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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.

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

The Ultimate Supplement to Support Your T-reg Cells

Interested in taking one product, instead of 6 to help your immune balance? Our proprietary supplement ImmunoXym contains everything your body needs to create thriving T-reg cells. T-reg cells are the ‘police’ of our immune system and help keep it from overreacting, which makes it the #1 product we recommend for autoimmune patients. Are you autoimmune and planning to becoming pregnant? Supporting your T-reg cells will help ease the transitions your immune system is about to undergo.

To order:

  • Start here
  • Enter the one-time access code: USE777
  • Create an account by entering your name, email and desired password. Click ‘Register’
  • You may then begin shopping. Click here to jump to the product. Otherwise ImmunoXym can be found by clicking “view all” under “products”
  • Use the coupon code: IAN10 at checkout for 10% off!

Keep it Fresh

As comes Spring, so comes the opportunity to reap the rewards of homegrown deliciousness. This time of year is known for awakening all of the human senses. What better time to feel at one with the green spaces around you?  

Spring is the ideal season to start gardening as it helps get your produce and herbs ready for the rest of the year. A home garden is also a perfect way to save money; having fresh veggies and herbs on hand at all times can be expensive. Consider giving yourself the gift of a little -or a big- garden. 

Many of the herbs, fruits, and veggies that are AIP-compliant can also be grown indoors or in containers so you don’t need a big yard to do this! Become one with nature this Spring whether that means watering the herbs from the couch or roaming through expansive acreage. 

For many people, eating AIP-compliant diets means cooking a lot more at home than they may have been accustomed to previously. Because of the restrictions of this particular protocol, we encourage the use of myriad fresh herbs to bring flavor and interest to your meals.  

Easy Herbs to Grow This Spring:

Parsley

The first herb to dabble in is parsley. It’s relatively easy to grow and the yield is high. Parsley is great when you want to make dishes with rich flavors. A lot of Mediterranean dishes are actualized with the use of parsley. Check out Stevie’s grain-free tabbouleh recipe below!

Cilantro

Another herb that is great for AIP dishes is cilantro. It can be grown from the seed or by simply starting with a cilantro plant. Cilantro can survive in many climates so it’s recommended regardless of where you live. 

Dill

Dill won’t survive a frost so make sure to plant this herb when the Spring weather becomes more predictable. It does best with full sunlight so keep it outside or near a big sun-facing window. Dill is often under-utilized, but it can really bring life to both vegetable and seafood-based dishes alike. 

Basil

Basil is perfect for container gardening and grows extremely well indoors near a sunny window. Like parsley, it also produces a high yield so you can make new friends by sharing some of your extra basil. It goes great with meat, salads, vegetables- the list goes on! Hot tip: make a dairy-free, nut-free pesto with just your homegrown basil, hemp hearts, garlic, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. 

Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

GRAIN-FREE TABBOULEH

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

3 bunches fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 cup hemp hearts

1 cup riced cauliflower, fresh or frozen

8 green onions, finely diced

¼ cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Directions:

If using frozen riced cauliflower, add to a skillet and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until completely warmed through. Let cool completely before assembling the rest of the salad. 

Add olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add remaining ingredients, toss to coat, and serve.

Still Can’t Smell or Taste After COVID?

The virus that shook the world has a few symptoms we all know, such as loss of taste and smell. And by now, most of us have heard of the term “long-COVID”, referring to recovered COVID-19 patients who have symptoms long after they test negative for the virus. Long-COVID symptoms include continued absence of smell and taste, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and brain fog. If you have been struggling with this, there is hope!

According to an early study funded by the National Institutes of Health, about 70% of COVID-19-positive patients had lost their sense of taste and smell. A later study found that 61% of recovered COVID patients still had symptoms after 6 months. That is a long time to go without being able to smell anything!

So why are so many people not able to smell for months after they had the virus? Loss of smell (anosmia) is actually a sign that the brain is inflamed.

What Causes Brain Inflammation?

Diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance are risk factors for severe COVID-19. In fact, this whole-population study in England showed that one third of all the COVID-19-related deaths occurred in people with diabetes. That’s a huge percentage!

While it is known that these are risk factors for severe COVID, emerging evidence is also tying these to long-COVID, especially loss of smell and taste. As we mentioned before, the loss of smell and taste is actually related to brain inflammation. This can be caused by insulin resistance.

When you eat, your food is broken down into glucose (sugar) molecules. Your body then releases insulin, which is a hormone that allows glucose to enter a cell and be used for energy. When your cells become resistant to it, glucose can no longer enter and be used. This causes two things: your cells no longer have an energy source, and inflammation starts to accumulate.

Insulin is an important hormone for brain function. Insulin resistance causes your brain to not have enough energy to function properly and become inflamed. It has been tied to the loss of smell that is common in diabetes patients, so it is no wonder that it is also the culprit behind your long-COVID symptom. Insulin resistance is also one of the most common culprits behind autoimmune disorders and dementia.

Other symptoms of insulin resistance:

  • Sugar cravings after meals
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling “hangry” between meals
  • Weight loss resistance

Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer’s

Your inability to smell or taste anything months after you had COVID-19 is an important sign that you may have insulin resistance that is causing your brain to become inflamed. This is important for you to get on top of not only so that you can enjoy your essential oil diffuser again, but also so that you can protect your brain from long-term damage.

Insulin resistance and diabetes have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias for the same reasons they cause the loss of taste and smell. Over time, insulin resistance causes the brain to become more inflamed and receive less fuel for cell energy. Correcting insulin sensitivity levels can help you prevent, and sometimes even reverse, dementia.

Smell and Taste Again with Dr. Autoimmune

At Dr. Autoimmune, we have helped many patients resolve their long-COVID symptoms. We can get to the underlying cause of your extended suffering and find solutions that work for you. Insulin resistance can be brought under control with the right diet and supplementation regimens for your body. We frequently use continuous glucose monitoring to help patients understand exactly how different foods affect their blood sugar levels. Our extensive blood panel, including a fasting insulin marker, also helps us get a better picture of your metabolic health.

Do you miss being able to taste your favorite foods and smell your favorite natural candles? Fill out the form below to get started on your healing journey!

The Many Faces of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that can occur on its own (known as primary Raynaud’s), or it can be a sign of an underlying autoimmune condition (known as secondary Raynaud’s). It is estimated to affect an average of 6.5% of all people (8-10% of women and 3-5% of men) and tends to start showing up between the ages of 15 and 25.

Raynaud’s affects the arteries and blood vessels, causing vascular ‘spasms’ that restrict blood flow to ears, toes, nipples, knees, and nose. The result is uncomfortable and usually causes discoloration. These spasms can be triggered by mild cold, sudden vibrations, or even emotional distress. 

Raynaud’s phenomenon is often associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome, though it can also be a sign of other underlying conditions. It is not in itself known to be of autoimmune in nature, but its exact cause is unknown. Other diseases linked to Raynaud’s include lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, and thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

What Does Raynaud’s Look Like?

This condition can manifest itself in different ways. Most commonly, affected areas will turn white in color, then blue, and then red as blood returns to the area. When blood flow is returning, this can cause a throbbing sensation that may feel uncomfortable.

source 

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Areas of the body that are affected by Raynaud’s vary. Besides the hands and feet, it can also cause discomfort and discoloration in other places where blood is restricted easily.

In the nose and face:

source 

In the ears:

source

In the knees: 

source

Risk Factors

Risk for Raynaud’s increases with connective tissue or autoimmune disorders, smoking, and trauma/injury. Symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to cold in ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose
  • Fingers that turn pale or white then blue when exposed to cold, or during stress or emotional upset, then red when the hands are warmed
  • Hands that may become swollen and painful when warmed

Thermography

In extreme cases, Raynaud’s can cause sores on the finger pads and even lead to gangrene and amputation. Those with this condition are more susceptible to frostbite when spending time in colder climates. Thermographic tools may be used to assess the severity of this condition by revealing blood flow through infrared technology. Here is an example of what that looks like:

source

This image shows two peoples’ hands after being exposed to cold water for 2 minutes. The hand on the left belongs to the person who is not affected by Raynaud’s. You can see that heat is returning to their hand by the yellow and red colors. On the other hand (literally), you can see that the fingers are having a hard time heating back up after the cold exposure. They are still black and purple on the infrared spectrum, which represents a lower temperature. This hand belongs to a person affected by Raynaud’s syndrome.

Solutions

People with Raynaud’s cope by wearing gloves and hats, using hand and toe warmers, generally avoiding exposure to cold, and even taking blood pressure medications to increase blood flow during the winter months. Because this condition may be a sign of an underlying, more serious condition, we recommend consulting a doctor trained in autoimmunity if you experience the symptoms discussed in this blog. Commonly when we develop and execute care for our clients they notice significant improvements as their immune system heals.

Our passion at Dr. Autoimmune is to get to the root cause of your condition(s). For autoimmune patients especially, this means healing the gut and identifying and removing triggers. We use natural methods to give your body the tools it needs to heal itself. If you suspect you may have Raynaud’s, our comprehensive assessment process will help you get the answers, and solutions, you are looking for. Use the form below to find out more information about our New Patient Special.

Top 7 Foods For Immune Support

Food is medicine. By providing your body with the correct tools, it has the ability to heal itself. Whether you have a diagnosed autoimmune or thyroid condition, or just want to boost your immune system during these trying times, follow this guide to learn how to use food to your advantage!

Why You Still Have Thyroid Symptoms

Are you on the medical not-so-merry-go-round? Many people with thyroid problems aren’t even aware they are connected to the thyroid. Most medical doctors only test for 1-3 out of the 10 markers required to get a complete picture of the thyroid. They may be sending you away with a “clean bill of health” even though you know there is something wrong. Or maybe you have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but you are still experiencing symptoms despite your medication.

Do these symptoms seem familiar to you?

  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Fatigue
  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss

Find out from Dr. Ian himself why you are still experiencing these symptoms, even if you are on a thyroid medication:

Autoimmunity and the Earth

The idea that humans are separate from the natural world is a new one. Humans and nature evolved together, developing and perfecting symbiotic (mutually-beneficial) relationships over 6 million years. Has our recent separation led to an increase in health issues, particularly autoimmunity?

The environment around us affects the environment within us, including our microbiome (the little organisms- bacteria, viruses, and other microbes- that live in and on us). The microbial diversity in our gut can have a major effect on our overall health, especially immune health.

Densely populated areas tend to have more concrete and less plant life, more chemicals and less clean air or water, and provide little opportunity for communing with the natural environment we were meant to live in. In fact, as we get less natural light exposure, our gut microbiome becomes less healthy!

How does being away from nature increase our chances of developing autoimmunity?

The Gut Microbiome

Have you seen the hit Pixar movie “Finding Nemo”? I bring this up because it demonstrates a great example of a symbiotic (harmonious, or mutually-beneficial) relationship between different organisms. Clownfish secrete a substance onto the surface of their skin that protects them from the sting of the sea anemone. This allows them to live and hide among the sea anemone’s tentacles. In return, the clownfish attracts other fish for the sea anemone to eat.

Over the course of millions of years, clownfish developed this special protective mucus that makes this mutually beneficial relationship possible. This is an example of coevolution!

Similarly to the clownfish and sea anemone, humans and microbes have coevolved to help each other. Human bodies provide a perfect environment for many types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which in turn help us digest, make nutrients, and provide a backbone for our immune system.

Keeping the balance between microbes in our gut is very important for our overall health. These little life forms help to regulate infection, digest foods, and even make some vitamins.  Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, the “father of autoimmunity”, has been quoted as saying infections and microbiome diversity may be the key player in preventing and supporting autoimmunity.  

Playing in the dirt allows our bodies to meet more microbes and build a stronger immune system. The hygiene hypothesis is the theory that our society’s obsession with sterility and killing germs has kept our immune systems from learning diverse microbes and building a strong backbone. If our immune system is not well-educated, it can become confused and start to mistake our own cells for pathogens that need to be destroyed, setting the stage for autoimmunity.

Air Pollution

Rising pollution levels are not only directly affecting the quality of air we breathe, but they are contributing to climate change and the increase in wildfires (more smoke in the air = even more pollution). 

9 out of 10 people in this world breathe highly polluted air, which contributes to 7 million deaths per year. Breathing in polluted air irritates the lungs and mucosal lining, increases permeability of the mucus membranes (which allows for more irritants to enter the bloodstream), and causes both acute and chronic diseases as a result. It can aggravate and increase the risk of developing chronic conditions like asthma and emphysema (a type of lung disease).

Children’s lungs are in a state of development, with more than 80% of their air sacs developing after birth, so they are among the most highly affected populations. Children who grow up breathing polluted air are at a much higher risk for developing asthma, bronchitis, or even pneumonia. When air quality improves, children’s lung function shows clinically and statistically significant positive change, according to this large California study.

Air pollution can trigger autoimmune disease in genetically susceptible individuals by increasing inflammation. For example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is strongly associated with air pollution as a risk factor. In a 5-year Polish study, the prevalence of type 1 diabetes (another autoimmune disease) increased by 1.5 times as the air quality depleted.

Can We Use the Environment to Heal? 

The average American spends 93% of their time indoors. Besides teaching our bodies new microbes and giving our lungs a break, are there other health benefits to be gained from spending time outside?

The ancient Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce stress levels, and increase immune system balancing. This practice just refers to walking among trees and focusing on your senses- what you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. It can be done in an actual forest, or simply at a park.

Similarly to shinrin-yoku, a growing trend in earthing, or grounding, simply means having skin contact with the Earth and absorbing it’s abundance of electrons. Our cells operate using electrons, but the frequencies we are exposed to throughout every day can deplete them. The Earth consistently gives off a frequency of 7.83 hz (the same as our alpha brain waves), which we can actually tune into!

Here in Boulder, Colorado, we are lucky enough to live within minutes of lush pine forests and incredible peaks. Wherever you are, find a safe spot among trees where you can go periodically, especially when you feel stressed or overwhelmed, just to play in the dirt, walk barefoot, and breathe.

Routinely incorporating this practice is not the newest fad.  We have evolved around nature and as we digress from it we increase dis-ease, and as we move towards it we plant the seeds of healing and optimal health!

Yours in health,

Ian Hollaman, DC, MSC, IFMCP

Autoimmunity Is Rising- Have You Been Tested?

What are Antinuclear Antibodies?

Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) are antibodies (proteins that our body creates to fight infections) that are made to attack our own body, or “autoantibodies”. The prefix ‘auto-’ means ‘self’. So, autoantibodies are antibodies against the self, and an autoimmune disease occurs when someone’s immune system is attacking their body using autoantibodies. Examples of autoimmune diseases include multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, and many more. Antinuclear antibodies attack the nucleus of our cells, hence their name.

A positive ANA usually suggests a vascular condition, or a condition that affects blood flow. Some autoimmune vasculitis conditions include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, and Wegener’s granulomatosis.

Implications

The presence of ANAs in your blood could mean that you might develop an autoimmune disease in the future, if you don’t already have one. Note that typical autoimmune disorders take 5-9 years to develop and symptoms may or may not be present.

In other words, testing for ANAs may provide a chance to stop a disease before it really starts. This is why it is included in our initial and every follow-up blood panel!

The prevalence of autoimmune disease and ANAs has been rising over the last few decades. While the western medical model deems the presence of ANAs a nonconcern without the presence of symptoms, we are now seeing that it can progress into an autoimmune condition over the course of a few years if left unchecked.

Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) studied the prevalence of positive ANA markers over a 25 year period. Here is what they found:

  • From 1988–1991, 11% (~22 million people) had a positive ANA
  • From 1999–2004, 11.5% (~27 million people) had a positive ANA
  • Here’s the kicker: From 2011–2012, 15.9% (~41 million people) had a positive ANA

From 22 to 41 million people in 25 years is a huge jump! Among the age subgroups, adolescents (ages 12-19) had the highest rate of change, with their prevalence nearly tripling over the time period from 5% to 13%.  Another way to grasp this is that from 88’-04’ ANA Abs jumped 23% and from 04’-12 ANA Abs exploded another 52%!!!

Understanding Test Results

So, you got a positive ANA result on your blood test. There are a couple of other pieces of information next to that result that may seem a bit confusing. Let us break it down for you.

Titer

Your titer is the measure of how many antibodies were found in your blood. You may have a titer of <1:40, 1:40, 1:80, 1:160, or 1:320. The ‘1’ before the colon represents a certain volume of blood, and the number after the colon represents the amount of ANA’s found in that amount of blood. 

A negative test would be a level, or ‘titer’, of less than (<) 1:40 (a.k.a. 40 antibodies per measure). A low titer is between 1:40 and 1:80 (40-80 antibodies per measure), while a high result would be 1:80 or above. It can be confusing because the number presents as a ratio, so one might think that 1:160 is smaller than 1:80, but the reality is a 1:160 titer is double that of a 1:80. 

Pattern

If you have a positive ANA result on your labs, next to your titer there will be a pattern. This just describes how the ANAs look under a microscope. Here are the types of ANA patterns and their associated conditions:

  • Speckled (most common in females)
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
    • Sjogren’s syndrome
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
    • Polymyositis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Homogenous (most common in males)
    • Can be seen in any autoimmune disease, higher levels associated with Lupus
  • Nucleolar
  • Mitochondrial
    • Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC)
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
  • Cytoplasmic
    • Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC)
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
    • Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH)
  • Speckled + Cytoplasmic
    • Antisynthetase syndrome
  • Centromere
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
    • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Homogenous + Nucleolar
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
    • Chronic autoimmune hepatitis
    • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

What Can We Do?

All autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome, require three things to develop:

  1. Genetic predisposition
  2. Intestinal permeability (a.k.a “leaky gut”)
  3. An environmental trigger (can be inflammation, toxin exposure, food sensitivities, infections, or even stress)

Two of these things can be controlled. With proper nutrition and supplementation, we can heal leaky gut, reduce inflammation, and remove food triggers. Interventions can be taken to remove other triggers also, such as testing your house for mold and treating infected sinuses.

When we see a positive ANA marker, we want to get those antibody levels down to slow down or stop disease progress. One of the first things to do is remove gluten from the diet because gluten is a common food trigger that causes inflammation and worsens leaky gut.

What may be most important to realize is that this one marker is a wake up call.  You need to become very serious about your health if this is positive, and your level of dedication to daily habits and lifestyles that promote inflammation need to change!  That may be hard to swallow, but your body is infinitely wise and it is trying to tell you that what you are doing is not working and we need to change direction to get back into harmony!  Our program has shown an 85% success rate with autoimmune disorders, but it requires your participation – the pill to fix the ill is not our approach!

If you’re interested in getting a comprehensive blood test that includes the ANA marker, and then developing a plan for reaching optimal wellness, contact us below!

Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP

12 Habits to Make Your New Year a Healing One

1. Eat a brain boosting breakfast

Oatmeal, waffles, toast, grits are all loaded with carbohydrates. While not inherently bad, carbs are not a good way to start your day! Once converted to glucose in your body, these foods cause blood sugar spikes, giving you a short burst of energy followed by a “crash”. Repeatedly spiking your blood sugar can also lead to insulin resistance, which can make it hard to manage weight, affect other hormone levels, increase your risk of dementia, and cause more sugar cravings. Unchecked, insulin resistance can develop into type 2 diabetes.

One of the best things you can do to improve your energy levels throughout the day is to eat a breakfast high in protein and fat. Eggs, sausage, and avocados are fantastic breakfast foods that help regulate your blood sugar, provide sustained energy, and keep you full until lunch!

2. Try grounding

Research shows that having direct skin contact with the Earth’s surface can have a positive impact on inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, sleep, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Our modern lifestyles keep us from having frequent contact with the Earth’s abundant energy, so we need to go out of our way to connect in this healing way. Try walking barefoot in your yard or kick your shoes off during your hike a few times a week.

3. Daily 10 minute stretching routine

One very simple way to improve your energy in the morning is by improving your blood flow! Stretching for just 10 minutes can alleviate tension from sleeping the night before, increase focus for the day ahead, reduce stress, improve your posture, and improve brain function. Try doing this routine once a day:

  • Standing quad stretch
  • Downward dog
  • Forward fold (try to touch your toes)
  • Runners lunge
  • Cat-cow
  • Child’s pose
  • Lying torso twist
  • Butterfly stretch

4. Take 3 deep breaths before you react

Many of us have underlying anger or other unchecked emotions, and often when a situation arises that gives us an excuse to unleash those feelings we jump on it. Next time you feel the urge to react, challenge yourself to take 3 deep breaths to center yourself and make sure you are responding appropriately to the situation at hand.

5. Release your anger in a healthy way

Related to #4, while taking our anger out on others is not a helpful strategy, releasing those emotions in other ways is important. Here are some tools that you may find useful for channeling anger and other big emotions:

  • Mindful exercise
  • Slowly tense and relax each muscle group one at a time
  • Write it out- just dump all of your thoughts on a page
  • Expressive art. Clay or torn-up collage are good physical forms

6. Practice forgiveness

This year, try being more mindful about the grudges and expectations you hold. We can all do well to practice forgiveness for ourselves and others. No one is perfect, and this world needs more bridges, not chasms. A bit of understanding can help soften the sharp edges all around us and make life a bit better for everyone.

7. We know it’s cheesy- but try looking for the silver lining!

Believe it or not, something great has happened to you today; you just have to look for it! If we focus on the negatives, we just increase our stress and cortisol levels, which can increase inflammation in the body. The glass really is half full if you choose to see it that way. Read more about how cortisol affects the body here.

8. Schedule time for your favorite hobby- or start a new one!

Do you have a creative outlet? Do you like to hike, or take classes at the gym? And do you actually make time to do these things, or do they tend to get put on the back burner in favor of chores?

Making time for your hobbies is important for avoiding burnout, reducing stress, and promoting your overall mental health. This year, make sure you schedule time for yourself! Having a creative outlet- even those adult coloring books- reduces anxiety, slows your heart rate, boosts your mood, and can even help you process trauma. Creative activities are even a common therapy for dementia patients, as it helps them reconnect with their personality and reduces feelings of isolation.

9. Use a Neti Pot

If you haven’t heard of a Neti Pot, it is a small teapot-shaped device that you can use to easily flush out your sinuses. All you have to do is put the spout in one nostril and tilt your head. The saline solution flushes your nasal passages and comes back out the other nostril. It is very gentle and you can still breathe through your mouth easily during the rinsing.

Using a Neti Pot clears backed up mucus, limits congestion, improves breathing, and relieves sinus pressure. Research even shows that COVID patients who used a Neti Pot were 19 times less likely to be hospitalized.

10. Switch TV time for reading time once a week

Most of us have at least a few books around the house that we bought but still haven’t read. Try to set time aside each week to read. Reading keeps your vocabulary sharp and can give you a chance to learn something new.

We can’t possibly do everything in this life, but we can live vicariously through others and learn from their experiences. Try a biography! Our care coordinator Danielle recommends Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. He was born a mixed child during South African apartheid- literally born a crime. This book made me laugh out loud, and cry real tears.

11. Clean up your diet

Choose one of these things to remove from your diet for one month and see how you feel:

12. Get your vitamin D levels checked

Vitamin D is a powerhouse for supporting your immune system and is especially important for autoimmune patients. It is also important for bone joint health. Read all about vitamin D here. This year, make sure you add a vitamin D test to your blood work. Either way, a large portion of the US population does not receive adequate vitamin D so it’s a good idea to supplement!

Many times reading a list like this can feel overwhelming.  But, I bet you saw one or two ideas that seemed interesting?  Maybe leaving a few cues around the house for yourself to remind you about that idea could help you incorporate it into your lifestyle so it doesn’t become another lost resolution.  Personally, I think #7 & #12 could be life changing.  Luckily we have a whole year to practice some of these and to see what sticks – Are you ready for your glass to be half full in 2021?

Yours in health,

Dr. Ian