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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.

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.

The Immune Power of Antioxidants

What Are Antioxidants?

“Antioxidant” is probably a term you have heard before. It is used commonly to refer to health beverage ingredients, so-called ‘superfoods’, and supplements as an anti-aging tool. But what is an antioxidant?

To understand how antioxidants work, you will need to understand what “free radicals” are. Free radicals are unstable atoms that are naturally made in the body. They are unstable because they do not have enough electrons, so they want to steal electrons from other atoms. When they steal electrons from our body’s atoms, it causes “oxidative stress” on our cells.

Oxidative stress, or free radicals stealing electrons from our bodies’ atoms, has been linked to a number of diseases such as:

In addition to all of these conditions, oxidative stress from free radicals also causes the effects of aging such as wrinkles, gray hair, vision decline, and hair loss. As we get older, our bodies produce more free radicals and have a harder time fighting them.

Now that you understand how free radicals cause oxidative stress, you will understand how antioxidants work. Free radicals need to steal electrons in order to become stable and stop causing damage. Antioxidants are special atoms that can donate their own electrons to the free radicals. Check out the image below to see how this works:

Some common antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and our focus for this article: alpha lipoic acid (ALA).

How Antioxidants Help Autoimmunity

Oxidative stress from free radicals has been known to lead to autoimmunity because it messes with the immune system and causes inflammation. Here’s how:

Immune cells use free radicals to destroy bacteria, but when they start to produce too many, T-regulatory cells use them to suppress the immune cells. This is one way that T-reg cells ‘police’ the immune system. When immune cells are dysregulated (T-reg cells aren’t working right), they produce more free radicals, which increases inflammation. This is how oxidative stress dysregulates the immune system.

In fact, one study found that oxidative stress was a huge contributor to damage done by the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus. Free radicals increased inflammation, organ damage, and the chance of developing a second disease.

Since we know that oxidative stress can cause autoimmunity, it makes sense that antioxidants may help with managing autoimmune diseases. Studies have actually shown that this theory is true.

ALA and Autoimmunity

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that our cells make naturally. We can also supplement with it and get great results, as some scientists have already tested.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects your body’s nervous system. The version of this disease that mice can get is called EAE. When mice with this disease were given high doses of ALA early on, the disease was completely suppressed. The ALA helped regulate the immune system in the mice and was able to completely stop it from attacking their central nervous systems. The implications for humans with MS are very exciting. Even in mice that already had very serious symptoms, the ALA slowed down their disease progression and reduced their symptoms.

Similar research shows us that ALA can be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, psoriasis, autoimmune small-vessel vasculitis, and more.

ALA in Immunoxym

Our very own Dr. Ian Hollaman (a.k.a Dr. Autoimmune) developed a supplement formula for his autoimmune patients. Immunoxym is specifically made to support your T-regulatory cells, which are the ‘police’ of your immune system. One of the most important ingredients is ALA.

For the month of June, you can purchase Immunoxym for 10% off online using code IAN10 at checkout, and 15% off if you purchase in the office.

With an 85% success rate for resolution of symptoms, we are confident that we can get to the root cause of your condition and develop a custom plan with you that will help you reach your health goals. If you are ready to be brave and take the Dr. Autoimmune challenge, click “Start Your Journey” at the bottom of this page!

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!

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.

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.

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!

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!

Long COVID Doesn’t Need to be Exhausting

Are you ready to overhaul your COVID symptoms? Finding relief at the end of a very long, arduous fight can be resolved with proper diagnostics and support. Getting to the root cause of your aches and pains is just what Dr. Autoimmune ordered. 

What is long COVID?  

Current research is conflicting, but it appears continuing symptoms could persist 1-3 months after infection, or even longer. The virus can trigger inflammation in various systems in your body, creating one or more symptoms.

If you have tested positive, or know you were exposed and have new or persisting symptoms from the the list below, your inflammation could be getting the better of you. Unfortunately these symptoms are so common that one research article indicated 52% of 16-30 year olds had symptoms at 6 months post-infection. These are some of the symptoms associated with long COVID:

Neurological:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • ‘Brain fog’
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Memory impairments
  • Pain syndromes

Lung / Pulmonary:

  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Wheezing / gasping / unable to get full breath
  • Chest pain / tightness

Cardiac:

  • Palpitations
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Clotting abnormalities

Gastrointestinal:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • IBS

Endocrine:

  • Elevated insulin
  • Fatigue after meals
  • Shaky, lightheaded or ‘hangry’

Why me?

Long COVID thrives on immune system weaknesses! There are multiple reasons why some experience long symptoms, while others are unscathed. Contributing factors may include age, obesity, inflammatory markers, and insulin resistance (IR). IR is when your cells resist insulin and can no longer use glucose for energy. This can cause sugar cravings after meals, weight loss resistance, and fatigue. 

One of the common symptoms of long COVID, loss of smell and taste, may indicate that the brain is resistant to insulin and therefore not getting enough fuel. Insulin resistance can lead to neurodegeneration (conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers). Correcting insulin imbalances often lessen or eradicate symptoms.

How do we control insulin resistance?  

Functional medicine might be the answer to your blood sugar handling issues. Assessing inflammation in the body is the first step for determining if your problem is systemic and what the root cause may be. Commonly, the culprit is in your gut. Imbalances in your microbiome have a profound effect on all of your bodily systems. Hormone imbalances can have a similar impact. Could cortisol and stress dysregulation be causing sleep disturbances, leading to insulin resistance? A resounding yes!  

Dr. Autoimmune can help!

We have seen a dramatic increase of long COVID cases hauling their way through our practice. For many, autoimmunity was triggered or exasperated by the virus. Our proprietary process of diet, supplementation, lifestyle strategies and therapies can change your life. We have even seen cases that are now two years old improve or remiss!  

Call us today and find out how our New Patient Exam process can help your health soar.