The immune system is your defence force against foreign invaders to the body. It is designed to detect and destroy potential threats to the body before they create too much damage. An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system becomes confused and redirects its hostile attack towards your own body cells, resulting in tissue and organ destruction.
There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disease. While the causes for many autoimmune diseases are not well defined, modern theories suggest that a genetic predisposition along with an environmental trigger result in the immune pathways that lead to tissue destruction.
The complexity of potential causes, widespread inflammation and therefore diagnosis of autoimmune disease creates a sometimes overwhelming challenge for efficient treatment or cure. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for autoimmune disease. To try and relieve symptoms alone, with anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drugs, can only lead to the generation of a new set of health issues in the future. The personal experience of an autoimmune disease can impact the entire body and it’s capacity to function. A wholistic approach is required to meet the challenges of autoimmune disease head on and functional medicine can provide this.
Functional medicine has become a somewhat new phrase that describes how holistic medicine practitioners such as naturopaths and herbalists have been practising for centuries. Rather than focus on the name or official diagnosis of the disease or which body system it belongs to, wholistic practitioners take a more global approach. To define the root causes of the disease process a persons’ genetic predisposition, constitution, environment, diet, life experiences, toxic exposures both physical and emotional are considered. The complex web of drivers that lead to whole body imbalance showing up as a particular disease process become the foundations for the treatment process.
There are some key areas of health and potential triggers that must be addressed in order to manage or restore a healthy immune response:
- Check for stealth infections like yeast, viruses, bacteria, or parasites.
- Investigate gut health, microbiome diversity, digestion and food intolerances or allergies.
- Detect or define any potential toxic burdens such as heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, solvents, inhalants, drugs or radiation which have been associated with increased autoimmune disease prevalence, disturbed gut barrier function or nutritional deficiencies.
- Stress, both physical and emotional can be a trigger or driver for chronic inflammation and poor immune regulation.
- A collaborative approach between therapists, practitioners, doctors, specialists, family and other support networks.
A functional health approach seeks to ask why the inflammation is occurring in the first place and how that inflammation and immune system can be better regulated to resolve the destructive process of autoimmunity. Obstacles to health need to be identified and removed, while the body is stimulated towards it’s natural ability to heal. There are various nutrients foods, supplements and herbal medicines that may be beneficial to nourish and regulate immune system behaviour. Talk to a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner to find the wholistic approach that best suits you.