Autoimmune conditions – is your immune system attacking your body?

November 12, 2015

Autoimmune diseases include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohns disease, MS, Hashimotos, irritable bowel diseases, Addisons disease and many more. Autoimmune conditions are characterised by a person’s own immune system attacking their body, as if their own body were a pathogen to be eradicated. They are conditions in which the immune system views the normal functioning and reactions of the body as foreign. In a nut shell, it’s our immune ‘tolerance’ gone crazy. It’s lost it’s ability to see who’s a friend, and who’s a foe. For those living with these conditions, natural therapies can offer a lot in the way of better management.

Inflammation is something that must be treated, as it is with all chronic diseases. Alongside this, sufficient nutritional needs must also be met. Nutrients involved in maintaining gut health (a source of a lot of our inflammation, even in healthy guts!), those involved with detoxification, immune ‘balance’ and things like toxicity and past infections (referred to as ‘infection load’) are prime considerations of treatment.

Obesity is a growing issue when it comes to many conditions, not just autoimmune ones, because it is in itself an inflammatory state. Certain proteins produced by our fat tissue have been positively associated with the onset of autoimmune diseases including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. Obesity is also a problem when it comes to nutrients such as vitamin D levels, as excess fat seizes, or hides vitamin D, leaving us at risk of deficiency with this all important nutrient.

For most of us, boosting the immune system is generally a grand idea. For those living with autoimmune conditions however, the focus turns to ‘modulating’, rather than ‘boosting’ the immune system. It’s important to support the immune system in these conditions, but absolutely critical not to over stimulate it. Every single person living with an autoimmune condition is unique and treatment should take this into account. Considering a person’s health history, their diet, symptoms, medications, lifestyle, other conditions and general wellbeing are important considerations of naturopathic treatment.

Naturopathic medicine treats the health of the gut with prime importance when it comes to most conditions – autoimmunity is no different. Even when the condition appears not to be centred around the gut, as it would seem with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, naturopaths still treat the gut.

Using nutrients such as probiotics (‘good bacteria’) and slippery elm (a natural fibre) can help to strengthen and heal the gut wall / lining. Many herbs, such as aloe and licorice can also be beneficial as they may reduce inflammation along the gut wall. It is really important to speak with a qualified health professional about taking herbs to ensure you are getting exactly what you need, and nothing that may exacerbate your condition or adversely affect any medication you are on. Removing things like gluten can also give vast health improvements in helping to heal a damaged gut lining. I’m a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist, so would be more than happy to discuss your needs at Saltuary. I can help with natural medicines, diet plans / guidance, and yes, all of these things can be safely used alongside other medicines when monitored / prescribed by a qualified practitioner.

Vitamin D is important for our immune system. 10 – 15 minutes of direct sun exposure in the early morning can help to boost vitamin D levels. If you’ve had your levels checked and they are low, supplement with a good quality source. Vitamin D supplements vary greatly in quality, so be choosey about what you use. There are many other nutrients that are of great importance, so work with a qualified health professional, to ensure that these are all kept balanced.

Our in-house therapists can help a lot with conditions such as these. We have acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, nutritionists, herbalists and naturopaths. We all work together as a team, discussing our clients cases together to ensure you get optimal natural health care for your condition. Come in and see us to discuss the best way forward and how we can help to manage your condition better.

With love… tiina xx

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