Most people are well aware that pharmaceuticals are powerful tools. They can work for you, or against you. Well, food is just as powerful. Every bite is a step toward health, or away from it. Every time you go grocery shopping, open your refrigerator, or order at a restaurant, keep in mind that your choices matter, and affect your entire body (and mind).
There are very few food choices that are neutral. Why? Because food is designed by nature to be healing, but manufactured foods are designed to make profits. Even whole foods like the all so praised kale can be detrimental to certain people at certain times. I raise kale as an example because it’s a chelator, and it draws heavy metals out of the ground. You definitely want it to be organic for that reason, but even in it’s organic form it can be disrupting for people with digestive issues.
Food is either inflammatory, or anti-inflammatory, and it all depends on the person, at what stage of health they are in. That’s why testing food sensitivities, and/or doing an elimination diet is so important, ESPECIALLY for those with autoimmune disorders. An autoimmune disease is when a person’s body is mistakenly attacking itself because it’s identifying things that are not threats, as attacks. When I had an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto) I thought I was doing everything right. I was drinking celery juice, beet juice, and eating a little raw, organic, dairy free dark chocolate. All of which happen to be extremely high in oxalates. I’ll explain oxalates in more detail in a post soon, but just know for now, that those foods, for me, in that moment, were highly inflammatory. I consume them all now, in moderation, and I’m fully healed with no medication from Hashimoto’s. The role of food cannot be underestimated. There was a point when I couldn’t eat most fruits, or vegetables until I healed, but I did it, and so can you. I now am free to eat anything I wish -other than gluten or dairy. I can actually eat gluten and dairy with zero side affects, but that’s not way I choose not to avoid them – please read previous gluten post. It’s really important not to eat the same foods every day – especially if you’re dealing with an autoimmune issue. Foods that are eaten every day (and passing through the mucosal barrier with leaky gut) will be attacked – further exacerbating your bodies’ attack on itself.
Most people who seek conventional medical care with autoimmune issues are told there’s no reason for the disease, and no cure. They may allude to bad genetics, but the conversation doesn’t get much deeper than that. The reason for this is that most conventional medical schools don’t teach a holistic approach. Meaning, they are taught to look at symptoms and prescribe a drug accordingly. When someone comes into their offices who doesn’t yet have enough symptoms to identify as a certain disease, and they can’t be treated with a drug, they are turned away. That’s why it takes so long for people to get diagnosed. Because they start going to see doctors when they start feeling like someone is off, and conventional medicine doesn’t know what to do with people who are sinking, you have to be fully sunk for them to start intervening.
In the functional space, we are able to catch people before full blown autoimmunity kicks in, and even if it’s already in gear, it can be significantly reduced and even reversed. That’s because functional medicine is less focused on the symptoms, and more focused on the cause. Blood tests for vitamin D, B, and iron are helpful, but there’s so much more. There’s often a genetic component, but genes are like a gun, not harmful until it’s loaded and the trigger is pulled. What loads the gun? Many things, and it’s different for each person. The most common underlying issues tend to be a permeable gut (leaky gut – that can absolutely be healed), heavy metal accumulation (that can be detoxed), stress (physical or emotional), toxic environmental exposures, parasites (more common than you would think), bacteria, viruses, and more.
My approach with clients is to test for all of those things and tackle them in order of importance for that particular person. The first thing to do is heal the gut, and remove food sensitivities from the diet. When your gut is permeable, lots of things get into the bloodstream that are not supposed to, and our bodies recognize those things as antagonistic – even if they aren’t. So, you start feeling like crap after eating foods that you used to be able to eat with no issue. That’s always a huge sign that there’s leaky gut. And by the way, if you have leaky gut, you also have leaky brain. That’s when substances are passing through the blood brain barrier. This leads to degenerative brain conditions, heavy metals in the brain, brain fog and more. Once your gut lining is healed, you’ll be able to add back in most – if not all -of the previously offending foods. There’s a caveat with gluten so please read that post. When there is gut permeability, there’s a cascade of issues that follow so the importance of repairing it with diet and supplements can’t be overstated. Not only are food particles getting through that shouldn’t, but parasites, bacteria, viruses, metals etc are also getting through. Because there is so much metabolic chaos going on at once, there’s no one solution. The good news is however, that is is definitely a solution.
Stress, whether it’s a physical stress like and injury, or emotional stress plays a major role. It’s very difficult to heal from most illness, but particularly autoimmune issues, without doing some soul searching, and learning tools to de-stress. Even good stress like getting ready for a wedding, or planning a party can be triggers if you don’t have the tools to cope. People get so used to running on adrenaline, and meeting every deadline, that they think it’s normal to feel stressed. They even feel guilty if they have too much down time. No one’s giving out awards for who’s accomplished the most, and most people probably aren’t even noticing all of your accomplishments anyway. People pleasers are most often hurt by this. The need to say yes to everything, and get pats on the back can be hard to turn away from, but learning to put yourself first (especially for moms) is really important. Everyone’s familiar with the flight or fight stress response, but when your cortisol levels are chronically elevated, it destroys your immune system and creates leaky gut. As I stated earlier, this all starts with leaky gut. Integrating meditation, yoga, practicing gratitude, breathwork, seeing a therapist or anything else that gets you out of flight or fight, and helps you deal with stress is crucial.
Although it’s true there’s no pill to fix this stuff, and it takes commitment, but considering there are millions suffering from autoimmune issues, and millions more marching toward being diagnosed with one, I’m convinced it’s worth doing the tests, and doing the work to heal.