With autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system is attacking its own tissue. We want our immune system to be strong and resilient and capable of fighting disease, but we also want it to have an appropriate response and not destroy its own tissue. An appropriate response is particularly important when it comes to the relationship between our immune system and our own tissues, called immune tolerance.
Our immune system is there to fend off all pathogens which are basically viruses, bacteria, germs, antigens, or things that are not supposed to be in your body. Our immune system is there to defend and protect us against any of these invaders. Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system cannot tell the difference between the invaders and your body’s own healthy tissue.
The immune system has tolerance to all the different tissues, and cells in the body, however sometimes with autoimmune problems, the tolerance of our immune system to its own body tissue is hampered or altered in such a way that now the immune system is seeing those tissues as foreign and starts to invade them and destruct them. This creates inflammation in those areas.
Conventional medicine looks to identify and diagnose the specific autoimmune disease and then uses anti-inflammatories to suppress the inflammation and the immune function that is reacting to and driving that inflammation. This is very necessary because we cannot have tissues in our body destructed to any great extent.
With the conventional medicine approach, the reasons why the immune system has lost its tolerance to those tissues is not determined. Whether it is the joint tissues in Rheumatoid Arthritis, or thyroid tissue with Hashimoto Thyroiditis or the sheaths covering the nerves with Multiple sclerosis; whatever the tissue may be – we need to ask why the immune system lost its tolerance and started to attack those tissues.
The Functional Medicine approach used at Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation takes a deeper look at what exactly is driving the immune reactivity. More specialized blood work may be necessary, along with more extensive examination and a deeper look at the person’s health history, lifestyle, and past infections. Many things can come into play such as toxic burden, use of antibiotics, and many other things that may be part and parcel to the problem. Not to mention the genetic component with many of these autoimmune problems.
The field of immunology recognizes three types of tolerance: oral tolerance, chemical tolerance, and self-tolerance. With autoimmune disease, self-tolerance has been lost which is why the body is attacking its own tissue. Most people with autoimmune disease will see loss of tolerance in all three areas including oral and chemical, finding themselves reacting to foods and chemicals that did not used to be problematic for them before. Unfortunately, we are seeing great harm and loss of tolerance to self, in autoimmune diseases like Lupus, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Celiac Disease, among others.
If you have lost tolerance to many foods, Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation’s process-oriented medicine approach will navigate this time of high reactivity and help you restore your immune tolerance. Loss of tolerance varies greatly among individuals. Trouble shooting is always multi-layered, and diet is only one piece of the puzzle.
Microbiome diversity, the state of your healthy bacteria-particularly within your gut, is critical to healthy immune tolerance. The more we limit our diets, the more you will reduce your diversity which in the long-term is harmful to immune health. Achieving microbiome diversity is the first step towards restoring immune tolerance.
While there are no real cures for autoimmune diseases or these conditions, that does not mean there is no hope. The hope lies mostly in identifying triggers and teaching someone how to manage these problems through their lifestyle as well as, when necessary, the appropriate pharmaceutical intervention.
About the author: Dr. Vince Sferra
Dr. Sferra is the founder and Clinic Director of Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation. His passion is to uncover the root cause of a disease by investigating the mechanisms through which a condition is occurring in an individual. He has a committed focus for working with and improving the quality of life for people struggling with cognitive decline syndromes such as post-concussion syndrome, early stages of common neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and systemic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis as well as a multitude of autoimmune diseases.