency. Examples include type 1 diabetes and hypothyroidism.
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, suppress the immune system. These are prescribed when the body becomes cortisol-resistant, and the immune system is in overdrive.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, which are often prescribed to very sick patients.
Why not simply take these medications?
Because they don’t address the root cause of your disease. These drugs only mask your symptoms but may end up causing more harm:
- Although corticosteroids can be life-saving, their main use is to relieve symptoms. While corticosteroids do reduce inflammation and immune activation, they also hinder healing. And once you get off these drugs, symptoms often come back with a vengeance as your body is now even more cortisol-resistant. Moreover, these drugs come with loads of unwanted side effects such as weight gain, appetite stimulation, sleep issues and can zap your energy levels. And all of these side effects have serious adverse effects on gut health.
- Even at low doses, DMARDs have been found to increase intestinal permeability and may cause liver injury as well as diarrhea and vomiting. Besides being linked to higher risks of infection and a greater vulnerability to developing cancer, DMARDs can also cause autoimmune diseases such as SLE, myasthenia gravis, and Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome as side effects!
Important note: Do not attempt to stop these medications on your own. It is imperative that you do so under medical guidance.
So what is the solution?
Although there is no cure for autoimmune diseases, you can stop your disease from progressing and put your symptoms into total remission for the rest of your life! Wondering how? Simple: work with a healthcare practitioner who will help you apply the principles of the autoimmune Paleo lifestyle (outlined below).
I won’t sugar-coat it
If you truly want to put your symptoms into remission, only changing what you eat will not be effective. You NEED to practice a healthy lifestyle as well.
Want to be symptom-free? Review your lifestyle.
1. Get enough quality sleep.
Did you know that not getting quality sleep for only three nights or going 40 hours without sleep can lead to increased inflammation and an overly stimulated immune system?
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