I’ve been reading a lot how all my health issues (depression, headaches, fatigue) can all be caused by inflammation. So the Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum caught my eye. Over 100 different autoimmune diseases (i.e. diabetes, hypothyroidism, arthritis, celiac, etc.) are all chronic conditions associated with irritation and swelling insight the body (inflammation) where the immune system makes a mistake and attacks tissue in different parts of the body. The book says that if caught early, with time and effort, these conditions are reversible and curable.
Potential triggers include:
- GMO gluten is difficult to digest and can cause immune reactions in the gut, producing antibodies to attack the foreign invader and, mistakenly, our tissues as well – also, immune complexes can build up if there are too many of them and cause inflammation
- Chronic stress caused by emotions, skipping meals, lacking sleep, or overexercising keeps cortisol elevated, which can damage the immune system and prevent it from healing – also, it can exhaust adrenal glands so they don’t produce the hormones required to keep the body running properly
- Immune cells like the killer T cells and B cells migrate to the intestines to mature properly – but, if the good bacteria aren’t flourishing because of antibiotics, Advil, or even animal foods, for instance, it can damage the barrier of the intestinal wall and leak into the bloodstream where familiar food particles are recognized as foreign invaders
- Toxins like mercury from food, pesticides, groundwater, industrial waste, and industrial chemicals can change the chemical structure of our DNA, which the body then recognizes as a foreign invader – also, too many toxins can exhaust the liver, which is responsible for both detoxification and helping process hormones the body creates naturally, like estrogen
- Active viruses cause inflammation by keeping the immune system on high alert
If a doctor suspects you have an autoimmune disease, the first blood test is an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test. If, for instance, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is suspected, the doctor may only test the TSH, which may still be normal in early stages. If you have Hashimoto’s, either thyroid peroxidase antibodies or anti-thyroglobulin antibodies will be elevated. If the TSH is over 3.0 or if the free T4 is under 1.0 and the free T3 is under 2.6, the thyroid might be showing signs of damage and hormone replacement may be needed. Also get tested for 25-OH vitamin D, insulin, hemoglobin A1C, ESR, and zinc and selenium levels in the blood.
The molecules in food tells the cells in the body how to behave, which genes are activated, and can either increase or reduce inflammation. For reasons described in the book, the following foods should be avoided for 3 weeks: processed sugar, gluten, corn, soy, dairy, beef that isn’t grass-fed and organic, and trans fats. Then, one by one, reintroduce organic dairy, gluten, tempeh, and corn. Eat that food at least twice each day for two days, then none on the third day, observing for reactions like headaches, bloating, brain fog, fatigue, or a digestive reaction. Wait for the symptoms to go away before trying the next food. Even if you don’t have a reaction to gluten, continue to avoid it while any autoimmune disease remains. Then remove food sensitivities from your diet for at least 6 months, after which you can experiment with 95% removal.
The anti-inflammatory diet is low-glycemic centring around essential fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, and green tea. This means a variety of colour from organic fruits and vegetables: asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, and eggplant. Zinc and selenium are found in foods like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, beef, poultry, and oysters. Include good fats from avocado and coconuts. Whole quinoa, brown rice, gluten-free oats, lentils, and chickpeas are okay. Stevia is low-glycemic but still a sweetener so minimize.
I don’t think I need to explain the importance of managing stress. Ways to relax include meditation, guided imagery, acupuncture, and self-care like exercise and sleep. Avoid going more than 4 hours without eating and consume protein and fat with every meal.
70% of the immune system lives in the gut. An imbalance in gut flora can both cause and worsen allergies and autoimmune diseases. Causes of the imbalance could be infection, diet, or antibiotics. Treatment includes:
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil discourages viruses and yeast
- Prebiotics help good bacteria grow
- Probiotics like fermented foods are live bacteria
- 30g of fibre helps remove toxins
- Ghee reduces inflammation
- Animal proteins and spinach provide glutamine to fuel cells that line the intestines
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar before each meal support stomach acid
- Citrus, onions, garlic, and high-fat meals can trigger GERD
- 3,000 mg L-glutamine 1-3 times and 15-30g mg for 3 months help heal the intestinal lining
- Combination formula with many strains of 10-100 billion lactobacillus and 10-100 billion bifidobacterium maintain the barrier function of the intestinal lining
Substances that cause a reaction from the immune system include auto fumes, glue, pain, stain remover, heavy metals, dioxins, BPA, and pesticides. These toxins can build up inside your cells and tissues and stress your detox system. The first step is to minimize exposure: look into cleaning supplies, skin care, and water filtration, for example. The second step is to improve detoxification: fibre (30g) binds to toxins for elimination while poultry and dark leafy greens lay foundation for antioxidants like glutathione. Other detoxifying foods include cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, and green tea, as well as herbs and spices.
The next level up is supplements:
- B-complex vitamin
- Multivitamin with minerals zinc, selenium, manganese, copper
- Antioxidant with vitamin C, vitamin E (mixd tocopherols), vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), mixed carotenoids (including beta-carotene), alpha lipoic acid, and EGCG
- Milk thistle, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and indole-3-carbinol
There’s a lot more details, especially around the science behind these recommendations in the book – you can get the Immune System Recovery Plan on Amazon or through your local library.