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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
After an intense course that took a deep dive into the science of autoimmune disease, I am thrilled to announce that I am officially an Autoimmune Protocol Certified Coach!
It is estimated that 50 million Americans are affected by autoimmune disease, compared to 12 million with cancer, and 25 million with heart disease. There are over 100 confirmed autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, lichen planus, and so many more. Autoimmune disease is truly an under-recognized epidemic in our society.
What is an autoimmune disease?
Simply put, autoimmune disease is when your body turns on itself by creating autoantibodies that attack your own cells. This means that your immune system is unable to distinguish between your body and foreign invaders, like viruses and bacteria. This usually doesn’t happen all at once, but develops gradually over time. (This is one of the reasons it can be very challenging to diagnose.)
How does this happen?
There are 3 major factors at play in the development of autoimmune disease; genetics, environmental triggers such as toxins and diet and lifestyle.
Hippocrates had it right nearly 2,500 years ago when he said that all diseases start in the gut. According to Sarah Ballantyne in her book The Paleo Approach, a leaky gut is present in every autoimmune disease patient that is tested for the condition. This means that no matter what autoimmune disease a person is diagnosed with, they have a leaky gut.
What is a leaky gut?
The condition of “leaky gut,” known in the medical community as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the lining of the intestinal tract breaks down, either by enterocyte (the cells that line the intestine) damage or death, and opening of the junctions between the enterocytes. This will in turn allow toxins and microorganisms to leak into the adjuncent blood vessels and lymphatic vessels where the immune system is triggering an immune response. When this occurs, toxins, waste products, and microorganisms enter the body systems rather than passed through and excreted properly.
The modern American diet of high fat, high sugar, processed foods, as well as grains and legumes, is a major cause of leaky gut, along with a high stress lifestyle. Certain foods actually damage or even kill the cells that line the intestine, creating holes for toxins to pass through. Our bodies simply were not meant to digest this type of diet. When we consume foods, drinks, and medications that our bodies don’t know what to do with, they cause damage to the lining of our intestines meant to serve as the barrier between our bodies and outside toxins.
Too many Americans are consuming what is called the SAD diet, or the Standard American Diet of high fat, low nutritional foods and beverages that leaves us over fed and undernourished.
What does this have to do with autoimmune disease?
When the body is faced with external invaders, it naturally activates the immune system. When your leaky gut is constantly dumping more and more toxins and unhealthy microorganisms into your body, it becomes difficult for the immune system to regulate properly.
Not only does a leaky gut dump toxins into your system, it also isn’t absorbing nutrients like it should. So, whatever nutrients you are getting from the SAD diet aren’t being fully utilized by the body.
The immune system requires a lot of nutrients to function properly. (This is why you’re supposed to take additional nutrients like vitamin C and zinc when you are sick – to feed your immune system what it needs to fight the illness.) When you are nutrient deficient, the regulatory segment of your immune system is the first thing to shut down.
The end result is that your immune system goes into overdrive to attack the toxins in your system, with no regulation to help it distinguish between the invaders and your actual body. Your immune system begins creating autoantibodies against different bodily systems.
The good news…
The good news is that it is possible to heal your leaky gut. There is increasing evidence that diet and lifestyle changes can reverse the damage to your intestinal wall, which in turn can improve the symptoms of autoimmune disease. With a little intentional lifestyle change, there is hope for those suffering from leaky gut and its related conditions.
What is the autoimmune protocol?
The autoimmune protocol is all about healing you and your leaky gut. There are a lot of fad diets and quick fixes out there, but I highly recommend you seek guidance from a qualified care provider familiar with the autoimmune protocol whose work will compliment your current medical care.
The autoimmune protocol is so much more than just a diet trend. Proper implementation of the autoimmune protocol requires a complete lifestyle overhaul. It considers the three components of autoimmune disease: genetics, environmental triggers, and finally, diet and daily habits. Obviously, we have no control over our genetics, but we can identify our individual disease triggers, modify our diets, and integrate healthier habits into our routine.
An Autoimmune Protocol Certified Coach can help!
The autoimmune protocol is a means for you to identify and address environmental and dietary triggers to help you heal. You may not have a say in your genetics, but you can control your environment to some extent, as well as your diet and exposure to toxins, especially personal care products and household toxins.
The autoimmune protocol is a nutrients-first approach to healing. We need to put the right nutrients into our bodies so that healing can take place. We also need to remove foods that take away from the healing properties of others and that lead to a leaky gut. As an Autoimmune Protocol Certified Coach, I address healing your body from the inside out.
Alt, Angie and Mickey Trescott. The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook: A DIY Guide To Living Well With Chronic Illness. November 1, 2016
Ballantyne, Sarah. The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. Victory Belt Publishing Inc. 2013.
Ballantyne, Sarah. The Healing Kitchen. Victory Belt Publishing Inc. 2015.
Campos, Marcelo M.D. Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you? Harvard Health Publishing. Last updated October 22, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451.
Qinghui Mu, J. Kirby, C.M. Reilly, and Xin M. Luo. Leaky Gut As A Danger Signal For Autoimmune Disease. Frontiers in Immunology. 8:598. May 23, 2017. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598/full.
Hi! I am Ammie Chapman, mother, wife, chiropractor and clean living fan. I have had my struggles with health issues that I have been able to treat with diet and lifestyle changes. I am hoping it may help you too.
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