In the fourth post of my series, I looked at some of the drug options available in the treatment of Autoimmune disease. If you missed it you can find it here:
Now it’s time to learn about the treatment options that are available, what traditional doctors won’t tell you, and why.
Everyone has their limitations, and so do general medical doctors.
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The Problem –Your Doctor Won’t Tell You.
Unfortunately, most medical doctors are not taught about natural medicine and very little on nutrition. Which is why they usually stay with what they know when it comes to treating disease. It’s not their fault, it’s the system that they must work in.
Even if they have heard of natural treatment option, they can be more sceptical. My own doctor dismissed me when I asked about trying to get off my medication for Hashimotos. I wanted her to help me investigate the cause of my Hashimotos and to try and fix it.
I specifically asked her about “leaky gut”, since I had been reading Dr Josh Axe book, Eat Dirt, and whether leaky gut may have been the cause or contributing factor.
She said that leaky gut did not exist, that it was not scientifically proven!
This is the problem with main stream doctors, they don’t consider anything to be a viable option unless there is clinical/scientific evidence from a clinical study.
But science is catching up!
“We now believe that under certain circumstances, fissures open up in the intestinal barrier that may allow things to get through,” says Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Centre at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. (1)
The concept of “leaky gut” is becoming a reality!
Traditional medical doctors focus on identifying the disease and its specific organ or system of the body. They then prescribe the medication, that has clinical studies behind them, which they believe is the best for treating the specific symptoms of the disease identified.
As Dr.Nalini Chilkov, LAc O.M.D, author, clinician and cellular biologist, Santa Monica, California. The problem is, “you can’t patent nature” so there isn’t as much money available for researching natural plant medicine. (2)
Pharmaceutical companies were granted government protection to isolate chemical molecules from nature and claim them as their own through patents, so there is plenty of funding for research on these pharmaceutical compounds, which have their origins in nature (2).
My thoughts on this are; just because there isn’t a clinical study behind a therapy, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean that it does work either. You need to educate yourself and work with a natural therapy specialist to figure out what would work for you.
There is More Than One Way To Treat Autoimmune Disease
When it comes to natural therapy, there are doctors who specialise in this area. They have a holistic approach, in that they treat the whole patient rather than just looking at the specific disease presented and prescribing drugs to manage the symptoms.
There are two types that you may have heard about when searching the web. They both treat the patient rather than the disease, however there are slight differences between the two, although they overlap in many areas.
Integrative Medicine Doctor
Integrative Medicine Doctors believe poor lifestyle choices are the root cause of many modern chronic diseases. It combines the best of conventional western medicine and evidence-based complementary medicine and therapies within current mainstream medical practice. (3)
Focusing on the whole person, they look for evidence and incorporate all appropriate therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and healing for the mind body and soul.
Functional Medicine Doctor
A Functional Medicine Doctor is the same as an Integrative Medicine Doctor, however, they also use a systems-oriented medical approach that works to identify and understand the underlying or root causes of a disease, particularly chronic diseases such as autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases as well as, diabetes and obesity.
They look at the patient’s medical history in detail and create a personalised healthcare plan unique to each patient.
Functional Medicine doctors come from various backgrounds such as Medical, Naturopathic, Osteopathic and Chiropractic. They are attracted to this specialty because they are not satisfied with traditional approach of treating just the disease or symptoms.
Example of a Functional Medical Doctor
Dr Amy Myers, author of The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-Fogged, and Overweight — and How to Get Your Life Back is a Functional Medicine Doctor who specialises in thyroid and autoimmune disorders.
Amy is an example of a medical doctor, emergency physician, who admits that the medical profession failed her when she was told that she didn’t have a thyroid problem. Her strong persistence to get the doctor to run a complete battery of tests enabled her to get the correct diagnosis. Hashimotos Thyroiditis which is one of the most common forms of underactive thyroid. (4). The same one that I have.
Once she learnt about functional medicine, her life was never the same. She trained to be a Function Medicine Doctor and eventually left her position as an ED doctor and opened her own functional medicine practice in Austin Texas. (4).
Choosing the right doctor is a personal choice. The main thing is that you feel comfortable with them and that you agree with their general philosophy of how they treat and manages your specific condition.
I believe that functional and integrative medicine are the future, it is already growing in popularity and there are many people who have been and are being successfully treated using these methods.
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Natural Therapy Options
As with all treatments of autoimmune disease, the primary focus is to reduce inflammation.
Toxins, allergens and infections are all common causes of inflammation, so for many treatments, a starting point would be to undergo blood testing to check all markers. Better Lab Tests Now for example, can provide hormone tests, allergy tests and predictive biomarkers that would look to identify hidden infection, yeast candida, bacteria, heavy metals, and allergies etc. Once identified you can look at eliminating them from your body, your diet and your environment.
Treat The Gut
The next step would be to treat the gut. As previously mentioned it is considered ground zero for autoimmune disease. (5) I will explain more about this in part 6.
Herbs and Supplements
There are many natural herbs and supplements that are recommended to treat autoimmune disease and they should be used to complement a healthy balanced diet. Blood tests will show if you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral and your doctor can advise which supplement or herb is best taken.
Avoid Known Triggers
Learn what triggers your condition. Maybe it’s certain food that causes flare ups so keep a food diary. Look at products that you are using around the home, skin care, hair care and household cleaning products may be triggers, so monitor through a process of elimination. For example, Gluten has been identified as an inflammatory trigger in autoimmune disease.
Exercise and Relaxation
Implement a light exercise program such as walking or yoga. You can do yoga easily at home, check out the Free Yoga Videos at MyYogaWorks.com! Also try meditating and practicing mindfulness. All these will help with stress.
Physical therapists such as Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths and Acupuncturists may also be able to provide relief from symptoms by helping to re align the body and release stress and tension in the body.
Sleep and Rest
Sleep is incredibly important for stress management, especially for people with autoimmune disease. The relationship between sleep quality and duration and health has been well established across multiple studies. (6) Our bodies repair itself during sleep.
Stress is thought to be a trigger for autoimmune disease, and it certainly doesn’t help once you have the disease. Lack of sleep, lack of knowledge about your disease, lack of effectiveness of treatment can all contribute to more stress.
Educate yourself and find a supportive doctor to work with you. Learn breathing techniques for deep relaxation. Find what works for you, such as light exercise and regular massages. You can Relieve Stress and promote healing by listening to therapeutic music or simply talking with friends.
Essential oils contain therapeutic compounds that can help relive anxiety and improve mood. In a controlled study of 60 patients under stress in an Intensive Care Unit, their nurses found that aromatherapy with essential oils increased the patents quality of sleep and anxiety, (7). There are many different oils which treat a myriad of symptoms, there are even courses where you can learn how to make your own oils.
Healthy Balanced Diet
Eliminating refined processed food is critical, as these are high in unhealthy fats, sugar and chemicals, they also lack essential nutrients. It is important to eliminate foods that are known to cause inflammation, such as gluten, and replacing them with whole natural fresh foods. You will learn more on this later in my next blog post.
There are various diet protocols available depending on the autoimmune condition that you have. For example:
The Autoimmune Paleo, Louise and Jeremy Hendon, The Essential AIP Cookbook: 115+ Recipes For The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Diet
The Myers Way® Thyroid Connection Plan (8)
Dr Izabelle Wentz – Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back (9)
Essential nutrition is so critical, that I have written a whole blog post on it, that’s coming up next in part 6, and the final part of my blog series on Autoimmune Disease.
You will learn the essential nutrition tips for a healthy Immune system and discover a 3-step process to help you.
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You Are What You Eat, Choose Wisely.
Katherine Minett, a Blogger with Hashimoto Thyroiditis, is on a mission to educate and guide others on the importance that good nutrition has, in preventing and managing autoimmune diseases. Specifically, how to manage the symptoms of weight gain and fatigue that are commonly associated with these conditions.
Disclaimer: “Essential Nutrition Tips Blog” does not offer medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have medical concerns please consult your doctor. See Full Disclaimer.
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Markham Heid. (13 Jan 2016). You Asked: Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Thing? Retrieved from http://time.com/4178015/leaky-gut-syndrome-probiotics/
Bollinger, T.M., (2016. Smoke and Mirrors. The Truth About Cancer What You Need To Know About Cancer’s History, Treatment And Prevention. pp. 62-63. Hay House Inc.
Patronus Medical Blog. The Difference Between Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine. Retrieved from http://blog.patronusmedical.com/functional-medicine-vs-integrative-medicine
Myers, A. MD. (Sept 2016). Introduction. The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-Fogged, and Overweight — and How to Get Your Life Back (pp. 7-14). New York, NY: Little Brown and company Hachette Book Group.
Axe, J. MD., (2016). Ground Zero For Leaky Gut. Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It (pp 35-36) New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Wahls, T. MD., Adamson, E. (2014). Stress Management. The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine (pp. 304). New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Axe, J. MD., (2016). The Eat Dirt Program. Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It (pp 173-174) New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Myers, A. MD. (Sept 2016). The Myers Way Thyroid Connection Plan. The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-Fogged, and Overweight — and How to Get Your Life Back (pp. 233-269). New York, NY: Little Brown and company Hachette Book Group.
Wentz, I. PharmD. (2017). Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back Hashimotos Protocol – A 90 Day Plan For Reversing Thyroid Symptoms And Getting Your Life Back. New York, NY. Harper Collins.