I love collaborating with and learning from other practitioners! Today we have any extra special treat because Toréa from www.torearodriguez.com is going to give us a little lesson on autoimmunity. In my personal practice, my number of clients with autoimmunity is on the rise and I know this is becoming more and more common in the general population as well.
Toréa is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner who has first-hand experience with autoimmune diseases and how to regain health.
Combining her scientific knowledge, risk-assessment and leadership skills along with her love for adventure, community and service, Toréa delivers a very unique experience when working to transform autoimmune disease into long-lasting vitality. Toréa Rodriguez is a former biochemist, Silicon Valley executive, and professional pilot. After diagnosis and healing of her own autoimmune diseases, she is now a certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner and Vitality Transformation Coach.
Check out today’s guest blog post by Toréa —>
What is Autoimmunity? Autoimmune disease is characterized as the body attacking itself in an immune response. It’s one of the top ten causes of death in women and the elderly, and now affects one in 10 people worldwide. In fact, the incidence of autoimmune disease has skyrocketed over the past few decades and there are now more than 700 million people around the world are now affected.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine and treatments have little to offer except for yet another prescription or more drastic measures such as surgery to try to negate the effects of autoimmunity in patients.
Over 100 distinct autoimmune disease have been identified to date. These can affect at least one, but usually several, of the organ systems and tissues in the body. Further, at least 40 other diseases are suspect of having an autoimmune component. For example some diseases, like endometriosis, weren’t traditionally classified as autoimmune in origin but are now viewed that way by some researchers and physicians.
It may, or may not, surprise you to find out that the incidence of autoimmune disease is commonplace in the industrial worlds, but rare or non-existent in contemporary cultures that still practice hunter-gatherer traditional lifestyles. The other suggested contributors to the dramatic increase are environmental factors; autoimmunity is not necessarily dictated solely by genetics. These factors can include: environmental toxins, chronic stress, minimized sun exposure (vitamin D deficiency), changes in GI microbiota, hidden infections, sleep deprivation, SAD (Standard American Diet)… I’m sure there are more too!
So what can you do about it? Perhaps you have been diagnosed with, or suspect you have, an autoimmune disease. The good news is that there are several things that you can do to lead towards a significant reduction in symptoms or even complete remission!
When I work with clients we always start with diet. It’s helpful to make sure that the diet achieves several things, most notably:
- Maximizing nutrients – we want to maximize the nutrients that will promote optimal immune function. This includes micronutrients such as selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, glutathione and vitamins A, D, & K2.
- Calming the immune system – often times we may not know we are inducing an immune response just with the foods we eat. So I start with an Autoimmune Protocol type of diet to remove foods that may trigger or exacerbate an already overactive immune response. Follow this elimination diet for 30-60 days before reintroducing foods again to build a custom diet template for my clients moving forward.
From there we will look at lifestyle factors which include sleep quality, movement, recovery/rest and most importantly stress. Stress, and chronic levels of stress can damage the body and further exacerbate autoimmunity. In fact, in working with many clients, they discover that stress is the one element that will make or break their recovery from autoimmunity!!
And of course it helps if you can find a functional practitioner to help you run some labs to find out what is happening at the biochemical level of your own body. When I work with autoimmune clients, almost all of them have some sort of hidden gut infection, that until dealt with, no amount of elimination diet or stress reduction will make them feel better!
5 Simple Steps
So here are 5 simple steps that you can start doing right now to help you transform your autoimmunity today! Remember, big issues like transforming autoimmunity, require little changes and little changes will take care of big issues. So it’s just about chaining together those little changes to make a huge impact!
- Take a day off! – do what ever you can to take a day off, or two or three! You may not be able to do this all the time, but try to schedule as much time as you can to devote that time to your self-care: nourishing, healing, resting, recovering, rejuvenating. Maybe that looks like booking a massage or acupuncture appointment for yourself. Or perhaps its as simple as taking a bath with some epsom salts and lavender essential oil.
- Get out in nature – a lot – “Weekend warrior-ing” in nature may be beneficial, but it’s not enough. I have found that I need to get out in the sunshine, feel the wind on my skin, or the earth/grass under my feet on a daily basis. Plus, regular sun exposure raises Vitamin D levels which is beneficial for those with autoimmune diseases [1, 2]
- Go Deeper – Investigate with a health professional (like an FDN practitioner) if you have any hidden infections or malfunctions. Functional lab testing is like having a window into the underlying biochemistry. It provides clues to how your body may be malfunctioning and the health professional can then help steer you back on track.
- Consider an elimination diet – I say consider because taking this on takes a bit of preparation and reading. If you want to be walked through a program like this in a step-by-step manner with recipes and a group for support you can join the next seasonal detox with Ginger Newtrition. Good places to start reading about it are here and here. If you are the book type, then The Paleo Approach is pretty much the best resource out there to date.
- Detox your environment – Yes, you could live inside a bubble, but that’s not practical to go to the grocery store in a huge bubble (which would have to be BPA free and non-toxic, right?). But you can start simply by looking in a few areas. I have written about detoxing your kitchen and bath to have a huge impact on reducing environmental toxins in your life (it’s all about the small changes taking care of big issues, right?). And if you have not grabbed Megan’s outstanding Toxic Home Makeover Guide yet, I suggest you do that right now! Its fantastic!!