The rate of autoimmune disease in Americans is equal to the rate of heart disease and cancer combined. This means that 24-50 million Americans or 16 percent of the U.S. population is suffering from some form of autoimmune disease! Many individuals suffering from an autoimmune condition rely on traditional medicine for treatment. However, functional medicine doctors can offer insight into the root cause of disease, managing your condition without drugs, and how to heal autoimmune disease naturally. Further Food asked 5 of the most influential functional medicine experts to give us their opinion on some of the most common questions that come up when trying to heal autoimmune disease naturally. Read on for advice from Dr. Wahls, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Palanisamy, Dr. Myers, and Dr. Axe!
Dr. Terry Wahls on “What is your traditional doctor not telling you about the root causes of autoimmune disease?”
The traditional physician, nurse practitioner and physician assistant know how to diagnose using a patient’s symptoms and laboratory tests. Then they prescribe drugs to control symptoms. Unfortunately they know very little about the root causes of autoimmune disease. They do not understand that 5% of the risk for developing an autoimmune problem is due to one’s DNA, that 95% of that risk is due to a lifetime of diet choices, physical activity level and environmental exposures. Nor do they appreciate that by changing their diet and lifestyle choices, one can have a major impact on which genes are active and which are silent, which in turn will have a major impact on disease activity. Nor do traditional doctors appreciate the role of gut microbiota in autoimmune disease activity and how diet choices shape the microbiota.
Dr. Mark Hyman on “Why changing your diet can work faster and/or better than pharmaceuticals?”
Beyond simply being a mechanism for conveying calories, food is a source of special ingredients than can prevent and treat disease and transform your health. These are called phytonutrients – special plant chemicals that are not calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, but special molecules that interact with your biology, special molecules that act like switches on your DNA to heal your body. Fruits and vegetables contain these phytonutrients which act like medicine in our bodies. We should eat these every day to prevent disease and create optimal health or UltraWellness! Enjoy an array of colorful plant foods like blueberries and dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress, and arugula. Eat the rainbow!
Dr. Akil Palanisamy on “How to apply Ayurvedic principles to managing autoimmune diseases?”
Ayurveda has a very sophisticated understanding of autoimmune disease. It states that all disease begins in the gut with imbalance in Agni or the digestive fire. Treating Agni and healing the gut may incorporate specific healing foods, spices, and herbs, such as bone broth, aloe juice, turmeric and cardamom. In Ayurveda, everyone is believed to have a different body type, and therefore all treatment is individually customized. Also, the concept of Ama, or cellular toxins, is vital in autoimmune disease – we know that environmental toxins and pollutants, e.g. heavy metals and BPA, play a really big role in the development of autoimmune disease. Ayurveda emphasizes detoxification and cleansing of Ama through certain foods, botanical remedies, lifestyle practices and detoxification techniques.
Dr. Josh Axe on “What natural remedies are there when you feel tired from your chronic illness?”
When your body is trying to fight an ongoing, chronic disease and expending a ton of energy to make you well again, it’s common to find that you feel more tired than normal. To remedy that, I recommend two things. The first is to take an adaptogen herb like ashwagandha or holy basil (also known as tulsi). Adaptogens work by regulating the adrenal system, which controls how the body handles external stressors. They keep anxiety levels low and fight fatigue and symptoms of stress. Ashwagandha specifically is known to increase stamina, improve mood and prevent and/or treat adrenal fatigue, which is a common byproduct of autoimmune disease. I also recommend peppermint essential oil. It’s something that I always have on hand, and it can lift energy levels in a matter of moments by increasing the amount of oxygen that flows to the brain, which, in turn, heightens overall focus. And it’s really simple to use: Just dab a few drops on your wrists or diffuse some in your office or bedroom.
Dr. Amy Myers on “What are some tips to treat flare-ups naturally?”
Flare-ups in autoimmunity can happen from time to time, especially if you experience a stressful event, a toxin exposure or your dietary protocol is derailed. If you experience a flare up, the first step is to make sure you jump back on board with an autoimmune friendly diet, such as The Myers Way®. You want to remove sources of inflammation, including toxic and inflammatory foods, in order to give your immune system a break. I also recommend daily and weekly stress relief activities such as meditation, hot baths, binaural beats, walks and whichever strategies best help you relax. Finally, if you experienced a toxin exposure, you’ll want to support your natural detox pathways by staying hydrated, taking a supplement such as glutathione (your body’s biggest detoxifier), and even using an infrared sauna to help you safely sweat out the toxins.
5 Take-Aways to Healing Autoimmune Disease Naturally from our 5 Renowned Functional Medicine Doctors:
- Traditional doctors don’t emphasize the importance of diet, lifestyle choices and environmental factors in helping you heal autoimmune disease naturally. Dr. Terry Wahls believes that changing our diets and our gut microbiota can have a major impact on preventing and curing disease.
- Dr. Mark Hyman says that food, and especially phytonutrients, are key to preventing and treating autoimmune disease naturally. Our diets should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables to keep us in optimal health.
- Dr. Akil Palanisamy uses the ancient practice of Ayurveda to help heal autoimmune disease naturally. Ayurveda focuses on healing the gut by incorporating specific healing foods, spices and herbs and removing environmental toxins and pollutants.
- It is very common to feel fatigue when fighting an autoimmune disease. Dr. Josh Axe recommends two natural remedies to help fight fatigue and heal autoimmune disease naturally: an adaptogen herb such as Ashwagandha which can help regulate the adrenal system, and peppermint oil, which is a great energy lifter and helps to heighten focus.
- Flare-ups can happen to those with autoimmune diseases, and Dr. Amy Myers has recommendations on how to treat these flare-ups naturally. First, you need to remove the sources of inflammation, such as toxic or inflammatory foods and make sure you are following the proper diet to help heal autoimmune disease naturally. Also important is to engage in regular stress activities, detoxify and take supplements when necessary.
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