Functional Approach For Autoimmune Disease
A New Road to Recovery
Functional approach is a new but highly effective treatment for autoimmune disease. Find out how it helps you and what strategies might help.
How would you cope with the dual burden of the autoimmune disease and its medicines? This is exactly where new treatment options like functional approach make a strong presence. The functional approach in treating an autoimmune disease is a novel way which not only takes care of the symptoms but also works to identify the underlying cause. As a matter of fact, you can expect a better recovery when you know the cause.
For millions of people whose lives are plagued by the disabling autoimmune disease, not many options are available. Modern medicine primarily focuses on treating only the symptoms by suppressing your immune system. While it may bring a few benefits, you are not sure if it is going to treat your condition in the long term. What next? We have “HOPE”. No doubt, hope is a good thing. But it is not as good when you have to struggle with numerous and often devastating side effects of the prescribed medicines.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune disease is a long-term and disabling condition. It occurs when your immune cells attack the healthy cells and tissues in the body.
The immune cells protect our body from potentially harmful microorganisms or chemicals. Unfortunately, when they fail to separate what’s your own healthy cells from what’s harmful, they start damaging various organs and systems. There are at least 80 different autoimmune conditions. For example, Celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), myocarditis, and the list goes on.
No one knows the exact cause. But evidence suggests they run in the families and are triggered by certain factors. For example, infections, dietary constituents, and chronic stress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autoimmune diseases rank third in the list of the most common diseases in the US, after cancer and heart disease. That said, autoimmune diseases affect 14–22 million Americans.
Treating Autoimmune Disease with A Functional Approach: Why It Makes Sense?
Unlike the conventional approach, functional approach identifies the possible causes behind an autoimmune disease. Then, it works to bring the derailed immune system back into track. For this purpose, it uses a combined approach involving nutritional changes, stress reduction, and hormone balance. Simply put, the functional approach aims at eliminating the root cause rather than suppressing the symptoms. Moreover, it treats every patient in a unique manner considering their individual disease state and needs.
The following principle of functional medicine will make things clearer. The three components of an autoimmune disease are:
- Antecedents. These factors increase your susceptibility to developing a chronic disease. For example, what you carry in your gene is the most influential antecedent. While in other cases, making unhealthy lifestyle choices could also play a pivotal role. These external factors are known as acquired antecedents. Take an example, studies suggest having an abnormal expression of a gene called interleukin increases the risk of autoimmune thyroid disease. Similarly, mutations in the gene CYP2R1 influences your risk of getting MS.
- Triggers. In the case of an autoimmune disease, the common triggers are the infections, both bacterial and viral. Triggers are the external factors that initiate an abnormal immune attack. Why do the immune cells fail to recognize the healthy cells? It is because the microorganisms carry certain molecules that resemble the components of the healthy cells. What happens next is the immune cells start attacking the healthy cells thinking they are the microorganisms. In medical term, this is called “molecular mimicry”. This explains why the signs and symptoms of an autoimmune disease begin to appear after a bacterial or viral infection. Another common trigger is a plastic compound called Bisphenol A (BPA). Chronic exposure to BPA has been linked with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Mediators. These factors cause imbalances in the biochemicals processes inside the body. Over time, the cumulative effects of the imbalances may result in a full-blown autoimmune disease. For example, the most common mediator these days is stress. Chronic stress is known to enhance inflammation and how your immune system responds to a trigger. Also, the studies suggest chronic stress could act as a trigger on its own.
In a nutshell, an autoimmune disease develops after an interaction between at least two of the factors mentioned above.
How A Functional Approach Treats Autoimmune Disease
It is an entirely different experience to visit a doctor who practices functional approach in treating chronic illnesses. They will ask you many questions in an attempt to locate the root cause of the disease. Notably, these may include questions about your diet, daily activities, major life events, and habits.
Once they create a mental map of the possible causes, they will formulate a treatment plan in which you will play a critical role. Common strategies in the treatment plan may include:
- Taking a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and vitamins that pacify the overactive immune response.
- Checking for any infections that might be wreaking havoc on your immune function.
- Assessing your diet to know if it contains any allergenic ingredients like gluten or lactose.
- Testing for the exposure to toxic metals and their salts.
- Taking measures to ensure a healthy gut. A healthy gut is the result of a proper balance in the gut microbiota, the collection of healthy bacteria naturally present in it. If you have been taking broad-spectrum antibiotics, it can disrupt the natural balance leading to a host diseases and symptoms.
- Exercising to lift mood, reduce stress and cut down the inflammatory chemicals in the bloodstream. They may also suggest relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga or anything that suits your condition.
- Maintaining a quality sleep that goes uninterrupted for about eight hours every day.
To know more about how a functional approach works to relieve or even reverse an autoimmune disease, talk to an expert. Also, know the role of a highly tailored nutrition program in preventing diseases. Click here to make an appointment.
- Song, RH., et al. “Variants of Interleukin-22 Gene Confer Predisposition to Autoimmune Thyroid Disease.” International Journal of Endocrinology 2017;2017:3428236.
- Fairweather, DeLisa., et al. “Women and Autoimmune Diseases” International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases (ICWID) November 2004;10(11).
- Cetkovic-Cvrlje, M., et al. “Bisphenol A (BPA) aggravates multiple low-dose streptozotocin-induced Type 1 diabetes in C57BL/6 mice.” Journal of Immunotoxicology 2017 Dec;14(1):160-168.
- Stojanovich, L., et al. “Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease.” Autoimmunity Reviews 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13.