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A Ticking Lyme Bomb

Learn about the link between ticks, Lyme disease and autoimmune disease and how to protect yourself from this dangerous trio.

These itty bitty bugs climb out as cold weather fades. Particularly in woody, adventure-seeking communities like Colorado, people take to the outdoors (and so do the ticks!).

Ticks are No Treat

Ticks are tiny insects that attach themselves to the skin of animals and humans. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary, but they often include”:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • A distinctive rash known as erythema migrans

If Lyme disease is not treated, it can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. In some cases, Lyme disease can lead to an autoimmune condition. Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. This can occur in people with Lyme disease if the bacteria spreads to the liver and triggers an autoimmune response. In severe cases, autoimmunity can cause organ damage and even death. Lyme disease is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment. Ticks can also carry other diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis (Lyme co-infection), but Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in North America.

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, and they affect people of all ages. Lyme disease is a serious health problem and can lead to autoimmunity, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself from ticks and other insects that carry the disease. You should wear long pants and sleeves when you are outdoors in areas where ticks live. You should also use natural insect repellent (made with essential oils) on your skin and clothing. Be sure to check yourself and your pets for ticks after spending time outdoors, and remove any that are found promptly. 

How to Remove a Tick 

The CDC suggests:

It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry

It’s often very difficult to diagnose a Lyme infection. Many people live with undiagnosed symptoms for years before getting to the root cause. Lyme disease is best detected by a blood test, which looks for antibodies to the Lyme bacteria. The test can be performed using either a whole blood sample or a serum sample. Antibodies to Lyme disease are typically produced within 3-6 weeks of infection, so it is best to wait at least 6 weeks after possible exposure before getting tested. It’s important to get proper testing as not all tests are created equal. Lyme disease can also be detected using a urine test, but this is not as accurate as the blood test. Lyme disease is a serious infection that can cause a wide range of symptoms, so it is important to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to the bacteria.

All Testing is Not Created Equal

It is important to use the proper type of testing for Lyme. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing can detect the DNA of the Lyme disease bacteria and if you have an active case of Lyme disease or if you had Lyme in the past. Use of IgM testing is recommended during the first 30 days of infection, after which only IgG tests should be used. Research shows that current western blot testing has shortcomings, and PCR testing is more valid in determining an active infection.

Supporting Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a serious illness that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. While there is no cure for Lyme disease, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. By seeking out natural treatments and support, Lyme disease sufferers can take an active role in managing their illness and improving their wellbeing.

If you think you may have Lyme disease, it is important to see your practitioner as soon as possible. Call Dr. Autoimmune 303-882-8447 or click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page to find out more about how we can help.

ImmunoXym: The Best Way to Get the Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea has been used for centuries in Asia for its medicinal properties, and recent research has taught us that it may be an important tool for tackling autoimmunity. The extract from green tea has been shown to support T-regulatory cells, which help to suppress an overactive immune response and reduce inflammation. Sunphenon®, a decaffeinated and highly potent green tea extract, is a key ingredient in our proprietary supplement ImmunoXym that provides these benefits.

The Benefits

Green tea has been shown to have a number of health benefits thanks to its high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are antioxidants that help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Learn more about antioxidants, how they work, and another potent antioxidant in ImmunoXym here.

Green tea is also thermogenic, meaning it helps to boost metabolism and promote weight loss. In addition to all of this, green tea has been shown to protect against kidney damage, reduce risk of cancer, and control blood sugar levels. Simply put, green tea is a powerful tool for maintaining good health.

The Tea for T-Cells

According to research from Oregon State University, one of the beneficial compounds found in green tea has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease. Regulatory T cells (or “T-reg cells“) are a type of white blood cell that helps to keep the immune system in check, preventing it from overreacting and attacking healthy tissues. That’s why they are often referred to as the “police” of our immune system.

The major compound in green tea that they studied is a polyphenol called EGCG. In a study with mice, EGCG significantly increased the levels and activity of T-reg cells. The research was focused on potential treatments for lupus, but the findings have much broader implications for other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. As stated by Mitzi Nagarkatti, an OSU professor and vice president for research:

“This is one of the most potent ways we’ve seen to increase the numbers and function of T-reg cells. These results are very exciting and could have broad implications for treatment of autoimmune disease.”

Medical College of Georgia researchers also say that green tea may help protect against autoimmune disease. Researchers studied an animal model for type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome, which is an autoimmune condition that damages the glands that produce tears and saliva. The study found that green tea helped to reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules that play a role in the development of autoimmune disease by causing inflammation.

The Caffeine Drawback 

Clearly green tea has a lot of benefits, but it also contains caffeine. Caffeine interferes with cortisol levels– the “stress hormone.” Cortisol is a hormone that helps us to deal with stress. When our cortisol levels are too high, we can feel anxious and stressed out. Caffeine can interfere with the normal production of cortisol, which can lead to feeling more stressed. It can also cause other problems such as insomnia, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset.

Sunphenon® is a decaffeinated, highly potent green tea extract that is used in our proprietary supplement for autoimmune patients, ImmunoXym. Sunphenon® is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage, and it has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of autoimmune diseases by promoting T-reg cells.

ImmunoXym is a unique formula that is designed to support the body’s natural ability to stimulate these critical T-reg cells. Our supplement contains a blend of ingredients that are known to be effective in supporting immunity, and Sunphenon® is an important part of our formula. For the month of June, ImmunoXym will be 15% off in-office and 10% off online using code IAN10.

If you are ready to get to the root cause of your health issues and begin your healing journey, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

Hypertension and Autoimmune Disease: What You Need to Know

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the most common chronic disease in America.  People with hypertension are at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage. Did you know that there is a connection between hypertension and autoimmune disease?  Were you aware there are over 400 different causal factors in hypertension? 

Autoimmunity is when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. The immune system is supposed to protect the body from infection and disease, but sometimes it breaks down and targets our own tissues.

Studies have shown that people with autoimmune diseases are more likely to develop hypertension, and vice versa. One study found that people with the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus, were twice as likely to have hypertension than the general population. In fact, hypertension may even be autoimmune in itself. In this blog post, we will discuss the link between these two conditions and how our functional medicine approach can address them.

T Cells

T cells are a type of immune cell that helps the body fight infection. There are different types of T cells, including helper T cells and killer T cells. Helper T cells give instructions to other immune cells, and killer T cells kill infected or cancerous cells. Some T cells, called regulatory T cells or T-reg cells, help to keep the immune system in check. They are known as the “police” of the immune system. 

Autoimmunity occurs when T-reg cells don’t work properly and other T cells become dysregulated. This can happen because of genetics, infections, exposure to certain chemicals or drugs, or hypertension. As a result, the immune system starts attacking healthy cells instead of fighting off infection. Autoimmunity can lead to a number of different diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

T Cells and Hypertension

T cells are a normal part of the immune system, but they can cause serious problems if they become overactive, as they do in autoimmune disease. T cells can cause high blood pressure, or hypertension. Hypertension is when the force of blood against the walls of blood vessels is too high. There is a bit of a vicious cycle because when hypertension damages the blood vessels, T cells are attracted to the area and cause inflammation. This can lead to further damage and make hypertension worse. 

Oxidative stress, which can be caused by T cells, is another factor that can contribute to hypertension. This happens when there are too many free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules that can damage cells, and they are naturally created by T cells but can be worsened by things like smoking, pollution, and UV radiation from the sun. When oxidative stress happens, it can damage the arteries and make hypertension worse. Read more about how dysregulated T cells cause oxidative stress here.

Hypertension Leads to Autoimmunity

For many years, hypertension was thought to be caused by lifestyle choices or genetics. However, recent research about how dysregulated T cells lead to high blood pressure has shown that in some cases, hypertension may be an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy blood vessels.

Essentially, since hypertension can lead to immune dysfunction, it can also lead to autoimmunity.

This research is still in its early stages, but it is hope for a better understanding of how to manage hypertension. This new information could lead to treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects, as current blood pressure medications can lead to a variety of complications.

Other Triggers for Hypertension

DNA and Caffeine

Our risks for hypertension can be evaluated by looking at our DNA. An SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) is a variation in a single nucleotide – the building blocks of DNA – that occurs at a specific position in the genome. SNP information can be used to understand how different people respond to caffeine, a substance that can increase blood pressure and cause hypertension.

For example, people with certain SNP variants may metabolize caffeine more slowly, which could lead to higher levels of caffeine in the blood and increased risk of hypertension. On the other hand, people with other SNP variants may metabolize caffeine more quickly, which could lead to lower levels of caffeine in the blood and reduced risk of hypertension. Therefore, SNP information can be used to understand how different people respond to caffeine and help to predict risks for certain health conditions.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can lead to high blood pressure. When you have sleep apnea, your breathing stops and starts repeatedly during the night. This means that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, which can put strain on your heart and other organs. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure.

The Functional Medicine Approach

Autoimmune diseases are caused by a combination of genetics, leaky gut, and environmental triggers. While there is no cure for these conditions, research has shown that functional medicine can be an effective way to manage them. Functional medicine is a holistic approach that focuses on identifying and treating the root cause of disease. This approach involves using natural methods, such as diet, supplementation, and lifestyle changes to promote healing. 

At Dr. Autoimmune, we focus on addressing the root cause of your condition and developing a custom plan with you to help you reach your health goals. If you are ready to be brave and take the Dr. Autoimmune challenge, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

The Link Between Mental Health and Antibiotics

“The best wealth is health,” said the Roman poet Virgil. You may also have heard, “You can have all of the money in the world, but if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.” 

Our most recent health crisis has surely made these quotes true. Mental Health of America has shared some alarming statistics that include:

  • Nearly 50M or 19.68 % of American adults experienced mental illness in 2019.
  • 4.58% of adults report having serious thoughts of suicide. This has increased every year since 2011-2021.
  • 10.6% or over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe major depression. 
  • 11.1% of Americans with a mental health issue are uninsured.
  • 8.1% of children had private health insurance that did not cover mental health services totaling almost 1 million children.

What are Anxiety and Depression?

They are two different conditions, but they commonly occur together. Having the blues occasionally is normal, and everyone experiences anxious feelings at times. These are a common response to a stressful situation. It’s when those feelings become severe or ongoing that you may want to get to the root cause of the trigger. If you or a loved one shows early signs of depression, seek out a practitioner who can help. 

1 in 4 people are affected by mental health illness at some point in their life. What and why are these staggering numbers increasing each year? 

Research suggests that the microbiome (a community of microorganisms including viruses and bacteria) in your intestines may be related to brain functioning. By this definition, if your gut bugs are out of balance, and/or your intestinal lining permeability is enough to “leak” toxins into your bloodstream—guess where that gunk goes? It travels via your veins, your organs, and straight to your brain. Think of an ice cream headache. News travels fast!

How are the Gut and Brain Connected?

Sometimes referred to as your second brain, the gut communicates with your brain both physically and chemically.

The graphic below shows how your gut health can affect your mental health, or visa versa.

Antibiotics ~Not~ to the Rescue

What happens when you have an infection of any kind and you go to your general practitioner? You have an ear infection from too many summer hours spent in the pool, you get chronic sinus or respiratory infections, strep throat, urinary tract infections, acne, and the list goes on. What do all of these infections have in common besides a weakened immune response? They all are prescribed a 10-day round of antibiotics. Exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics prescribed for the treatment of infectious diseases is one of the most common environmental factors which can affect the microbiome (Mayer et al., 2014). 

It’s public knowledge that antibiotic resistance is a real thing. Compounded years of taking these flora destroying medications, along with other environmental factors can contribute to the leaky holes in our gut. In fact, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the US each year. 

A study including 5,244 subjects, none with diagnosed or reported anxiety or depression suggests that particularly male children who received antibiotic treatment for an infectious disease, may be at increased risk for future anxiety or depression. The mechanisms behind this outcome due to the disruption of the microbial balance in the gut. More research is needed to determine which, if not both the chicken (the infection) or the egg (the antibiotics) came in first place as the trigger for anxiety and depression.

Inflammation and Depression

70% of our immune system is located in the gut. Maintaining the proper balance of diversity is important so we can fight off infections, possible chronic disease, and psychosocial stressors. Research shows us that those residing in urban areas exposure to inflammatory responses are greater than those who are hunter-gatherers (think Paleo) or have a diverse agricultural-based lifestyle. “You are what you eat” has never been truer.

Go with Your Gut

Probiotics are live bacteria that are similar to the ones that are already in our gut. You can find them in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. They’re also in supplements. Along with testing, probiotic treatments may provide potential support and preventative measures for depressive and anxiety disorders. Researchers think that probiotics might work by affecting the way the brain and the gut communicate. Not all pre and probiotics are made equal. Talk with Dr. Ian or your practitioner to see which one may be right for you.

If you suffer with anxiety or depression and have a history of antibiotic use, give us a call to schedule a new patient exam at Dr. Autoimmune. We now have remote care options, so wherever you are, you can still receive great care and achieve results.

There is nothing “Sweet” about Artificial Sweeteners and Leaky Gut

Your habits influence your attitude, sleep, food cravings…and autoimmunity. Many of you that suspect you may have an autoimmune condition, or have been diagnosed with one, may in fact have two or more lurking within. 

Have you noticed that when you eat pleasure-seeking foods such as sweets, alcohol, or caffeine (and for some, Chinese food), you want more of it shortly after you consume them? In an age of sugar-free, Keto, and every diet under the sun, where does real sugar stop and artificial sweeteners start?

Every restaurant table and coffee bar have these colorful, single-serving sized packets screaming at your taste buds, “Hey Sweet Tooth, I’m down here.” A laboratory accident turned popular over 130 years ago and the first super villain, saccharin, made its way into our food chain as a cheap and calorie-free alternative to cane sugar. Originally it was believed to be harmless, but over time, its question of safety rode a rollercoaster between science and industrial priorities.

Celebrities in the the cooking world have nothing good to say about these fake sweeteners. Colleague, close friend, and cookbook editor to Julia Child, Avis DeVoto wrote:

“Desserts, of which there is a fat section, are incredible—sweetened with saccharin [sic] and topped with imitation whipped cream! Fantastic! And I do believe a lot of people in this country eat just like that, stuffing themselves with faked materials in the fond belief that by substituting a chemical for God’s good food they can keep themselves slim while still eating hot breads and desserts and GUNK.” 

To say the least, she was not a fan of this fake food and considered saccharin an empty pleasure. 

When sugar became scarce during World War II, this diabetic substitute’s production ramped up. Between 1963 and 1967 artificially sweetened soft drinks nearly tripled their market share. By 1979, 44 million Americans used this sickly sweet, zero calorie alternative daily. As you can see by this chart, the rise has not slowed down, and is contributing to the obesity epidemic in America. 

Chemical named by brand:

  • Acesulfame Potassium – Sunnett, Sweet One
  • Aspartame – Nutrasweet, Equal
  • Neotame – N/A
  • Saccharin – Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin.
  • Sucralose – Splenda

Nutrition is among one of the contributing leaders to leaky gut syndrome. When foods are laden with pesticides, chemicals, artificial sweeteners and colors, combined with our nutrient deficient foods, our gut is constantly under attack and is no match for these “gut busting” toxins. If our food sources can not naturally support and feed the good bacteria, the bad bacteria begin to take over. Along with a nutrient dense diet, pharmaceutical grade supplementation has become paramount in therapeutic doses in order to restore our gut balance to tackle our autoimmune risk and conditions.

The sweet taste receptor (T1R3) is activated by artificial sweeteners. At high concentrations, many of the aforementioned chemical compounds were found to increase leaky gut and degrade cell regulation. This can lead to a myriad of issues including insulin resistance and diabetes. Primarily and first most, leaky gut leads to inflammation>symptoms>autoimmunity. 

What about the reportedly safe “new age” sweeteners?

  • Chicory
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Monk Fruit
  • Stevia

Although a monumental improvement in the form of nature vs lab, sugar in any form can spike your blood sugar and cause imbalances if consumed frequently (have you heard about devices which monitor your blood sugar?). 

Grandma always said, “everything in moderation”. Unlike natural sugars including honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar, stevia may be the lead in this cast of best choices for a sweet alternative, touting that it remains neutral in your bloodstream, and has a reduced calorie intake and low risk of cavities. 

It has been reported that stevia could interfere with good bacteria in the gut, a strain on your kidneys or other organs, and/or possibly lower blood pressure, which could interfere with those on high blood pressure medications. There are always two sides to every story, and there isn’t enough research to conclude its downfalls. Just another reason to see an integrative or functional practitioner to get to the root cause of your tummy troubles.

The bottom line is: eat as close to the farm and whole food as possible. Teach your children at a young age how to read an ingredient label at the grocery store. It’s a fun and educational game that supports awareness around what is actually food, and what are lab experiments. Remember, you are what you eat. Bon Appetit!

Lupus and DHEA: A New Approach

Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of the body. As with all autoimmune conditions, there is no “cure” necessarily, but it stems from imbalances in the body that can be adjusted, so remission from this condition is possible.

Autoimmunity is when the body attacks its own tissue and organs. In lupus, any bodily system can be attacked, so there are a wide range of possible symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fever
  • Rashes (malar “butterfly” type)
  • Chest pain  
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Sun or light sensitivity
  • Kidney problems
  • Mouth sores 
  • Prolonged or extreme fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Brain fog
  • Memory problems
  • Blood clotting
  • Eye disease
  • Anxiety

One natural method for relieving lupus symptoms that has been showing a lot of positive results is DHEA. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a mild male hormone. It can be helpful for reducing lupus symptoms such as hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog.

In blood tests, DHEA levels tend to be lower in people who have inflammatory diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and inflammatory bowel disease. The more severe a person’s symptoms are, the lower their DHEA levels are. So, the hypothesis is that the higher we can get the DHEA levels, the less symptoms that person will experience! Experiments with mice and clinical trials with humans have both shown that DHEA supplementation can, in fact, reduce symptoms of lupus.

How Does it Work?

While it theoretically makes sense that if low DHEA = more symptoms, then high DHEA = less symptoms, we need to know how this works in order to be sure that it isn’t just a random connection. 

You may have heard of a “cytokine storm” in relation to the recent pandemic. It is basically a state of systemic inflammation. Cytokines are proteins that are important for communication between cells. Some cytokines are actually anti-inflammatory, but many are pro-inflammatory, meaning that they cause inflammation, as they do in a cytokine storm.

Studies have shown that DHEA may help regulate cytokine production and reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are created, therefore reducing overall inflammation. The relationship between cytokines and DHEA may also explain why DHEA levels are lower in people that have chronic inflammatory conditions, such as lupus and RA. Pro-inflammatory cytokines actually suppress the enzymes that are needed to make DHEA. So there is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” situation here, since it is not exactly clear which comes first. But we know that there is a vicious cycle:

DHEA can reduce autoimmunity, but it also increases resistance to infection. How can it both amp up and calm down your immune system? The answer is in its ability to regulate. The key to resolving autoimmunity is not to suppress the entire immune system, which leaves your body vulnerable to infection, but to regulate the immune system so that it works properly. DHEA seems to be an important factor for immune system regulation. The biggest factor though, of course, is T-regulatory cell function- literally named for their job of ‘policing’ the immune system.

Side effects of DHEA can include acne, facial hair growth, oily skin, and excessive sweating. In one study, even though every patient who continued to take the DHEA for 12 months showed significant improvement, 16% of the participants dropped out of the study early due to side effects. This goes to show that this medication may not be the best option for everyone (doses tended to be high so this may have led to side effects).

DHEA can also lower good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in women and raise estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. (Learn more about the importance of healthy cholesterol levels here and the issues with estrogen dominance here.) There have been concerns raised about the long-term effects due to lowered HDL cholesterol, so it is important to talk with a doctor about DHEA rather than attempting to use it by yourself.

At Dr. Autoimmune, we use a functional medicine approach to identify the root cause of your condition and develop a custom plan using diet, supplementation, and lifestyle change to help you reach your health goals. We are unique because we also address the brain through functional neurology, which is especially helpful for lupus patients struggling with brain fog and memory loss. With an 85% success rate, we are confident that we can get you the results you are looking for. If you’re ready to be brave to change, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

Can You Brush and Floss Your Way to Relieved RA?

It may be hard to believe, but brushing your teeth can help your joints. All dentists will tell you that your dental health is tied to your physical health, but how seriously do we really take that? Your mouth has its own microbiome, which is the mini ecosystem made up of bacteria and other small life forms, just like your gut and your skin. When any of your microbiomes are out of balance, there will be consequences. 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which is a type of disease where someone’s body attacks itself. In the case of RA, the body is attacking the joints, causing painful inflammation that limits range of motion and affects daily activities. Many people with RA find themselves unable to run, walk, lift things, or even use their hands without severe pain.

How Does RA Start?

In functional medicine, our goal is to discover the root cause of disease. What we’ve learned is that all autoimmune diseases require three things in order to develop:

  1. Genes: Without the genes for an autoimmune condition, the disease cannot manifest. Genes are not a life sentence, though. We have some control over whether our genes are actually expressed or “stay asleep”. Just because you have the genes, doesn’t mean you’ll have the condition!
  2. Leaky gut: The cells that make up our intestine lining are held together by tight junctions, which are important for keeping our partially-digested food from seeping out. Many factors, including gluten and NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen, cause these tight junctions to loosen and allow material to leak out, which causes inflammation in the body. Read more about the gut’s connection to RA here.
  3. Last but not least, a trigger: Many things can trigger an autoimmune response, including viral or bacterial infections.

One specific type of bacterial infection has been tied to RA as a trigger. The bacteria is called Porphyromonas gingivalis and is also a common culprit behind periodontal disease, a common gum disease. In periodontal disease, an infection causes inflammation in the gums and can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Swollen, red, and tender gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • In more serious cases, tooth loss (periodontitis)

Gum Disease and RA

Have you ever wondered what plaque on your teeth actually is? Bacteria such as P. gingivalis produce a sticky film that can build up- and that becomes plaque! The bacteria in plaque create acids, which slowly break down tooth enamel. Not only does the yellowish film not look pretty, but it can lead to gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. P. gingivalis causes nasty inflammation in the gums, as you can see in the picture above, so just imagine the inflammation it can cause in your joints!

It has become clear that periodontal disease and periodontitis are linked to RA, but recent research has been able to narrow down the link to P. gingivalis bacteria specifically.

In this study, mice that were infected with P. gingivalis bacteria either developed arthritis, or their already existing arthritis got worse. Another study found that the correlation between the antibody to P. gingivalis and RA was even stronger- in fact, two times stronger-  than the correlation between smoking and RA. Smoking has been a known major risk factor for RA for many years, but now we know that periodontal disease caused by P. gingivalis bacteria is more than twice as likely to lead to RA. Do you believe the dentists now?

Your RA Might Have a “Friend”

For the most part, good dental hygiene can keep bad bacteria from running rampant. Brushing and flossing twice a day as well as regular visits to a dentist are important steps to take. One way that P. gingivalis can grow is if your mouth is too dry. Unfortunately, another autoimmune condition, Sjögren’s syndrome, specifically attacks the salivary glands and leaves the mouth very dry. Sjögren’s is therefore a risk factor for plaque buildup and periodontal disease. Given what we just learned about the connection between periodontal disease and RA, it should be no surprise that 21% of Sjögren’s patients have also been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

This is a common theme in our office: Many people who have been diagnosed with one autoimmune disease also develop another one or more. In fact, at the time someone is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, there is a 50% chance that another one already exists. If the genes are there and the environment allows one disease to develop, then it is very likely that other autoimmune genes will be triggered.

At Dr. Autoimmune, we use a functional medicine approach to get to the root cause of complex conditions. Our structured program removes the guesswork and uses science-backed lab testing, diet change, and supplementation to get your body back on track. Using this method, we have an 85% success rate. If you’re interested in finding real solutions for your conditions, fill out the form below to get started!

Meet the Master Manipulator: Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is a gland located behind your Adam’s apple. Its job is to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which are the hormones that control your metabolism. This process of transforming the food you eat into energy can result in (T)erminator-like symptoms where you begin to feel inhuman. 

Think of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is under-producing these hormones and can lead to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurs when too many hormones are being produced and can lead to Graves’ disease. Balance is the key to keeping your body running well.

If you are a woman, you know how much our hormones can take over and drive us either straight and narrow, or straight into a truck depending on stress, menstruation, food or environmental triggers. Men are not immune from thyroid disorders. Women tend to have higher instances with thyroid disorders, generally after menopause. Regardless of gender, autoimmune-related thyroid conditions are on the rise. 

10 most common symptoms that your thyroid is under attack or needs support:

  1. Weight gain or loss

An early sign of thyroid irregularity is weight gain or loss. Since your thyroid can control your energy, it’s no wonder your weight can be affected. Rapid weight gain can be an indicator of low thyroid hormone function, while weight loss can be triggered by an overactive thyroid gland. 

  1. Fatigue

Just like weight gain, fatigue or excessive tiredness can be a sign of hypothyroidism or low thyroid function.

  1. Brain fog

Thyroid hormones are directly related to the health of your brain neurons. There are only two things that every single cell in the body has a receptor for: thyroid hormones and vitamin D. It’s no wonder that vitamin D status influences thyroid function and your immune system.

  1. Intolerance to heat or cold

Your circulation is affected if your thyroid is not functioning properly. This could present as feeling chilled or cold. If you notice that your hands and feet are particularly cold, this could be a symptom or sign of hypothyroidism. Alternatively, you might always run warm or experience hot flashes.

  1. Poor quality hair skin nail

A slow thyroid can cause dry skin, hair loss,and  brittle or ridged nails caused by follicle cycling. Sometimes slow and steady does not always win the race.

  1. Digestive problems

Leaky gut and gastrointestinal discomfort are most often connected to thyroid dysfunction. Constipation is caused by a sluggish metabolism (lower thyroid hormone), while loose stools could be a symptom or a hyperactive thyroid.

  1. Insomnia

When your hormones are out of whack, everything seems to follow suit. Whether your thyroid is over- or under-producing, you can have disrupted sleep from nervousness, be up with frequent urination, or experience night sweats.

  1. Anxiety/depression

Hormones are the major players in mood regulation. They influence the neurotransmitters which cause imbalances in serotonin and dopamine. Thyroid imbalances cause inflammation, and when the hormone production is interrupted, it can affect proper blood flow to the brain.

  1. Changes in your voice

An underactive thyroid can cause thickening of the vocal cords or swelling from the inflammatory changes.

  1. Hormonal fluctuations

Your thyroid can directly affect your sexual function. From irregular periods to difficulty with sexual performance or enjoyment, your thyroid dysfunction may be a contributor.

The Thyroid-Autoimmune Connection

Are you aware that more than 90% of thyroid conditions are autoimmune? Unfortunately, most conventional doctors do not have the education or information about this connection. This can be incredibly frustrating!  

What if you are taking thyroid medication but still experiencing these symptoms? Commonly, providers are not taught how to look at chemistry and physiology, but do prescribe medication for your symptoms. We at Dr. Autoimmune addresses the systems that run the symptoms, diagnose your particular imbalances with comprehensive blood chemistry, and create a customized care plan for you! 

If you suspect your thyroid is the culprit of any of these symptoms, Dr. Autoimmune can help. We test specifically for all 8 thyroid markers. We have worked with close to 3,000 thyroid clients and have an 85% success rate! Call us at 303-882-8447 or fill out the form below today to see if your thyroid needs support.

Why Do I Feel So Good (Or Bad) During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy and Autoimmunity

Many women with autoimmune diseases experience a lessening of symptoms during their pregnancy, only to relapse after the baby is born. Or, the opposite may happen, where autoimmune disease symptoms worsen during pregnancy. Maybe you have heard of this phenomenon or even experienced it yourself. As we continue to celebrate Mothers’ Day, let’s dive into the ways pregnancy can affect an autoimmune disease.

One of the most amazing things about pregnancy is how a woman’s body doesn’t reject a fetus, which is basically foreign tissue because it shares DNA with the father. Very frequently during organ transplants, the body attacks foreign tissue because it thinks it is a threat. How do female bodies know not to attack a fetus?

The Tea on T Cells

Research has found that different types of T cells lead to either a tolerant immune response (the fetus lives), or an active immune response against the foreign tissue (miscarriage). The main two types of cells that make this decision are known as “Th1” and “Th2”. Th1 cells will reject a fetus, while Th2 cells are responsible for a successful pregnancy by creating baby-protecting antibodies.

Th1 and Th2 cells work dynamically creating balance, but are each linked to autoimmune diseases. So during pregnancy, when Th2 cell counts are higher, this can cause Th1-type autoimmune diseases to go into remission. This is why women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Graves’ disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS) usually feel much better while they are pregnant.

On the other hand, Th2-type autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), generally known as just “lupus”, can get much worse during pregnancy while there are more Th2 cells trying to protect the fetus. Lupus flares can cause pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia (blood pressure problems).

Then, once the baby is born, the balance between those two types of T cells switches and causes the opposite effect: Th1-type diseases such as MS get worse, and Th2-type diseases such as lupus get better.

But is there just one simple answer to our question about why some women with autoimmune disease feel better during pregnancy? Our bodies are more complicated than that, of course. We know that Th1 can end a pregnancy while Th2 protects against miscarriages, but what decides which type of T cell is produced? 

Maybe the better question is, “What system can we influence that will regulate both in harmony?” If we could influence said system, wouldn’t we be less likely to experience these swings and problems during and after the pregnancy? After 13 years work with chronic autoimmune conditions, I can say there is an unequivocal “YES” to that question! T-regulatory cells influence Th17, the immune cells that control Th1/Th2 balance. Nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and K, as well as fiber, probiotics, alpha lipoic acid, green tea, and essential fatty acids are all potent stimulators for T-reg cell creation and ultimately help our immune system find balance! Are you getting enough of these in your diet or through supplementation? (Check out the bottom of this blog for one supplement that contains all of these nutrients!)

Hormones Have a Hand

Hormones are also tied strongly to autoimmune diseases, which often begin or change around pregnancy and menopause when a woman’s hormones are fluctuating. This is one of the reasons why most autoimmune diseases are much more common in women. For example, women are 3 times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis than men are. This is even stronger for thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.  

Androgens and estrogens, groups of sex hormones, are able to regulate Th1/Th2 balance. Androgens are generally male hormones and are responsible for pubic/underarm hair growth and help to build muscle. Estrogens help regulate menstrual cycles in females and fertility in males. Androgens such as testosterone promote Th1-type autoimmune diseases like RA, while estrogens promote Th2-type diseases such as SLE. Women with higher androgen levels (ex. polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS) are therefore more likely to experience miscarriages because androgens promote Th1 cells. As we covered above, Th1 cells attack fetuses as if they are a foreign invader. 

Don’t forget that Th1 and Th2 basically work against each other. So when Th2-promoting estrogen is high during pregnancy, Th1-type diseases are suppressed and Th2-type diseases are fueled. When the baby is born, a woman’s estrogen levels decrease, allowing Th1-type diseases to flare up again.

All in all, hormones from pregnancy influence T cells, which influence autoimmune disease. Critical nutrients from diet and supplementation can help stimulate the regulation of the immune system and thereby smooth the transition.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Ian Hollaman

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What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

April is Sjögren’s awareness month, so we thought it would be a great time to shed some light on it. Sjögren’s (pronounced show-grens) syndrome is a common autoimmune condition where moisture-secreting glands are attacked. This usually happens first in the eyes and mouth, so dry eyes and mouth are the most common symptoms.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry nose, recurrent sinusitis, nosebleeds
  • Dry or peeling lips
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Inability to focus or ‘brain fog’
  • Respiratory issues like shortness of breath, dry cough, or recurrent bronchitis
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory loss
  • Dysautonomia 
  • Headaches (most commonly tension-type or migraines)
  • Mouth sores and dental problems
  • Swollen or painful salivary glands
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Acid reflux
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • IBS

Sjögren’s syndrome can develop at any age and in any sex, but it is most common in women (9 out of 10 patients are women) and people over 40. It is considered a widely underdiagnosed condition, with the Sjögren’s Foundation estimating that over 2.5 million patients are currently undiagnosed.

Sjögren’s can occur on its own, but it often shows up alongside other autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon, fibromyalgia, pernicious anemia, and thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’. This useful graphic below (by the Sjögren’s Foundation) uses percentages to show the overlap of each of these conditions with Sjögren’s.

How Does Sjögren’s Start?

Like all autoimmune conditions, Sjögren’s requires 3 things to develop:

  1. A genetic predisposition
  2. Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
  3. Environmental trigger

The genes associated with Sjögren’s aren’t known yet, but we can’t control those anyway. What we can have some control over, though, is whether those genes are expressed. Our genes basically can be turned on and off with the right environmental factors. This is why gut health and removing triggers are more important than our genes.

In functional medicine, we use diet change and supplementation to heal the gut while working with you to find out possible triggers in your life. Common triggers include stress, viral or bacterial infections, and mold or toxin exposure.

Dry Eyes

One of the first things to occur in Sjögren’s is the glands that produce tears, the lacrimal glands, are attacked by the immune system. You might think that we only produce tears when we cry, but our lacrimal glands are actually always working to keep our eyes moistened.

Have you ever wondered why we blink? Our eyelids keep moisture trapped beneath, so when the part of our eye that is exposed to air starts to dry out, blinking spreads a new film of moisture over them. This method only works, however, when our lacrimal glands are producing moisture.

Dry eyes can lead to burning, itching, a feeling like sand is in the eyes, blurred vision, and difficulty tolerating bright lights. Think back to the last time you were challenged to a “blinking contest”. After some time of forcing your eyes to remain open, your vision starts to become affected and you start to feel a burning sensation. This is what chronic dry eyes associated with Sjögren’s syndrome can feel like.

Dry Mouth

One of the 2 most prominent symptoms, dry mouth is uncomfortable and can lead to dental problems. Along with the lacrimal glands, the salivary glands are the first to be affected. Salivary glands produce saliva, which keeps our mouths and gums moist and also helps with digesting food.

People with Sjögren’s are more likely to develop cavities and gum disease due to lack of moisture, so recommendations include stimulating saliva production with sugar-free (xylitol or maltitol if sugar alcohols are tolerated) lozenges and brushing teeth after every meal. These types of recommendations are only good for managing symptoms without actually addressing the root cause.

What Can You Do?

At Dr. Autoimmune, we are experts at getting to the root cause of your condition and working with you to develop a personalized plan to reach your health goals. Most of our clients notice huge changes within only 30 days. Fill out the form below to get started on your health journey!