Autoimmune conditions are rising sharply in the developed world (now estimated to be in 1 out of 12 women, 23.5 million Americans), but are rare in the developing countries or human history in general. Conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Transverse Myelitis (TM), Lupus (SLE- systemic lupus erythematosis), Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Grave's disease, Gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) and the inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis may have a genetic component to them, but their rise must be more importantly explained by environmental and lifestyle causes.
Each person afflicted with these diseases has power over their fate to some extent because they can change their relationship to the environment and improve their relationship with the self. Of course, individual results will vary, but everyone deserves his/her best shot. Traditional medical therapies can be helpful, but are side effect prone (infections, weakness, disordered nutrition and sleep patterns) and yet often lack a satisfactory therapeutic response. As a general rule, auto-immune diseases are difficult to treat because the offending agent is the body itself. A balanced life, such as an optimal natural existence can reduce the predilection and the burden of auto-immune diseases.
Improving one's circumstance with auto-immune diseases can and should be done through intrinsic means—creating the most natural and optimal situation. The measures below can boost your power and thereby diminish one's need for medical therapies. If medical care is necessary, the measures below can improve the effectiveness of medical therapies and reduce the side effects of therapies.
An optimal diet is a natural and balanced diet as described in chapter 5 of Naturvore Power. One's success begins with one's diet because the food we eat influences cellular immunity, hormone balances and finally our overall genetic expression.
The naturvore diet improves immune system function. First, immunity is improved by avoiding manufactured foods and potent toxins. Second, the naturvore diet is low-inflammation (low-glycemic, high nutrient, high anti-oxidant) and regulates gut hormones essential to optimal immune function, especially leptin, insulin and cortisol.
Avoid manufactured foods and processed sugars because these are perhaps one of the main culprits behind the rise in auto-immune diseases. Machine-made, artificial foods create unnecessary and misguided inflammation that tends to promote auto-immune attacks. Furthermore, these so-called "food" products generally contain abundant AGE's (advanced glycated- products) that corrupt cellular signaling and function all the way to our genetic core. Read the Cellular Corruption chapter in Naturvore Power.
Avoid Salt (high in manufactured and fast foods), especially people with MS and TM. Multiple studies have linked salt intake (there has not been a distinction made scientifically between sea salt or "fancy" salts and regular salt because it's the amount that is important) to increasing the glucocorticoid kinase 1 (SGK1) receptors, thereby causing naive T-cells to become Th17 cells which are more likely to induce auto-immune attacks. In mice, the salt connection is scientifically supported with even a dose response.
Lower your leptin levels. This is extremely important because high leptin levels contribute to autoimmune attacks and immunological chaos in general. We can control many important hormones such as leptin by eating small meals frequently and losing weight as discussed within Naturvore Power, p. 218. Leptin is a hormone/cytokine created by our fat cells that links nutritional status with neuroendocrine and immune functions. When working properly leptin signals us to stop eating because we have had enough to eat. But being overweight makes our body less sensitive to leptin (like insulin as well) and its function corrupted. Due to a weakened leptin response, the leptin levels will rise and remain high to overcome the body's disconnect, but serious consequences ensue. Leptin resistance drives our predisposition to obesity, but compounds this problem with a higher likelihood of both cancer and auto-immune attacks. Maintaining a leaner body will also keep leptin functioning properly.
Eat enough lean protein as described in Naturvore Power, p. 208. Every meal and snack should include roughly 30-50% of the calories from protein to maintain excellent immune function. Quality meats can deliver essential amino acids that are important to immunity and tissue repair. Meats also contain a vital molecule, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), a potent water soluble anti-oxidant that is especially important to people with MS or TM. ALA regulates immunity and nerve cell functions, crosses the blood brain barrier and even improves mitochondrial functions such that it has shown to reverse the disease burden of mice MS (called EAE-experimental autoimmune encephalitis). The best sources of ALA are grass-fed red meats and liver. Spinach, broccoli and other leafy greens contain some as well.
Eat beneficial fats (fatty acids) and avoid the harmful ones. Up to 33% of one's daily calories should consist of healthy fats as described in Naturvore Power, p. 212. Healthy fats include omega-3's from fish (salmon, sardines, and trout) and walnuts. Others that are easy to incorporate are the MUFA's in olive oil and avocado. Avoid omega-6's, such as the PUFA's found in sunflower, safflower, soy beans, and flaxseeds as these have pro-inflammatory effects. Coconut oil/fat (I use Asian Creations-Thai Kitchen unsweetened coconut milk) have medium chain fatty acids that are beneficial for efficient energy transfers, especially in nerves and muscles.
Eat cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and bok choy. These veggies contain abundant glutathione which detoxifies the entire body and improves immune system regulation by improving liver function, see Naturvore Power p. 83. Cruciferous vegetables are expected to diminish the likelihood and intensity of immunological attacks against the self, yet improve immunity from cancer, toxins and microbes. Check with your doctor, but these vegetables can also lessen the serious side effects of aggressive therapies for auto-immunity.
Consume vitamin D and selenium from natural sources as these nutrients are important to optimal immune function. Vitamin D is found in salmon, mushrooms, poultry and dairy products. Selenium is found in Brazil nuts (best source), fish, other meats and dairy products. Supplements are not proven to work. Get some sun, as just ten minutes provides a few days worth of vitamin D and provides the most active form of vitamin D. Curiously, residing in the lower latitudes of the globe (Florida or more south) for the first ten of your life significantly reduces the odds of being stricken with multiple sclerosis
Consume spices such as tumeric, cinnamon, garlic and onion daily because these can stabilize immune function and lessen the side effects of some treatments within traditional medical care.
Eating whole, natural foods improves our intestinal biome, a useful "organ" of microbiological constituents in of itself. Our intestinal flora directs much of our immune function because much of our cellular reactions to the environment are decided through the gut. The proper intestinal microbes also improve energy balance and vitamin extraction, but a less optimal population of intestinal bacteria tends to work against you. Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary because they tend to kill the most optimal organisms in our biome.
Excess body weight causes stress and strain on one's organs but also creates the conditions for multi-organ failure, even causing more side effects to the medications prescribed by physicians. Carrying excess body fat also enhances the disabilities associated with auto-immune diseases.
We practice expressing our vitality through exercise, sports and even dance (Zumba). A life of vitality is created from within us! Purposeful energy transfers is what life is all about. The benefits of exercise on our well-being should not be under-estimated as an important component to preservation of our most optimal self. Refer to A Life Force, page 233, in Naturvore power.
A positive attitude directs our energy in a positive manner and complements vigorous exercise very holistically. Robert Ader, PhD, linked the immune system to the mind serendipitously during his research on taste aversion. He gave his rats saccharin by mouth while infusing a chemo-drug (to induce nausea and vomiting) to provoke aversion to the sweet saccharine. As expected, the rats learned to hate saccharin. Later he force-fed saccharin to the rats through droppers to complete the experiment to evaluate if and when the aversion would wear off. The rats did not become immediately ill with saccharin but became sick later with infections. Investigation revealed that the the rats' white blood counts went down in proportion to the saccharin doses, just as if they were being given the chemo-drug with it. From that moment forward the scientific discipline of psycho-neuro-immunology was born. The mind definitely influences immunity and this should be respected. If we are positive in disposition, we will benefit from a stronger psycho-neuro-immunological connection.
I like to think of sleep as the dedicated time each day when our systemic biological memories are processed and translated at the cellular level, hopefully making us the best version of ourselves we can be. Lack of quality sleep creates stressful conditions that not only elevate fight or flight hormones but also elevates hormones such as prolactin, leptin and insulin that will contribute to autoimmune attacks. The hormone ghrelin is also raised with chronic insomnia, but is designed to signal hunger and promote fat deposition, and therefore it can create more immune attacks against the self. If we don't sleep well, we are generally out of balance. Although an occasional night of poor sleep is expected in life, good sleep hygiene should provide us 7-8 hours of sleep per night regularly. I explain the importance of sleep on pages 152-153 in Naturvore Power.