Many of my clients want that smoking bullet to help them treat and heal their particular concern, be it Hashimoto’s, Celiac, MS, Rheumatoid, Lupus or other disease. We have been trained, just as our medical doctors were trained to associate a symptom with a particular pill or surgery that will magically “wipe away our problem”. Unfortunately with autoimmune disease you cannot get a “new” immune system and you must develop strategies to help the only immune system you have become more tolerant to your tissues (I’m not saying you cannot have an AMAZING life here!). So why would you develop an autoimmune disease in the first place?
Autoimmunity, according to Alessio Fassano, MD, a preeminent researcher of Celiac disease, is when you have a mix of genetics, environmental factors and triggering agents that start a vicious circle of “loss of tolerance”, or the ability for your immune system to tell what is friend, or foe. At the heart of the matter are cells called T-regulatory cells (AKA FoxP3 CD 25 T-reg). These critters help organize our team of immune cells like a gifted coach, sending out signals to recruit activity or lower immune cell activity, depending on our internal signals and the environment that provokes these signals. In autoimmune disease, think of a coach without organization or ability to give his team uniforms or clear direction so that when the players hit the field he couldn’t tell which is the opponent and who is on his side! So, with this chaos comes consequences and unfortunately it leads to tissue destruction, symptoms and potentially severe health consequences down the line (The CDC indicates this as the #3-#4 leading cause of death). So how do we get our “coach” to get his act together and orchestrate this complex system? Below is a list of a few nutritional compounds that I commonly use to help encourage communication and tolerance (note there are many reasons to use these foods beyond Autoimmune system support!)
1) Combination fatty acid therapy (CFAT): Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acid supplementation has been shown to reduce nasty cell signaling chemicals like IL-17 and improve T-reg functioning as per this article indicating decreased psoriasis activity.
2) Vitamin D: This hot hormone has now been connected to many diseases including autoimmunity, cancer and cardiovascular disease and research articles indicate vitamin D can decrease incidence of these diseases through induction of T-reg cell function! This is a fat-soluble vitamin and there is an “optimal range” you should shoot for.
3) Low antigen diet: There are many interpretations of a “clean” diet but when all else fails look to evolution to guide your food choices. I strongly recommend a Paleo-Mediterranean diet that offers nutrient dense foods like lean and clean proteins, low glycemic carbohydrates and fruit plus abundant fat. Not only does this help quench inflammation but also the fact that this reduces exposure to allergenic and processed foods really takes the stress off our immune system!
4) Probiotics: Many papers have been written on the connection between skin disorders like eczema and improvement through probiotic supplementation. The underlying mechanism is activation of T-regulatory cells and through specific probiotic supplementation the improvements are dramatic. The same can be said of other Autoimmune diseases but the key is to use the right strains at the right dosages!
5) Green Tea: One fascinating aspect of green tea is it is consumed in populations that have very high levels of centenarians, or people over 100. This is no fluke, bathing your immune system in green tea polyphenols induces T-regulatory system activity towards tolerance. I recommend organic green tea and 2-3x/ day unless you are sensitive to caffeine (it can come decaffeinated but it is important to make sure they are not using chemicals to achieve this result).
These are a few of my favorite friends and I hope you will consider them as well in your pursuit of health. Remember, regular exposure keeps our “coach” happy and engaged in the daily struggle of maintaining our complex immune system! If you are already using these compounds or find self-care is not providing the results you would like, consider consulting us here at Dr. Autoimmune, and together we can let your health soar!