3 common factors of autoimmune disease

Last November I gave a presentation on how to boost your immune system naturally at the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre.  When they invited me to return last week, the participants requested that I present upon naturopathic treatment goals for a variety of autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

At first, this task seemed challenging because each autoimmune condition presents with a multitude of symptoms unique to the condition.  How was I going to explain all of these conditions and describe both conventional and naturopathic treatments for them in only 2 hours?

My solution was to focus on the 3 common factors in all autoimmune conditions:

1. Autoimmunity is a misdirected immune response which inappropriately attacks healthy cells.  The type of cells affected determine the type of symptoms expressed which define the different autoimmune disorders.

2.  The result of all misdirected immune responses is inflammation, a common symptom of autoimmune disease.

3.  One theory of why autoimmune conditions develop is that there is a disruption that occurs which alters the immune system’s ability to function.  Possible causes of disruptions include: viral infections, stressful and highly emotional life events, environmental toxins, digestive tract issues and allergies.

Based on the above factors, the naturopathic treatment goals for autoimmune disease include:

1. Regulation of the immune system processes to correct misdirected and inappropriate responses.

2. Decrease inflammation by regulating the immune system’s production of inflammatory molecules.

3. Identify and treat the initial disruption to the immune system.

These 3 goals can be accomplished using a combination of naturopathic modalities unique to the individual including:  mind-body medicine, nutrition, botanical medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture and homeopathy.  Ask your naturopathic doctor about which of these options is right for you!

Are you tired ALL the time? Part 2: Hypothyroidism

As a continuation to my first blog post “Are you tired ALL this time? This may be why” I’d like to discuss another reason for constant fatigue: Hypothyroidism!

Hypothyroidism is the underfunctioning of your thyroid gland which leads to a decrease in the production and secretion of thyroid hormones.

Your thyroid gland is located in the front of your throat and is shaped like a butterfly:

Who can develop hypothyroidism?

  • New mothers: post-partum change in hormone levels can trigger the development of hypothyroidism.
  • Family history of thyroid issues: a family member with a thyroid issue increases your risk
  • Advanced age: growing older naturally leads to dsyfunction in organs and can lead to a thyroid condition.
  • Autoimmune conditions: if you have an autoimmune condition which affects your hormones such as diabetes, you are at a higher risk for developing a thyroid condition
  • Nutritional deficiencies: iodine is the primary nutrient to support thyroid function so a deficiency can alter thyroid function. Other nutrients which affect thyroid hormone production and metabolism are tyrosine and selenium.
  • Chronic stress: chronic stress increases your levels of cortisol which can affect thyroid gland function. Chronic/acute stressors increase your risk for developing autoimmune disease in general.
  • Genetic conditions: if you have Down’s or Turner’s syndrome you are at a higher risk for developing a thyroid condition.

Thyroid hormones are responsible metabolism in various parts of the body.  Impaired metabolism can result in the following symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • High cholesterol
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Swelling, especially in the legs and face
  • Dry and pale skin
  • Fragile and coarse hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Cold intolerance and feeling chilly all the time
  • Menstrual issues: heavy periods or absence of period

Finding out if you have hypothyroidism is done through a simple blood test with your doctor.

Usually this test is done with your annual physical exam which is why it is important to see your doctor on a regular basis for screening.

The important thing to remember if you are tired ALL the time is to see your doctor!

As you’ll see in this blog series, there are many serious causes of being tired ALL the time which need to be addressed or ruled out with testing so that your tiredness can be appropriately addressed.

Stay tuned for my next blog post: Are you tired ALL the time? Part 3…