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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

What Can Your Poo Tell You?

Every human body is different in so many ways, but one thing we all have in common is poop! Pooping is something every living creature on this planet must do in order to stay alive and healthy. The process of defecation means the discharge of feces from the body. Poop is the left-over waste in our system after all of the nutrients of our food have been absorbed (or so we hope). It’s vital for our health that we are properly eliminating these toxins, otherwise they get reabsorbed into our system. There’s a delicate balance that happens in our body based on fiber consumption, hydration, and muscle motility (determined by healthy brain function) that deter-mines how our bowel movements might appear and how often you’ll pass them.

What is a normal poo?

There are many sizes, shapes, and colors your stool can be and all of them tell us different things about our health. Consistency is key: whether you’re having one or two bowel movements every day, you still want to make sure they are healthy! The Bristol Stool Chart is a helpful reference point to guarantee your bowel movements are where they should be.

According to The Bristol Stool Chart, the seven types of stool are:

•Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass

•Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy

•Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface

•Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft

•Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)

•Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool

•Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces, entirely liquid

Types 1–2 indicate constipation, types 3–5 are considered to be ideal, normal poops (especially 4), and types 6–7 are considered abnormal and indicate diarrhea.

The color (and even smell!) of your stool can tell you things about it as well. Colors can range from a medium brown, black, green, red, or even yellow/gray. Here’s a list of what some of these might say about what’s going on inside your body:

  • Medium to dark brown: Normal!
  • Black: Can mean there is upper GI bleeding going on. If this continues for 2-3 poops, consult with your doctor.
  • Green: Can be a sign that your stool is moving too quickly through your digestive tract. Vegetables like spinach, kale, blueberries, or green supplement powders can show up in your stool without enough fiber to slow down the digestive process.
  • Red/Purple: Can be a result of eating deeply colored vegetables like beets, but if you haven’t eaten anything of this color, you should reach out to your doctor (could be as simple as a hemorrhoid or something else).
  • Yellow/Gray: Typically a sign of mucous, or bile, in the stool which can mean an issue with the liver or gallbladder.

What might be causing problems?

There are many reasons why you might not be eliminating properly! Constipation and diarrhea can result from stress, dehydration, lack of fiber, too much alcohol or caffeine, inflammation, or autoimmune disease. Dysbiosis is an “imbalance” in the gut microbial community and can mean that the bad bacteria in your digestive system has overgrown the good. This can cause bacterial over-growth, like SIBO, resulting in constipation, gas, bloating, food intolerances, and nutritional deficiencies.

Food sensitivities may be one of the most common, yet overlooked reasons for change in bowel movements. If you find your pattern flip flopping this could be IBS, but in reality there may be a chronic food sensitivity that you are unaware of! Foods like gluten and dairy are potentially inflammatory to your body and this may be causing either constipation (from bacterial overgrowth) or diarrhea (body needs to get it out fast!). At Dr. Autoimmune, we will help you determine any food sensitivities you may have so you can drop that inflammation and get this common leaky gut trigger removed. Without fully getting your diet dialed in to what you need, it may be impossible to have normal gut function.

Consistent bowel movements are a way to avoid dysbiosis and potential disease. Keep a look out for changes in your stool to help you stay aware of what’s going on inside your body. Fiber (vegetables, people!) and hydration might be two easy additions to your routine that could help you stay regular AND stay healthy! If you have tried all of the tricks and are still suffering, this is where functional medicine shines! Dr. Ian and our nutritionist are trained to pick up on these abnormal patterns and help you find the root cause of abnormal poo!

If you’d like to get started, fill out the form below and we’ll reach out shortly. We look forward to working with you to help you reach your health goals. We have a very comprehensive stool analysis that all of our clients complete because of just how important gut health is.

May the (good) poo be with you,

Ian Hollaman DC, MSc, IFMCP

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    where functional medicine shines! Dr. Ian and our nutritionist are trained to pick up on these ab-normal patterns and help you find the root cause of abnormal poo!May the (good) poo be with you,