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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 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!

Lupus and DHEA: A New Approach

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

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

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

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

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

How Does it Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Brush and Floss Your Way to Relieved RA?

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

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

How Does RA Start?

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

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

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

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

Gum Disease and RA

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

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

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

Your RA Might Have a “Friend”

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

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

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

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!

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!

A Hair-Owing Dilemma


Baldness is the name given to the most common type of hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, genetically caused hair loss. Male pattern baldness typically occurs on the top and front of the head. Female pattern baldness occurs on the top, usually widening at the part. Genetics and stress can exacerbate hair loss, but too often our immune system gets involved, and can be the culprit in the alopecia mystery.

Alopecia is the medical term for bald, and “areata” means patchy. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that attacks the skin follicles creating non-scarring hair loss, generally on the head and face. This condition affects millions of people, which often drives both women and men to shave their hair in order to minimize or hide this patchy disorder. One study showed that among the 71 patients with alopecia areata, males outnumbered females with a ratio of 2.5:1. The maximum incidence of alopecia areata was in the age group of 20-40 years (50.4%).

Alopecia has different shapes and sizes

  • Alopecia areata totalis means you’ve lost all the hair on your head.
  • Alopecia areata universalis is the loss of hair over your entire body.
  • Diffuse alopecia areata is a sudden thinning of your hair rather than lost patches.
  • Ophiasis alopecia areata causes hair loss in a band shape around the sides and back of your head.

The loss amount and shapes can be categorized 3 severity classifications:

  • Mild symptoms would typically have 3 or less patches with no larger than 3 cm, or the loss is limited to the eyelashes.
  • Moderate symptoms have more than 3 patches or a patch larger than 3 cm without total hair loss on your head and/or body.
  • Severe symptoms would be classified as total hair loss on head or body, or a snake-shaped loss on the scalp or head.

Any type of alopecia can affect emotional health through shame and trauma. Highlighted during a recent awards show that went viral, hiding or lack of awareness about this disorder can be humiliating, and many are uneducated about its cause or existence. Awareness of any imbalance that affects millions of people should be shared and education of how to support your immune system is key in getting ahead of our health epidemic.

Thyroid/Hashimoto’s dysfunction

Many Dr. Autoimmune clients with thyroid disease report hair loss In fact, 74% of all thyroid patients report hair thinning or loss. When hormone production of T3 and T4 is disrupted, it affects the health and development of hair loss and growth. With proper diet, supplement and lifestyle shifts, your endocrine system can rebalance and your symptoms can dissipate or disappear altogether.

Lupus

Like all autoimmunity, lupus causes widespread panic of inflammation which can include your skin. Inflammation creates stress which can manifest in many different organs. With proper diagnosis and support, you can get this inflammation under control, and your hair can grow back.

Other autoimmune diseases that could cause hair loss

There is hope!

Don’t pull the rest of your hair out in frustration; there is hope! Dr. Autoimmune can help you get to the root cause of your symptoms and get your health to soar again. Rather than utilizing a symptom based approach, maybe looking deeper into the physiology and mechanisms can create lasting changes. It can take longer and requires diet and supplementation but functional medicine is “root cause medicine”, and investing in your health may be the spark you need to feel confident and radiate from the inside-out.

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

In with Black Cumin Seed Oil, Out with Inflammation

Also known as black caraway and referenced in many scriptural texts, black cumin is a flowering plant found throughout Southwest Asia, parts of the Mediterranean and Africa. This magical oil has a long history of use in diverse culinary and medicinal traditions. Black seed oil is extracted from N. sativa seeds, and has been used in medicine for over 2,000 years due to its many therapeutic benefits. The uses for this natural remedy are all-encompassing. It would be a compliment to your arsenal of supplements, ointments, and aides.

Black seed oil has been used for a wide variety of health conditions across the continents. As a result, it has sometimes been referred to as a panacea, meaning ‘universal healer’. That is a big claim, but black cumin seeds have been used by traditional Arab, Asian, and African practitioners to support conditions such as digestive and respiratory problems, headaches, and bacterial infections. In addition to ingesting this oil that brandishes a pungent herbaceous flavor, it can be rubbed into joints and skin as an anti-inflammatory aid… and YES, it really works!

Black Cumin Seed Oil and Autoimmunity

Black cumin seed oil is known to help regulate overactive immune system responses that can cause things like allergies and inflammatory or autoimmune conditions. These conditions can include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis, to name a few. The most abundant and active component in black cumin seed oil is thymoquinone* (a phytochemical compound found in the plant), which attributes to these benefits: 

  • Enhancement of the immune response (T regulatory cells)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Liver support
  • Anti-tumor
  • Anti-cancer
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Hypoglycemic
  • Antihypertensive
  • Anti-asthmatic

*Contraindications for Thymoquinone: Pregnancy, bleeding disorders: might increase the risk of bleeding by slowing blood clotting and 15 days before and after surgery.

Black cumin seed oil has been shown to beneficially affect the immune system by increasing the count and stimulating activity of some T-regulatory immune cells and, most notably, lowering levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. You may be familiar with the recent news of triggering cytokine storms and the havoc it can wreak on our immune systems.

Suppress the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your throat below your Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body’s functions. Black cumin oil may support Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This study found that the group given black seed oil saw reductions in body weight and BMI, as well as improvements in thyroid-related measures such as T3 and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. The researchers concluded that, “Considering the observed health-promoting effect of this medicinal plant in improving the disease severity, it can be regarded as a useful therapeutic approach in management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.”

Massage out Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. Black seed oil has the potential to alter disease signaling pathways and provide protection against RA-induced symptoms, and also prevent liver and kidney damage in patients with RA. In 2011, The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry published a report on laboratory tests which showed the effectiveness of thymoquinone on RA-affected isolated human cell samples. Furthermore, 40 female patients with rheumatoid arthritis took 500 mg black seed oil capsule twice daily for one month and they reported suppression of disease progression with reduction of joint inflammation and improved morning stiffness.

Move more with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is most commonly described as an incurable inflammatory neurodegenerative chronic disease that has life altering effects. Black seed oil consumption by MS patients can be therapeutic by suppressing inflammation, enhancing re-myelination (coating the outside of the nerves), and reducing the expression of TGF β1 in rats. Research shows that TGF B-1 has a role in activation of autoimmunity as well as suppressing autoimmunity. 

Re-myelination is a process of making cells that create new myelin sheaths on the central nervous system (CNS). The brain, optic nerves, and spine (CNS) communicate with each other, and then the brain tells the body how to move, think, and talk. It’s no wonder those who suffer with multiple sclerosis symptoms struggle with movement. So  go ahead and take a swig, or rub some black cumin oil on those aches and pains.

What we recommend   

Andreas Black Seed Cumin Oil touts their product is the world’s most effective and powerful superfood on the planet. It is 100% cold-pressed and sealed in glass bottles. USDA Organic. Dr. Autoimmune is offering 15% off Andreas Black Seed Cumin Oil during the month of August 2021. Regularly $55.00 retail, On sale for $46.75 does not include shipping or tax. Local pickups are available. Give us a call for more information 303-882-8447, or fill out the form below and one of our staff will be in touch with you shortly.

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    HORMONES 101 Part 2: Estrogen Dominance

    In Part 1 of this series we covered cortisol, progesterone, and their relationship. Though the vast majority of hormones are made of protein, both of these are steroid hormones made of cholesterol. Estrogen is another steroid hormone. It is the main female sex hormone, but it also plays an important role in male bodies.

    Estrogen: The Breakdown

    Estrogen is responsible for most of the physical changes in the female body related to reproduction. It stores fat in certain areas leading to ‘curviness’, plumps skin, and grows the breasts and pubic hair in females. It also has other important functions such as improving immunity and memory, strengthening bones, controlling cholesterol levels, and maintaining a balanced mood. 

    The body makes three different types of estrogen:

    1. Estrone (E1) = the only estrogen produced after menopause
    2. Estradiol (E2) = main estrogen in females of reproductive age
    3. Estriol (E3) = produced during pregnancy

    The two main sex hormones (hormones involved in reproduction) in females are progesterone and estrogen. As we discussed before, progesterone dominates the second half of the menstrual cycle, maintaining the thick uterine lining to prepare for pregnancy. That thick uterine lining exists thanks to estrogen, who dominates the first half of the cycle. Here is that visual again to refresh your memory:

    A Finicky Relationship

    One of the most common hormonal imbalances seen in females is between progesterone and estrogen. This imbalance is known as estrogen dominance. In males, this presents as an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen. Even though estrogen does important things like keeping bones strong, the key to balanced health is balanced hormones! One of progesterone’s most important roles is to balance out estrogen after it gets ramped up during the first half of the menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels in the body are too high, you risk developing estrogen-related cancers and experience a range of symptoms.

    Because estrogen dominance describes the relationship between estrogen and progesterone, there are a few ways it can present. Estrogen levels could be normal, but if progesterone levels are low, you have estrogen dominance. The opposite can result in the same: If progesterone levels are normal, but estrogen levels are high, you have estrogen dominance.

    Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance

    If you menstruate, you may have experienced some (or all) of these symptoms. Though they are common in our society, they are likely the result of a hormone imbalance that you can get under control with proper nutrition and supplementation and the help of a functional medicine practitioner.

    Females:

    • Heavy or irregular periods
    • Water retention and swelling
    • Breast tenderness and breast changes
    • Headaches or migraines
    • Weight gain
    • Mood swings  
    • Painful periods
    • PMS symptoms
    • Fertility challenges
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Sugar cravings
    • Uterine fibroids (benign growths around or in the uterus)
    • Changes in memory and brain function
    • Cold hands and feet

    Males:

    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Infertility
    • Enlarged breasts
    • Depression

    Estrogen is created in the ovaries/testes, adrenal glands, and fat tissue. In normal amounts, it keeps our bodies well balanced. However, high amounts of fat tissue can result in extra production of estrogen, which in turn encourages more fat storage. This cycle can lead to unwanted weight gain. On top of that, estrogen has been shown to discourage the breakdown of fat cells, especially in the midsection (hips and waist).

    Estrogen dominance over time can lead to more serious health issues, such as heart attacks, breast or ovarian cancer, blood clots, and stroke.

    Estrogen and autoimmunity

    Estrogen is known to be an immune-enhancer, whereas androgens and progesterone are immune-suppressors. This is an important piece of information for people living with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Autoimmune diseases manifest when one’s immune system is overactive and starts to attack the body’s own tissue. In this case, having estrogen continue to ramp up your immune system is going to cause further damage. This is the reason that about 78% of people with autoimmune diseases are women.

    What causes estrogen dominance?

    High estrogen levels can be partially hereditary, but it can also be caused (or triggered) by external sources such as hormonal contraceptives, some antibiotics, and other medications, including the popular hormone replacement therapy used to ‘treat’ menopause symptoms. Other factors that contribute are gut dysbiosis, a low fiber diet, and alcohol consumption.  The most common mechanism we see in clinical practice is estrogen dominance due to insulin resistance.  When insulin is spiking to control blood sugar this creates fat cells and fat cells secrete more estrogen.  This in turn alters the ratios of hormones and can increase inflammation which impacts all areas of the body.  As this continues it’s almost like a train gaining steam without brakes.  The estrogen dominance then facilitates inflammation which in turn causes more insulin resistance (and on and on…).

    Another cause of estrogen dominance can be polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which we mentioned in Part 1 as a cause of low progesterone levels. PCOS can be caused by high levels of androgens (male hormones). Symptoms can include acne, facial hair or male pattern baldness in females. PCOS may be manageable through proper nutrition. One group of researchers studied women with PCOS and found that by decreasing the amount of refined carbohydrates in their diets, insulin sensitivity could be induced. Insulin sensitivity, being the opposite of insulin resistance, can help increase levels of progesterone and therefore decrease levels of estrogen.

    Insulin resistance promotes the enzyme aromatase, which converts androgens to estrogen. It also inhibits sex-hormone-binding globulin, resulting in more free estrogen. We’ll talk more extensively about insulin resistance in part 3 of this series.

    Excess fat, stress, impaired digestion and detoxification pathways, and external estrogen copy-cats such as xeno- and phytoestrogens can also lead to increased levels of estrogen. The body metabolizes hormones and gets rid of them through detoxification pathways. When these processes aren’t functioning properly (or genetic alterations are present), estrogen will remain in the body for long periods of time.

    Xenoestrogens are synthetic, man-made chemicals that resemble estrogen and act on estrogen receptors in the body. They are found in things like plastics, cosmetics (we absorb up to 60% of what we put on our skin!), and birth control pills. Phytoestrogens on the other hand, come from plants and have less of an impact (though still an impact!) on the body’s natural estrogen levels. Soy is the most common culprit in this family of estrogen disruptors.

    What’s next?

    The functional medicine approach to all hormone imbalances is represented in the pneumonic “PTSD”. Let’s apply it to estrogen!

    1. Production: 
      1. Estrogen is made in multiple places, but we can have the most control over our fat tissue. This does not mean that you need to eat less. Our bodies need to be nourished! Exercise and proper nutrition will help us control excess fat buildup.
      2. We can limit our exposure to external estrogen-like chemicals. Choosing clean cosmetics and organic foods is one way to reduce our intake of xenoestrogens. Avoiding foods like soy can reduce our intake of phytoestrogens.
    2. Transport
      1. More available estrogen as a result of dysregulated transportation pathways can lead to estrogen dominance.
    3. Sensitivity
      1. A cell’s sensitivity to a hormone may have an impact. For instance, a cell with a rigid membrane may not allow for estrogen to enter. When estrogen receptors are defective, it can result in an estrogen resistance condition and therefore more free estrogen.
    4. Detoxification
      1. If detoxification pathways are not functioning optimally and estrogen isn’t being excreted at a normal rate, that leaves more of it to cause an imbalance. We can provide our bodies with nutrients that support healthy digestion and a healthy liver for detoxing.

    If you suspect you may have estrogen dominance, you should consider meeting with a practitioner who understands how to identify root causes and will work with you to create a personalized plan for balancing your hormones. Contact us using the form below to get started!

    Stay tuned for Part 3 of our hormone series, where we will dive deeper into another very common hormone imbalance: insulin resistance.

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