The House That Health Builds
Let’s compare healing autoimmune disease from the inside out, or the foundation up, to building a house.
If you are reading this, there is a good chance your current health feels a little rickety. Maybe your “house of health” has a few leaks or a broken window or two. And more than likely, the very foundation of your house is in dire need of repair.
We can patch the leaks and give it a fresh coat of paint (i.e.: pop some pills to cover up the symptoms that something is wrong, or follow the latest health trend in hopes of quick weight loss that will magically fix the autoimmunity). It will look better for a time.
But ultimately, that house is going to fall apart without a sturdy, solid foundation to stand on. The first wind storm that comes through (stressful events, a few days of poor eating, a sickness or infection) will have your health teetering on the brink of collapse again.
We want to build you a house of health that can stand the storms of life.
And that must begin at the foundation.
The Four Cornerstones of Health
Ancient buildings that have stood the test of time were built using a foundation of stone, with the solid cornerstones being essential to the integrity of the whole building. (1).
Similarly, strong health and autoimmune healing begins with these four cornerstones:
Cornerstone 1- Heal Your Gut
Gut health is the “chief cornerstone” of autoimmune healing. It is the very first stone laid, and the one that determines the position of all other stones in your foundation.
The health of your gut, or digestive system, affects the health of every other organ, tissue, and system (including your immune system) in your body (2). The gut is responsible for:
Nourishing. Your gut is what processes and absorbs the nutrients you feed yourself so that your entire body can have the energy, building blocks, fluids, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and so much more that it needs to be healthy.
If your gut isn’t healthy, it can’t absorb as many nutrients and the health of every other body part suffers (skin, brain, joints, etc.).
Immune Function. Not only is your gut a physical barrier to protect you from harmful bacteria, viruses, and other substances from entering your blood, it also houses around 70% of your immune cells!(2)
This makes sense because it is a major entry point for your body, so your immune system sends plenty of power to handle any threats that get through.
This setup works great… when your gut is healthy. But what happens when your gut lining is weakened (by all the additives in your food such as sugar, medications, infections) and partially digested foods start “leaking” through the normally tight lining of your gut?
Well, your immune system doesn’t recognize partially digested foods for the harmless substances they are and mounts a defense (inflammatory response) against what it perceives to be harmful foreign invaders.
Since we eat all day long, the immune system never gets a rest. This leads to chronic inflammation.
This angry immune system can even confuse the leaked foods and microbes with its own cells and begin attacking itself (hello autoimmune disease).
Inflammation takes a lot of energy (fatigue anyone?) and does a lot of damage.
Often the gut becomes a target of much of that damage (which is why digestive issues are so common in autoimmune diseases).
Those substances that leak through the gut enter your circulation and can trigger immune system attacks and inflammation all over your body (joints, brain, muscles, thyroid). Hence, autoimmune disease can affect any part of your body.
A Mediator Release Test can help you figure out which foods are triggering this immune response. Avoiding sensitive foods for a time can help your gut and immune system heal.
Gut Microbiome. Your gut (especially your large intestine) is home to this huge, thriving metropolis of microbes: mostly bacteria, but also yeast, viruses, even parasites. Some are helpful. Some are harmful.
A balance of healthy microbes has several essential functions in your health(2):
- Compete with harmful microbes to keep them from dominating
- Train your immune system to respond properly to threats without overreacting
- Feed the cells lining the large intestine to keep them healthy (bacteria breaks down the fiber that you cannot, releasing short-chain fatty acids like butyrate that your gut cells thrive on)
The role of the microbiome is so important that it could almost be considered another organ in your body. An unhealthy microbiome leads to a lot of problems in your foundation.
Detoxification. The biggest detox organ is NOT the liver, but the digestive system (2). We’ll touch more on detox below.
Can you see why a healthy gut is the chief cornerstone of good health? A healthy gut affects the health of the rest of the body the same way the first cornerstone in a foundation determines the layout of the rest of the building.
Cornerstone 2- Balance Blood Sugars
If you want a strong foundation of health, you must have balanced blood sugars. Don’t skip this section!
If you think that blood sugar issues are not a thing in autoimmune disease (unless it’s Type 1 Diabetes), I think you’ll be surprised and enlightened by what I share here.
Balanced blood sugars should be a concern for all of us because out of control blood sugars lead to out of control insulin levels. And out of control insulin levels lead to…
Insulin resistance is a super common condition thought to affect more than 50% of the world population(3)! That’s huge.
You will have insulin resistance for YEARS before your blood sugars start to show it. Your doctor will likely never test for it. It will be silently undermining your health without you even knowing it’s a problem.
Insulin resistance is associated with a lot of negative health consequences, like(3):
- excess body fat (which increases inflammation in autoimmune disease)
- stubborn belly fat, “potbelly” or “beer belly”
- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- polycystic ovarian syndrome in women (PCOS)
- low testosterone in men
- infertility in men and women
- increased risk of cancer
- heart disease
- sarcopenia (weakened muscles)
- eventual diabetes
Insulin is a hormone released by your pancreas, whose primary job is to prevent your blood sugars from getting too high after a meal, mainly by signaling your muscle cells and fat cells to store that extra glucose (sugar).
Thus, insulin leads to more fat cells and larger fats cells. Eventually it leads to excess fat in your belly, liver, pancreas, and muscles.
Without reducing your insulin levels, you may find it impossible to lose all that fat for long, if at all. This can be really distressing if you’ve been told by your doctor that losing weight will help your disease.
The number one way to reverse insulin resistance is to reduce the amount of insulin in your blood(3). The number 1 way to reduce insulin in your blood is to balance your blood sugars.
If you avoid blood sugar spikes, you’ll release less insulin, which will reduce fat storage, improve organ function, reduce inflammation, and help with weight loss (if you need to lose weight)… all of which are super helpful for autoimmune disease.
Check out this article on 7 Ways Sugar Causes Joint Pain for more great insights.
Cornerstone 3- Support Your Body’s Natural Ability to Detox
Although there is still a lot we don’t understand, toxins such as medications, mercury, asbestos, pesticides, mining chemicals, mycotoxins from mold, etcetera have been linked to many autoimmune diseases, including (4, 5, 6):
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or Lupus)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Autoimmune liver disease
- Increased general autoimmune blood markers
Limiting exposure to toxins and then supporting your body in handling what you are exposed to might be really important for autoimmune disease.
Your body is actually really amazing at detoxifying itself. Your gut, liver, and kidneys play major roles in detox(2).
However, your detoxification system is taking a double whammy these days:
- We are taking in more toxins than ever due to air pollution; pervasive use of plastics; chemical treatments in our clothes, furniture, and homes; additives, preservatives, dyes, and pesticides in our foods; harmful ingredients in makeup and body care products; medications; heavy metals in dental fillings, food and water; and much more (4).
- Most people aren’t eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that have what we need to perform detox well. Effective detox also relies on a healthy gut, liver, and kidneys–which is not always the case these days (7).
We’ve talked a little bit already about how our gut and liver are not as healthy as they could be these days. In turn, they may not be detoxing efficiently.
Then there is the fact that about 90% of Americans don’t get enough fruits, vegetables, or whole grains that are rich in the nutrients and fiber necessary to detoxify (8).
If you are also dehydrated (or drinking sugary, additive-laden, artificially dyed beverages that require even more detoxing) you’ll have an even tougher time ridding your body of waste.
Supporting your body’s ability to detoxify with whole foods is the safest approach (9). Other methods aren’t well researched yet.
With a little boost, your body should be able to handle everything except the most toxic exposures.
The FREE Heal with Food Fast (5 Day Action Plan) includes simple strategies for detoxifying with real food. However, keep in mind that if you’ve done all of these things and still aren’t getting better, you might want to find a doctor that specializes in testing and treating toxicity.
(*Don’t rely on commercial cleanses and DIY methods. If you truly have a large toxic load, these methods might simply set all that stuff loose without fully taking care of it, causing more damage(9).)
Cornerstone 4- Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation refers to your body’s immune system being activated. Chronic inflammation is a problem in every autoimmune disease.
When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system is activated for months or even years. This type of inflammation is exhausting and damaging to your body, especially because your immune system is attacking your own tissues.
Reducing inflammation is a primary target of medications for autoimmune disease. They interfere with one part or another of your complex immune system to reduce its activity, often with unwanted side effects.
This is also the goal of many supplements and topical creams. Most are anti-inflammatory in one way or another.
Controlling the immune system directly may be helpful in the short run, but for long-term healing, you need to step back and figure out WHY your immune system is attacking you and fix THAT.
The FREE Heal with Food Fast (5 Day Action Plan) helps reduce inflammation–both directly and indirectly–by addressing the underlying causes of it.
The four cornerstones of healing with food are: heal your gut, balance blood sugars, support detox, and reduce inflammation.
These four strategies are foundational to healing for everybody suffering from any autoimmune disease.
The FREE Heal with Food Fast (5 Day Action Plan) will show you how to jumpstart healing in all 4 cornerstones with 5 simple strategies.
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References Not Linked:
2. Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2004.
7. Diet, Detox and Drug Muggers- Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy Webinar May 9, 2019 https://vimeo.com/335298665