Functional Medicine for Autoimmune Diseases

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Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and type 1 diabetes are on the rise.

The standard treatment for autoimmune diseases is to suppress the immune system with drugs that are costly and may have unpleasant side effects.

Functional medicine takes a different approach to treating autoimmune conditions by targeting their underlying causes. This can provide patients with relief from debilitating symptoms and even help reverse their condition.

Diet and Nutrition

Studies have demonstrated that certain dietary modifications may be effective in relieving inflammation and symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s.

Dietary changes should be tailored to each patient’s health history, age and current condition in order to decrease chronic inflammation and enhance symptoms as well as quality of life by correcting nutritional deficiencies, balancing hormones, limiting environmental toxins and managing stress.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a nutritious diet is essential for good health and should consist of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, meats, and dairy. Furthermore, it should be low in saturated fats, processed/refined sugars, as well as alcohol.

Some individuals with autoimmune disease may be allergic to certain foods or have food sensitivities, such as gluten or dairy. A holistic doctor or functional medicine practitioner can help identify these triggers and create a personalized treatment plan for eliminating them from your diet.

Start the weight loss journey by choosing high-quality protein sources such as fish and chicken. Organic and cage-free eggs can also be beneficial.

It is essential to limit refined and added sugars as these can exacerbate the immune system and cause inflammation. Additionally, limit caffeine (especially coffee) and alcohol intake.

A high-protein diet featuring fresh and wild seafood, organic dairy products and pasture-raised meats can be an effective and delicious way to reduce inflammation and boost energy levels. A plant-based diet has also been demonstrated as helpful in alleviating symptoms related to autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthrosis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

In addition to a balanced diet, supplements can boost immunity and gut health. A functional medicine practitioner can work with you to find the right supplements tailored to your individual needs, helping reduce inflammation and manage symptoms associated with autoimmune disease.

In addition to a healthy diet, functional medicine approaches may include acupuncture and acupressure, herbal therapies, homeopathy or lifestyle changes. These can be used for managing symptoms of autoimmune disease and improving quality of life for those affected.

Lifestyle Changes

There are many factors that may contribute to an autoimmune disease, and lifestyle modifications such as dieting, exercising, managing stress and taking dietary supplements can be effective ways of managing them.

Functional medicine takes a different approach to treating autoimmune diseases than traditional medicine does. Rather than suppressing your immune system with drugs, functional medicine seeks to identify and address the underlying causes of the disorder so you can heal naturally from within.

Many autoimmune disorders are caused by our food choices, particularly processed foods with an abundance of saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Eating such unhealthy meals causes inflammation in the body which in turn may contribute to development of autoimmune diseases like diabetes, thyroid conditions, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

Other risk factors for developing autoimmune diseases include a leaky gut (called dysbiosis) and environmental toxins. These substances can enter the bloodstream through an opening in the gut, activating your immune system.

These toxins may cause inflammation and other signs of autoimmune diseases, such as muscle aches, joint pain and skin rashes. Furthermore, they increase the likelihood of other chronic health conditions as well.

In addition to our food choices, we may increase our risk for autoimmune diseases by consuming too much alcohol and caffeine. These substances cause cortisol release – a hormone which promotes inflammation within the body – through excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption.

Furthermore, these substances can exacerbate inflammation in the brain and nervous system, potentially impacting the autoimmune response. To keep these substances under control, make healthy choices like drinking plenty of water and cutting back on coffee, tea and sodas.

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy proteins can help reduce inflammation. Eating low sugar and high fibre also supports your immune system. For added benefits, consider taking some dietary supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, probiotics or anti-inflammatory herbs like quercetin to support these efforts.

Toxin Exposure

Autoimmune diseases occur when your body’s immune system, which is designed to protect you against invaders, toxins, allergens and stress, becomes confused. Instead of distinguishing internal from external threats like viruses and bacteria, it attacks healthy tissue such as joints, organs, skin and brain.

Autoimmunity is a chronic disorder that may present with various symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, weight gain and more. These effects can be debilitating and drastically reduce quality of life.

The most prevalent autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, scleroderma and type 1 diabetes. Each has its own underlying cause that functional medicine seeks to address; each requires individual attention.

Toxin exposure plays a significant role in the development of autoimmune diseases. This can be caused by heavy metals like lead and mercury; pesticides; and environmental chemicals. These toxins have the potential to alter your genetic make-up by altering methylation and acetylation patterns within your DNA.

Moreover, toxin exposure can increase your likelihood of developing diabetes and other autoimmune diseases by interfering with your liver’s detoxification processes and decreasing glutathione production. When glutathione levels drop, your body becomes more acidic which weakens its capacity to bind with environmental toxins and stop them from entering your bloodstream.

These toxins can also harm the thymus, which regulates your immune system and produces cells that distinguish your own tissues from foreign invaders. When your thymus becomes damaged, however, your immune response becomes confused and misfires.

One toxin associated with autoimmune diseases is Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). These chemicals can be found in plastics, pesticides, receipts, cosmetics, automobiles and food products.

POPs have been shown to activate your immune system, activating it with pro-inflammatory chemicals like cytokines and lymphocytes as well as antibodies. This can result in inflammation, tissue damage, and eventually autoimmune disease.

With a functional medicine approach, your healthcare provider can test for various toxins and identify those that could be contributing to your autoimmune condition. They then collaborate with you on creating a detoxification plan that will help restore optimal health. With some effort on your part, healing from your autoimmune disease and feeling great again are within reach!

Stress Management

Functional medicine takes into account each person as an individual biochemical being with their own needs. We consider all factors, including lifestyle choices, in order to help individuals heal from a range of health issues.

Autoimmune diseases arise when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues such as joints, skin or thyroid. This overactive response is known as systemic inflammation and it is at the root cause of many autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

Thankfully, autoimmune diseases are treatable and can be reversed with functional medicine. Traditional medical treatment usually focuses on suppressing inflammation with medications; whereas functional medicine seeks to address the underlying cause of the issue and help the body regain balance.

One way to help alleviate autoimmune symptoms is by decreasing stress. This can be accomplished through meditation, yoga, massage and other natural methods.

Another effective stress-relieving technique is eating nutritious foods low in sugar and saturated fats. This boosts energy levels, reduces inflammation, and encourages weight loss.

Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes is essential for fighting inflammation in the body. Doing this provides your body with plenty of antioxidants and essential nutrients that can aid in this fight.

Food sensitivity testing is an effective way to identify which foods your body is allergic or intolerant to and whether they may be contributing to your autoimmune disease symptoms. Your provider will give you a list of specific items to avoid as well as the best foods to eat in order to reduce symptoms.

A nutritious diet free from inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates, processed meats and fried foods will help to reduce inflammation in your body. It should include a variety of whole unprocessed foods and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, nut butters and fish oils) along with high-quality proteins like poultry or lean beef and fish.

Finally, ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night to recharge your body and replenish energy reserves. Adults typically need between 7- 9 hours of quality restful sleep per night in order to function at their optimal performance. If you are having trouble falling asleep, ask your doctor about natural supplements that could aid in this process.

For more information or if you would like to discuss treatment and management with Dr Stavy then please contact us via