Autoimmune diseases on the rise
Something strange is happening to our immune systems. Over the last fifty years there has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of autoimmune diseases, conditions in which the body’s immune system begins to attack itself. Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Diabetes Type 1, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus are just the more well-known of over one hundred autoimmune diseases, all of which are reaching record levels.
In the US alone approximately 24 million people have an autoimmune disease of some kind.
What causes autoimmune diseases?
Theories abound as to why these conditions are getting such a stranglehold on the developed world. Chronic inflammation is a possible cause. It would be wrong to say that inflammation per se is bad as it forms a crucial role in the body’s immune response to viruses and bacteria, and healing injuries. The problem occurs when this inflammatory response is called upon unnecessarily and its action is directed towards the body’s own tissues, as in the case of autoimmune disease. The result is the body literally destroying itself. So where does inflammation come from, and what do we do about it?
Chronic inflammation a contributing factor
So why does the inflammatory response get out of whack in the first place? It would seem for many autoimmune conditions a contributing factor is an overproduction of cytokines, which are small proteins released by cells affecting the inter-cell communication. The cytokines trigger inflammation and respond to infections. So the next question is why are too many cytokines produced? A major cause is something called oxidative stress. Today we are bombarded by chemicals, pollutants and free radicals. When the body doesn’t have enough antioxidants to counteract them, oxidative stress is caused, making the body more likely to develop age related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer, and of course autoimmune diseases. So where do antioxidants come from? Food. Non-processed, organic fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Could cannabis provide an answer?
But what if there were a substance that were both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent? Well it just so happens that the cannabis plant does both.
Biochemist Dennis Hill, who himself used cannabis to treat his prostate cancer, describes how compounds within the cannabis plant called cannabinoids ‘have the ability to suppress the inflammatory cytokine response. It’s no surprise that plant cannabinoids can have an anti-inflammatory effect when we consider how they work in the body. The CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system and therefore correspond to functions such as memory, mood, sleep, appetite and pain sensation. Whereas the CB2 receptors can be found in the periphery, modulating the immune system and includes the inflammatory response.
As it happens, plant cannabinoids can work in a similar way to the body’s own endocannabinoids, with two in particular standing out as having particular therapeutic potential.
CBD has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect without the high
THC, the compound in cannabis that gets you stoned, has been shown to be a powerful analgesic. But it is its non-psychoactive cousin Cannabidiol (CBD) that scientists believe could have particular benefit for inflammatory conditions due to its interaction with the CB2 receptors. This is because CBD stimulates the vanilloid pain receptors and inhibits the breakdown of the body’s own cannabinoid Anandamide by suppressing the Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH). All of which elicits an anti-inflammatory effect.
But there’s a further string to Cannabidiol’s bow. Remember how the body’s out of whack inflammatory response can be caused by excessive oxidative stress? Well it turns out that CBD is also a powerful antioxidant, something discovered by scientists as far back as 1998 and even recognized by the American federal government who hold a patent saying as much. It should be pointed out that THC is also an antioxidant, but many people find its psychoactive effects difficult to manage, so CBD offers a more palatable, non-mind-altering alternative.
However, for anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease, it’s all well and good quoting scientific studies that have never made it outside of the laboratory, when what you really want to know is if it works in real life. Increasingly, many autoimmune patients are taking the first option and finding great results.
This is now offered at Steeped in Health, or ready to ship. If you would like more information, just contact me.
Go to PRODUCTS page to see more....
One of my favorite things, especially starting this time of year is a warm cup of tea. Not only is it comforting, but, while the advantages of green tea are many, and well noted, there's another type — black tea — shown by recent research to positively impact not only your quest for weight loss but to lead to a healthier gut microbiome in the process. What can be better than that?
The precise benefit stems from the way black tea (and green tea, too) can change the ratio of gut bacteria, decreasing the percentages of a type previously linked to obesity, and increasing bacteria associated with lean body mass, Prevent Disease reports.1 Research from the University of California published in the European Journal of Nutrition,2 revealed that not only may drinking black tea change your gut microbiome for the better, it may also improve your gut function.
It now appears that both green and black teas have metabolism-boosting effects, with green tea working by way of your bloodstream and black tea by way of your gut bacteria. In addition, antioxidant polyphenols in both green and black tea fight against free radicals, (major anti-oxidant, aka anti-aging) helping to ensure proper function of DNA and cell membranes.
Researchers showed that mice that ingested green or black tea extracts exhibited a change in the ratios of two significant microbiome family groups, recording a decrease in bacteria linked to obesity and an upsurge in bacteria associated with lean body mass.
If you are dedicated and serious about healing leaky gut and autoimmune disease you need to take a look at food additives that trigger or contribute to leaky gut. So, what, exactly, is leaky gut? Known in the medical literature for more than 100 years as “intestinal permeability,” and in my opinion, many modern doctors don’t know how to ID and treat it. It is increasingly prevalent and complicated especially given the array of “food” choices we have today. It is however, believed to be at the root of many diseases.
Signs and symptoms, you have leaky gut include inflammation, joint pain, inflammatory skin disorders and rashes, food allergies and sensitivities and all sorts of other health problems.
Processed foods are easily accessible, but mounting research shows some of the most common additives on ingredients lists could be unleashing digestive destruction. Here are a couple we should talk about:
1. “Meat Glue” - Otherwise known as microbial transglutaminase, this special enzyme serves to hold proteins together. (Hence the name meat glue.) It’s often used in imitation crab meat, for example, California sushi rolls, to improve the texture in meats like ham (processed meats) and surimi.
Thankfully, this food additive that triggers leaky gut is required to be on the label, although it is sometimes called TG enzyme. Another label warning sign? Products formed from pieces of whole muscle meat, or that have been reformed from a single cut, must disclose this fact on their label, as part of the product name, for example, “Formed Beef Tenderloin” or “Formed Turkey Thigh Roast.”
2. Sugars - Glucose was found to increase gut permeability and produce changes in distribution of the main protein of the tight junction in the lining of the intestine, causing leaks. Americans, especially since the “low-fat” craze have eaten an increasingly high amount of sugar. This has increased the amount of inflammation in the body and the digestive track, further exacerbating leaky gut. Unfortunately, the “low-fat” craze tricked people into thinking sugar was healthier than fat leading people to eliminate healthy fats and increase sugar in processed foods.
3. Sodium -A high-salt diet does more than affect your heart. Turns out, it’s also blamed for loosening up those tight junctions that keep your gut function strong and healthy. Interestingly, a high-salt diet could be behind a spike in autoimmune diseases. Excess salt can impact your innate immune system. We need some salt to live, but in general, Americans are getting way too much. I know for me…. I can immediately feel the effects of sodium.
4. Emulsifiers - You may have heard that a common food additive is tied to colon cancer. Emulsifiers like polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose (often known as cellulose gum) are used in things like nonorganic dill pickles, frozen baked goods, non-dairy creamer and more. They’ve also been linked to metabolic dysfunction, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.
Emulsifiers are added to most processed foods to improve food texture and extend shelf life. But it also throws off healthy levels of intestinal bacteria, triggering chronic, low-level inflammation that promotes colorectal cancer and leaky gut. It seems emulsifiers act like detergents to disrupt the mucous layer that lines the gut
5. Gluten - When I work with clients, I tell that it’s imperative that they remove gluten and grains from the diet. (Once your gut is healthy, you can add back in some grains occasionally.) (Glutagenics can help wth this)
Researchers of the food additives that trigger leaky gut study also say gluten is a no-no. They noticed increased gut permeability when immune cells are exposed to gliadin. (Gliadin is a class of proteins in wheat and are a component of gluten. It helps give bread the ability to rise during baking.) Gluten often hides out in unexpected places, including sauces and gravies, where wheat flour is used as a thickening agent.
Foods & Supplements that Counteract Intestinal Permeability Luckily, there are food ingredients and supplements that can help soothe and heal a gut that’s fallen victim to intestinal permeability, AKA leaky gut. Here are a few:
Celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy), is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction damages your small intestine's lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption). The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia, and can lead to serious complications.
In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development, in addition to the symptoms seen in adults.
There's no cure for celiac disease — but for most people, following a strict gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms and promote intestinal healing.
The signs and symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly and are different in children and adults. The most common signs for adults are diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss. Adults may also experience bloating and gas, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, and vomiting.
However, more than half of adults with celiac disease have signs and symptoms that are not related to the digestive system, including:
Dermatitis herpetiformis is an itchy, blistering skin disease that stems from intestinal gluten intolerance. The rash usually occurs on the elbows, knees, torso, scalp and buttocks.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is often associated with changes to the lining of the small intestine identical to those of celiac disease, but the disease may not produce noticeable digestive symptoms.
Doctors treat dermatitis herpetiformis with a gluten-free diet or medication, or both, to control the rash.
When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if you have diarrhea or digestive discomfort that lasts for more than two weeks. Consult your child's doctor if your child is pale, irritable or failing to grow or has a potbelly and foul-smelling, bulky stools.
Be sure to consult your doctor before trying a gluten-free diet. If you stop or even reduce the amount of gluten you eat before you're tested for celiac disease, you may change the test results.
Celiac disease tends to run in families. If someone in your family has the condition, ask your doctor if you should be tested. Also ask your doctor about testing if you or someone in your family has a risk factor for celiac disease, such as type 1 diabetes.
Celiac disease occurs from an interaction between genes, eating foods with gluten and other environmental factors, but the precise cause isn't known. Infant feeding practices, gastrointestinal infections and gut bacteria might contribute to developing celiac disease.
Sometimes celiac disease is triggered — or becomes active for the first time — after surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, viral infection or severe emotional stress.
When the body's immune system overreacts to gluten in food, the reaction damages the tiny, hair-like projections (villi) that line the small intestine. Villi absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat. If your villi are damaged, you can't get enough nutrients, no matter how much you eat.
Some gene variations appear to increase the risk of developing the disease. But having those gene variants doesn't mean you'll get celiac disease, which suggests that additional factors must be involved.
The rate of celiac disease in Western countries isestimated at about 1 percent of the population. Celiac disease is most common in Caucasians; however, it is now being diagnosed among many ethnic groups and is being found globally.
Celiac disease can affect anyone. However, it tends to be more common in people who have:
Untreated, celiac disease can cause:
Probiotics and Foods for Gut Health
There are more microbes and bacteria lining your colon and small intestine and covering your skin than there are cells in your body. Trillions live n the large intestine especially and they play a vital role in your health. Your microbiome, with more neurons that a cats’ brain, to be, effectively, another organ because of its function in the body. Without a healthy microbiome, your overall physical and mental health will suffer.
Your microbiome is unique to you, containing a combination of bacteria and other types of microbes that creates a mini ecosystem in the colon, or large intestine. Depending on where you live and what you eat, your dominant bacteria will be similar to those around you who live and eat similarly, but the exact combination of microbe types your gut fosters will be unique to you.
Why is the Microbiome So Important?
When your gut flora are out of balance, negative consequences are put into motion; over time, this leads to chronic diseases caused by inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Your microbiome makes up 75% of your immune system.
The Influence of the Western Diet on the Microbiome
As you might have guessed, the Western diet—high in sugar, low in fiber—is the perfect recipe for an unhealthy gut. Without adequate food (fiber), the gut flora become imbalanced. Some bacteria and yeast flourish at the expense of others, and these microbes feed on the many types of sugar we ingest in processed, refined, and junk foods. Over time, this imbalance leads to the breakdown of the intestinal mucosal cells, the tiny little fingers, or villi, that absorb nutrients and protect the gut lining. As these cells break down, the mucus lining of the gut dries and washes away, exposing the gut lining. Then the gut lining develops cracks, which allow tiny particles of undigested food to slip from the intestines into the bloodstream. This is called gut permeability, or leaky gut syndrome.
When particles of food enter the bloodstream, the body’s immune response is triggered as it attempts to deal with these unfamiliar food invaders.
The Western diet, then, keeps the body in a constant state of immune emergency, which leads to widespread inflammation inside the body. This constant state of emergency and inflammation leads to hundreds of chronic diseases, such as:
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria and yeast that make up your microbiome. Think of them as the happy, energetic workers of your gut.
Probiotics line both the small intestine and the colon (large intestine), but they are concentrated in the colon. After partially digested food moves from the stomach into the small intestine, nutrients are removed and absorbed into the blood stream. By the time the food has moved into the colon, all that remains is water and the indigestible fiber from your food. They also manufacture vitamins and interact with your hormones, immune system, and cells. The particular balance of gut flora you have also determines how aggressively calories are extracted from the food you eat (an imbalance actually causes your body to absorb more calories, thus contributing to overweight and obesity!).
Foods that contain probiotics will help restore and rebuild a healthy microbiome. They include:
Looking to sip your way to some serious health benefits? Not only is tea a great way to improve your overall health, but it has some powerful weight loss boosting capabilities as well. Find out which teas are best for shedding some pounds.
While these aren't outright medical claims or prescriptions for weight loss, teas have well-studied (and scientifically proven) natural benefits that can help your body perform at its best. Almost all tea will support weight loss because it helps you stay hydrated, which supports weight loss, but there are a few standouts to add to your weekly routine.
Types of Teas
This Simple Daily Habit May Help You Live LongerAccording to data from a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the more plant protein consumed, the lower your risk for mortality.1 This remains true even for those with unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as heavy drinking, obesity, physical inactivity, or smoking.
The study takeaway?
Look for ways to reduce the number of calories you consume daily from red meat and eggs. Substituting just 3% of daily calories derived from these animal proteins with plant protein was found to be associated with a 10% lower risk of death.
How does this translate to our forks?
Very easily! No major dietary overhauls are required to gain these life-extending benefits. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories daily, you would only need to swap out 60 calories. That’s just 15 grams of protein each day.
We’ve put together some delicious examples of plant protein meals.
Plant Protein Swaps:Breakfast
A seven-year Chinese health study examined spicy food intake of over 20,000 lives and revealed a reduced risk of total mortality, as well as death due to cancer, ischemic heart diseases, and respiratory diseases (independent of other risk factors).
Compared with eating spicy food less than once a week, eating it once or twice a week resulted in a 10% reduced overall risk for death. But eating spicy food six to seven times a week reduced the risk by 14%.
A vital immune system can mean the difference between a pleasant winter and a miserable one. Help your body stay strong with help from mother nature.
Echinacea triggers the body’s white blood cells to attack unwanted invaders. It significantly increase the body’s white blood cell count, therefore acting like a natural anti-biotic. Specifically, this herb increases the body’s count of T-cells, interferon, interleukin and immunoglobulin.
2. PROBIOTICS (FRIENDLY FLORA)
Believe it or not, your gut is a key part of your immune system, it is full of neurons. Eating plenty of friendly bacteria (probiotics)helps strengthen your immunity!
A recent study published in Postgraduate Medicine found that women who took a daily probiotic had higher levels of T-cells. T-cells are special white blood cells that support the immune system. I hope you are, but if you are not crazy for sauerkraut or yogurt, think a bout supplementing. But check the labels. Some yogurts offer very minimal amounts of friendly flora.
3. VITAMIN C
I am sure may of you know, Vitamin C to ward off colds. Don't skip the oranges or grapefruits during the winter months. Citrus and other red fruits and veggies (red peppers, strawberries and even leafy greens) contain vitamin C, which helps protect and support the immune system. It also strengthens the cardiovascular system, supports eye health and more.
4. VITAMIN D3
Do you know that not only is it good for your bones, but also for immune system? Vitamin D3 (the sunlight vitamin) It appears to help regulate the function of lymphocytes (an important type of white blood cells), the production of cytokines (another key white blood cell) and the activity of macrophages (protein messengers vital to immune function).
This flavorful and aromatic member of the onion family stimulates the production of important white blood cells. Garlic also helps quench free radicals in the bloodstream. It even supports heart health.
The western U.S. and Canada are home to the Sambucus nigra or elderberry. Its properties have been studied by many scientists, and for good reason! It contains principals that stimulate the body to make cytokines, a type of protein molecule that enhances the immune system’s response to attacks. This dark-colored berry also contains powerful antioxidants, including anthocyanins.
Most people think of mushrooms as a flavor enhancer or use them to bulk up a dish. But some mushrooms offer much more than that. Reishi and cordyceps mushrooms contain chemicals that offer a host of immune benefits, including boosting the immune system and offering lung support.
This essential trace mineral supports the body’s immunity and aids with nerve function. Zinc seems to work the best when taken at the first sign of concern. Especially when used to treat leaky gut!
9. OLIVE LEAF
We're talking about olive leaf here, not cocktail garnishes or pizza toppings. The leaves of this Mediterranean staple offer a powerhouse of protection against unwanted invaders. Olive leaf contains a bitter compound called oleuropein that also provides fabulous support to the circulatory system. And it battles free radical damage.
4 TIPS TO KEEP IMMUNE SYSTEM STRONG:
1. Minimize stress, Stay active, Eat a healthful diet. Steer clear of sugary and high-fat foods, which can slow and/or weaken immune response, and Socialize. People with friends have stronger immune systems than those who feel alone. Of course, try not to socialize with people who are sick.
nYou know that getting a good night’s sleep is theoretically important, but managing a solid eight hours still might not be your first priority.
According to research, not getting enough sleep can be very damaging your health. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of trouble, including memory issues to heart disease. Chronic sleep deprivation also increases the risk of obesity by messing with the hormones that regulate hunger while also increasing appetite.
Natural Sleep Supplements
If good sleep hygiene is not sufficient for getting quality, restful sleep, and your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions that might be disturbing your sleep, you should consider a natural sleep aid or herbal supplement. Sleep supplements produced from organic, high quality ingredients have been shown to be beneficial for many people. It is a good idea to consult with your health care provider before starting a sleep supplement.
Kava Kava and Passion Flower: Nature’s Valium
Kava kava is a root native to the South Pacific islands and has been used as a sleep aid—as well as for general de-stressing and relaxation—for thousands of years. Kava kava has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia while boosting the immune system. Benefits of both: Supports the nervous system. Soothes the nerves. Supports restful sleep.
Passionflower leaves have been used traditionally as a mild calmative. In fact, Algonquin Indians used passionflower tea to help soothe their nerves. Passionflower supports the nervous system in a variety of ways. Many have found that it helps with relaxation of tense muscles. It is widely used to promote a restful night’s sleep. It works as a natural benzodiazapine. (xanax)
Both can be taken in supplement form, or my favorite... TEA.
While the people of the South Pacific used kava kava for thousands of years, the people of Europe used valerian root.
Valerian is often grown in gardens throughout Europe and North America for its sweetly scented pink or white flowers on tall stalks, but it is the root that is prized for its natural sedative effects.
How Valerian Root Works
Phytochemicals in the root stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the “rest and digest system,” one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system. While scientists can’t yet tell us exactly how valerian root aids in better sleep and relaxation, they believe it is because the phytochemicals in the root help to increase the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA regulates nerve cells and has a calming effect on the body. Many anti-anxiety prescription drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) or Valium (diazepam) are designed to increase GABA, and while valerian root has a weaker effect than these prescription drugs, it is thought to have far fewer side effects.
Valerian root calms anxiety and helps you fall asleep faster while improving the quality of your sleep. Valerian root is not known to cause morning grogginess, and it is non-addictive.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone made by your pineal gland. Melatonin plays a part in your body’s circadian rhythm (your body’s daily physiological cycle), with levels rising in the late afternoon and evening to encourage calmness and sleepiness as the sun sets.
How Melatonin Works
Melatonin is at its lowest levels during the morning and early afternoon—especially if you are exposing yourself to adequate sunlight during the early part of the day. Melatonin acts in conjunction with cortisol, a hormone that promotes alertness during the morning and early afternoon. As the day progresses, melatonin levels rise while cortisol levels fall, helping you to feel naturally drowsier as the sun goes down and the sky gets dark. What people don’t often realize is that melatonin can only be produced properly is you are producing enough serotonin as well.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
As you age, your body produces less melatonin, which may be one of the reasons older people often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for more than a few hours at a time. In the world of light screens and technology melatonin production is hindered or prevented as well. Turn off those blue lights!
Gentle, natural sleep aids and supplements are best for the body, though they should be used under the care and supervision of a doctor or certified herbalist. Kava kava, valerian root, and melatonin can all be effective ways to combat stress, insomnia, and night-time waking.
If you need more help than this offers, get more information on my “Work with me” page. Sign up for a free consult.
Has had Hashimoto's for 13 years. I am passionate, I live and breathe, helping you to overcome your struggles with weight, stress, and chronic health issues.