Autoimmune Disease and Your Immune System – Video

Autoimmune Disease and Your Immune System

Summary of the video

In this video I address whether it’s a problem to “boost” or support your immune system if you have autoimmune disease. Those with autoimmune disease are told that their immune systems are overactive, so when it comes to trying to fight infection, it can be confusing to know what to do.

Is it ok or is it a bad idea to take immune boosting supplements? I go into depth about autoimmune disease, how we treat it and what is okay and not okay as regards your general immunity. Please share this with anyone you know who’s suffering with autoimmune disease.

Transcript of the video

I was asked a very good question, and I wanted to share it with more than just the person who asked it because it was such a good question. I’m taping this during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it really wouldn’t matter when I was taping this because it’s a common confusion about autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune disease is extremely common. It’s three times more common in women than men. They’re assuming it’s something with the genetics or hormones, but that hasn’t been clarified. The frequency of autoimmune disease is really on the rise, and it’s not explained. Although genetics is a component of autoimmune disease, the trajectory at which autoimmune disease is rising is not explained by a genetic change because genes just don’t change that fast over time. So, it’s very well accepted that our lifestyle is what’s contributing to this change.

What are you told when you’re diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? You’re told you have a hyperactive immune system that’s out of control. Depending on the kind of autoimmune disease you have, it needs to be suppressed, and very often people are on immunosuppressive drugs.

The case of celiac disease

Facing celiac disease (an autoimmune disease) a person has to make lifestyle adjustments: eat zero glutenThis particular person asking the question wanted to know about celiac disease. Celiac disease is an extremely common autoimmune disease as well, but it represents one to two percent of the population, which maybe doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a disease, that’s pretty common. Celiac disease is really the only autoimmune disease for which we know the dietary lifestyle change to make: eat zero gluten. When you do that, you can get it under control from the viewpoint that your immune system will stop doing the damage to the lining of your small intestine, which is the hallmark of the disease. So celiac is an autoimmune disease in an interesting category to itself; but it’s still an autoimmune disease, and when you have one autoimmune disease, you’re 3 to 10 times more likely to develop another. So celiac falls within that as well.

Autoimmune disease: how it starts

Let’s go back to what autoimmune means. It means your immune system is attacking self. So “auto” means self, and “immune” refers to the immune system. And of course, what should your immune system be doing? It should be attacking bad guys: bacteria, viruses, cancer cells… and dealing with toxins. That’s its job. We believe that initially, when somebody starts developing an autoimmune disease, the immune system is doing the correct thing. It’s attacking a “bad guy”. Again, it could be food, an infection, or a toxin, but it launched an attack against that thing that deserved to be attacked. However, for whatever reason, it was unable to successfully annihilate the bad guy.

Now you can see if it’s a food you’re eating, like somebody who has celiac disease doesn’t know it and continues to eat gluten, well, what’s the immune system going to do? The food keeps coming in, so it keeps trying to handle it, but the food keeps entering the body, so there’s not much it can do. The same thing with a toxin or an infection. Certainly, the body can launch an attack against an infection and be successful… but it can also launch an attack and be unsuccessful and then just keep trying to attack day in and day out, although it’s being unsuccessful.

The reasons for the lack of success have to do with other factors that are making the immune system less robust than it should be as far as where the infectious agent is hanging out. Sometimes it’s deep in the crevices of the gut, and it’s hard to isolate and get full eradication. For whatever reason, step one, it was attacking what it should attack, but step two, it couldn’t get the better of it.

How it develops

Illustration of the immune system in self-attack mode as in autoimmune disease Alright, so in its sort of frenzy to get this attack going, harder and more intense, your immune system gets into what’s called a “hyper-vigilant state” where it just starts to get a bit exhausted and overstimulated in this: “Okay, we’ve got to go, go, go, go, go!”. And in that hyper-vigilant, now sort of “getting tired” state, it can make a mistake, and that’s called “molecular mimicry”.

It’s a molecule (typically it’s a protein), and “mimicry” just means something that looks like something else. Let’s just say we’re doing the most common autoimmune disease, which is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: it’s an attack on your thyroid. Here’s your immune system trying to attack this bad guy, whatever it is, and it gets into this revved-up, hyper-vigilant state, and the bad guy has a protein structure, whether it’s a food or an infection.

Of course, your body’s full of protein, but in this particular case with Hashimoto’s, there’s a protein in your thyroid that looks very similar (remember mimicry), it looks very similar to the bad guy. The next step is in this frenzy of “attack, attack, attack”, your body makes a mistake, and it starts attacking your thyroid, thinking your thyroid is the bad guy. Your immune system doesn’t know your thyroid is “self”; it would never attack self. It’s very convinced it’s attacking the bad guy.

Okay, so it’s attacking, and the attack continues unless you can kind of reverse this whole thing — which is something that we do a lot, here at Root Cause Medical Clinic.

Boosting or not boosting?

Now, before we go into treatment and that sort of things, let’s get back to this question: if I have an autoimmune disease, should I not boost my immune system? It’s a great question because remember, you’ve been told you have this immune system that’s overworking, so you would think: “here’s COVID-19, here’s this virus or whatever, I mean, we always want to have a strong immune system to defend us against any invader that’s coming around. But as I said, right now the pandemic is current, so we’re talking about that. So, people with autoimmune are wondering: “Gee, do I not boost my immune system because my immune system is already overstimulated?”

It’s apples and oranges. You always want a robust — let’s put it this way, intelligently functioning immune system.

Now, the fact that with autoimmune, it’s into this hyper-vigilant state, and it’s identified a certain protein in your body — we use the thyroid as an example, so I’m pointing to my thyroid — but wherever it is, wherever the autoimmune disease is, this confusion occurred. That doesn’t mean you don’t want a strong immune system. You absolutely do want to support your immune system.

Now, a lot of people with autoimmune disease are being given an immunosuppressive drug because they’re told “your immune system is out of control”, and the only way we know, conventional medicine knows, to go about it is to suppress the immune system. Personally, as a Functional Medicine doctor, I think there are much better ways. Now, sometimes someone can be in a pretty dire circumstance with their autoimmune disease, and I won’t go into the gory details, but sometimes that drug has to come in and just sort of chill out the situation because it can really get severe.

But generally speaking, caught early on or even when somebody’s been on the immunosuppressive drugs, we can start getting in there and kind of “rewinding” the problem a little bit, and we’ve had good success across a broad spectrum: anywhere from “feeling better, still on the drug”, “feeling better needing less drug”, “not needing any drug”, “completely reversed”. There’s a broad spectrum in there, there’s a lot you can do.

So again, when somebody is on an immunosuppressive drug, they are told if you get a cold, if you get any sort of infection, you really want to keep a very tight rein on it, be in communication with your doctor because that can escalate very quickly to a cold turning into pneumonia, turning into serious respiratory disease, or what have you.

Depending on the kind of infection you get, you’re also more likely to get cancer because, again, you’ve quashed your immune system, so that vigilance of the immune system to go “cancer cell attack”, “bacteria attack”… it can’t do that anymore because it’s been suppressed by the drug. Again, I’m not saying there’s not extreme cases where sometimes taking the drug for a short period of time to just get you out of a crisis zone. I’m not saying that’s always a terrible idea, but we really want to get to the root cause of this autoimmune disease.

Getting to the root cause

Remember, it all starts with your immune system doing the right thing; it didn’t like something. And if it’s an infectious agent, you can actually go back and find these chronic deep infections. We find them in the gut, sometimes they’re in the sinuses, toxins, you can find heavy metal toxicity, you can find mold, there’s a lot of different toxins that can occur. And then, infections, and of course food sensitivity.

So back to the person that was asking me the question about celiac disease, does somebody have a food sensitivity that’s thwarting their immune system because the immune system doesn’t like it, even above gluten and celiac disease? We find food sensitivities a huge percentage of the time with autoimmune disease. So you want to sort of tease it out and see what these component parts are.

Boost your immune system

But do know this: there’s nothing wrong with having a healthy immune system and supporting your immune system during this time of wanting to make sure you are not more likely to get a virus or a bacterial infection or any sort of infection.

If you’re on a specialized drug, definitely get in touch with your doctor and ask: “Hey, some basics like vitamin C and vitamin D, and A, you know, zinc… Are these things fine for me?” And if your doctor has a very specific reason as to that drug and that nutrient, then fine, find that out… But then ask about all the others as well.

I hope this made sense. It’s a really, really brilliant question, and I hope those with autoimmune disease find it helpful because you can get into a quandary thinking: “Wow, my immune system is too active, so the last thing I want to do is support it.” You do want to support it, you do want to normalize its function.

The autoimmune aspect is another aspect of what the immune system is doing. It’s not, and unfortunately, what tends to happen is you kind of move away from the immune system acting the way it should act (which is against “bad guys”), to shifting to a functioning of the immune system that gets into the “self-attack”, which of course is not good. But with those steps I mentioned earlier, we can shift it back again.

Again, contact your doctor if you’re on an immunosuppressive drug, make sure there’s nothing in particular that he or she finds to be a problem.

Are you immunosuppressed?

Then the very last part of the question received from this person, was that she asked — because she has celiac disease but it’s under control, meaning she stays off gluten, she doesn’t have any symptoms — is she considered immunosuppressed? And I would say no.

Now, a lot of people’s immune systems are not functioning quite as well as they should for other reasons, but if she feels healthy, she’s staying off gluten, so she’s not adding to the fire of how her immune system was attacking her small intestine, she’s doing the right thing by staying off that gluten… then there’s no reason for her to consider herself immunosuppressed.

I don’t know her whole health history, but based on just the question, that would be my answer.

So if you have autoimmune disease and you want to see if there’s something that can be done to really chill out that immune system, have the “self-attack” stop or at least ameliorate, lessen, please reach out. We’re really good with autoimmune disease here at Root Cause. We’ve had a lot of great success, and it’s a natural program. It’s not something that’s going to get in the way of any medication that you’re taking. However, it can really, really get to the root cause.

Additional resources

Simple, common-sense ways to boost your immune system
Autoimmune disease is on the rise: a scientific study
Boosting your immune system with IV therapy


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