When Your Body Attacks Itself

Growing up, I ate most things, but as a child I avoided milk like the plague, preferring instead to drink plain water. To this day I cannot drink the white stuff and have clear preferences on cheeses I can and simply cannot stomach. For good reason, at the age of 40 I finally got a DNAfit test done and discovered that yes, as I had suspected for a long time, I was lactose intolerant. This test also showed up that my avoidance of breads and pasta was likely down to a ‘predisposition’ to celiac disease.

Which brings me to an interesting personal discovery; my recent research into autoimmune diseases, specifically Lupus, for a client, brought to light a variety of ‘ah-ha’ style moments with my own nutrition. I will explore that a bit later.

AutoImmune-1024x768The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association states:

“One of the functions of the immune system is to protect the body by responding to invading microorganisms, such as viruses or bacteria, by producing antibodies or sensitised lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). Under normal conditions, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one’s own body. In some cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases. They encompass a broad category of related diseases in which the person’s immune system attacks his or her own tissue.”

There are over 100 diseases many represent with a variety of symptoms and challenges ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating pain and in some cases organ breakdown and death. For many there is no ‘cure’. Celiac Disease and Lupus amongst them. Management is the key and often done so with heavy duty prescription medication, which has its own issues and side effects. (https://www.aarda.org/diseaselist/)

Nutrition and lifestyle play a major role in management of autoimmune conditions and with better understanding of the overall impacts of food and lifestyle on the immune system and body. I was really surprised when researching lupus recently for a client, the variety and types of foods that should be avoided and what supplements and additional foods should be included as a necessity in preventing the dreaded ‘flare-ups’.

For years I have known that I cannot eat garlic, I love it, but it does not love me. Onions are the same. What I discovered was the families of foods to avoid and to include are very clear when it comes to AI management, perhaps by keeping an awareness around what one eats and the impacts it has on digestion and mood, any predispositions can be prevented from turning into major health problems long terms. Identifying patterns is often the start of management of any concerns.

Lupus:

Lupus is an autoimmune disease (when your body’s defense systems turn on you) and can cause chronic conditions lasting for years. Cases of lupus can range from relatively mild to life threatening, so recognising and treating this condition early is very important.

According to Lupus.org, as many as 1.5 million Americans are living with Lupus, making it a widespread problem. Check out this list of 15 symptoms and risk factors to pay attention to that may require medical attention…

Fatigue is Common

This symptom of Lupus makes it difficult to distinguish from other disorders including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and even Lyme Disease (from a tick bite). According to Healthline.com, about 90-percent of Lupus sufferers will experience fatigue.

Hair Loss can Occur

The face and scalp are usually targets of skin inflammation related to the diseases. This means aside from losing hair from the top of your head, you can even experience eyebrow and beard loss. The hair loss can be subtle and gradual, or can cause hair to fall out in clumps in some cases.

Pain is a Marker

Lupus can come with painful, swollen joints that may confuse some medical professionals to consider arthritis as the cause. With lupus related joint pain, apparently the stiffness is worse in the morning. The pain itself starts off mild, then increases as the disease progresses.

Lupus Can Cause Seizures

Like another disease, Epilepsy, lupus can trigger seizures in the sufferer. Approximately 50 percent of lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) sufferers experience a seizure as a result of the disease. Other neurological complications related to lupus can include strokes, dementia, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy (weakness or numbness in hands or feet).

Depression

Mental illness and chronic diseases often go hand in hand. WebMD notes that, “60% of people with a chronic illness will experience clinical depression” at some point during their diagnosis. This is due to the emotional, physical and financial strain of living with a chronic illness. Lupus is a condition that comes and goes which can frustrate a lot of patients because they never really feel like they are out of the woods and long for the life they used to have. The Lupus Foundation of America notes patients may have “feelings of helplessness, sadness, insomnia or sleeping too much, feelings of anxiety, lack of energy and feel a lack of interest in activities or things you normally enjoy” to name a few.

However, feelings of depression may not be brought on by the disease but potentially from medication used to treat Lupus. Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone could potentially trigger depression. It is important to note that regardless of what triggers depression, patients should consult their doctor about seeking psychotherapy or counselling.

Autoimmune diseases, or autoimmunity, describe a group of chronic illnesses that are characterised by an overactive immune system. The immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues because it mistakes them as foreign invaders. Diseases are classified by the part of the body affected. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease affect the digestive system while Multiple Sclerosis targets the spinal cord and brain and rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints. Currently, there is no cure for autoimmune diseases and treatment is limited to managing symptoms.

The immune system is designed to protect the body against foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The innate system is the part of the immune system the body is born with. It protects the body by releasing white blood cells that attack harmful agents while the acquired immune system is what develops after a baby is born. It launches attacks via T-cells and B-cells. Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system malfunctions and mistakenly attacks its own cells instead of foreign invaders.

Rhumatoid Arthritis:

Rheumatoid arthritis is characterised by inflammation that damages joints and organs. Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States alone are affected. The condition affects three times as many women as men. Women are also more likely to develop symptoms at a younger age (between thirty and sixty) while men experience symptoms later in life. People who have rheumatoid arthritis in their hands have large, deformed knuckles that make it hard to grab things, put on jewelry or bend the fingers.

Crohn’s disease is one of the most common autoimmune conditions in people aged fifteen to thirty. The bowel condition is characterized by inflammation, pain, and bleeding of the digestive tract. Unlike ulcerative colitis, a similar autoimmune disease that affects the colon, Crohn’s disease can occur in any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Symptoms include bloating, mouth sores, diarrhea, gut pain and intestinal bleeding.

There is no cure for autoimmune diseases. Treatment options are unique to the type of illness and are designed to control symptoms to put the disease in remission. Medications may include immunosuppressants to prevent the immune system from attacking the body. Corticosteroids are prescribed to control inflammation. Thyroid medications and insulin injections are needed for people with Graves disease and type one diabetes, respectively. Natural remedies such as fish oil, turmeric, an anti-inflammatory diet, and adequate exercise may also help control damaging inflammation associated with the disease.

Foods to Avoid:

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AVOID THE FOLLOWING:

Alfalfa and garlic are two foods that probably shouldn’t be on your dinner plate if you have lupus. Alfalfa sprouts contain an amino acid called L-canavanine. Garlic contains allicin, ajoene, and thiosulfinates, which can send your immune system into overdrive and flare up your lupus symptoms.
People who’ve eaten alfalfa have reacted with muscle pain and fatigue, and their doctors have noted changes on their blood test results.
white potatoes
tomatoes
sweet and hot peppers
eggplant
DON’T:

Eat Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates includes white bread, white pasta, processed rice, and most packaged snack foods. They can cause water retention that can give unpleasant lupus symptoms.
DON’T:

Drink Soda

Stay away from acidic drinks that are full of sugar and chemicals. Soda, or pop, is a big no. They are full of empty calories and can cause inflammation and bloating.
Avoid grapefruit as this can interact with medications.
Substitute other spices to enhance food flavor, such as: lemon
herbs
pepper
curry powder
turmeric
DO:

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

There are many naturally anti-inflammatory foods. They include flax seeds, avocados, walnuts, berries, leafy green vegetables, carrots, squash, and lean protein. Choose fresh foods over processed ones.
DO:

Drink Water

Make sure to drink enough water through the day. The 8 glasses a day idea is not a rule, but you should be sipping water regularly. It can help push out toxins from the body and it

Supplement Support Naturally:

Amount (grams) When/Why
Vitamins vitamins are C, E, B12 and folate.
Minerals The trace minerals are zinc, selenium, iron and copper.
Calcium 1,000 milligrams a day Calcium is important bones and heart function. Since lupus can cause heart problems, such as irregular heart beats and tightening of arteries.
Vitamin E Taking vitamin E daily, 1,000 international units is enough to enhance the immune system. Vitamin E, an antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals which can attack tissues and cause damage. Because lupus attacks the body’s tissues, vitamin E may be an important supplement to minimise the attack on and inflammation of tissues.
Vitamin D 400 international units Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium in the body. Vitamin D assists in autoimmune disorders by helping the body absorb the vitamins it needs to function. The stronger the immune system, the less chance you have of developing a disease such as lupus, which attacks the immune system. Exposure to the sun can cause flu-like symptoms and an exaggerated malar rash. Vitamin D supplements benefit lupus suffers who can not be in the direct sunlight.
Vitamin B6 1.3 mg of B6 a day Balance is important with all the B complex vitamins as many of them are interdependent.
Zinc 15mg per day zinc have the effect of revitalising the functioning of the thymus gland, which is crucial to T-cell production and a strong immune system. The promotion of healthy skin is also a benefit of zinc and sufferers of lupus sometimes have skin rashes and raised bumps.
Selenium 50 micrograms/day Inflammation is a symptom of lupus and enhancing your diet with selenium, which is known to reduce inflammation, may combat lupus symptoms.selenium can increase the body’s production of glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body.

 

Keeping a food diary and documenting your mood and food responses is a key way of isolating any potential patterns with foods. Above all seeing your Gp if you have any concerns and getting support is critical, AI issues are not joke and the long term impacts are very serious.

Eat clean ,exercise and practice mindful-living with meditation, yoga, tone therapy ae all great ways to combat known and potential issues.

 

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