Is your immune system working overtime? … If so, you might have an auto-immune condition (e.g. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) that can be supported with nutritional or naturopathic intervention.
The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on Nutritional and Naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health. In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive problems, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease. Winter 2014 blog themes rotate between the topics of longevity, immunity, and weight problems. Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.
Immunity (Part 2): Autoimmune Health - A Naturopathic Perspective
Immunity – A Three-Part Blog Series
We divided ‘Immunity’ blogs into three subtopics: i) combating colds and flu’s with immunity nutrients, ii) Autoimmune Health - A Naturopathic Perspective (current blog), and iii) immune healthy lifestyles.
Immunity Nutrients & Naturopathic Treatments: A Wise Consideration
Healthy immune nutrients and naturopathic treatments can help reduce the severity and onset of cold’s & flu’s, recurrent infections, and food/environmental allergies. Autoimmune ailments are ingrained chronic conditions where nutrients and naturopathic treatments can help reduce severity, in some cases profoundly.
Compromised Immune Function Year Round
If you have year round symptoms from recurrent infections, food/environmental allergies, or an autoimmune condition your immune system needs support. Recurrent infections that happen year round are quite common. Food or environmental allergies may also be at issue and these can occur year round unless they are seasonal environmental allergies (e.g. hayfever). Food intolerances affect kids and adults. Some environmental allergies can cause itchy or watery eyes which are not the same as a cold or flu. Upper respiratory infections discussed in the previous immunity series blog can be so frequent that some people go from one infection to the next with very little break in between. In such cases there is often a separate immune weakening factor. For example, it is not uncommon to see people who have no symptoms from underlying emerging bacterial tooth abscesses or a recurrent kidney or bladder infections or cold sores (herpes II virus) who get frequent cold’s and flu’s. Here the immune system has little reserve left over to handle flu or cold ‘bugs’.
Food and environmental allergies can also tax the immune system year round. Food intolerances are longstanding problems for a large part of the population and they are triggered by eating foods that have big proteins (gluten, whey, casein) or genetically altered proteins that the body identifies as foreign. About 83 percent of the US population carries one or more possible genetic markers for gluten intolerance. Environmental allergies/sensitivities to airborne allergens or chemicals that our immune system identifies as foreign can also tax our immune system. Getting all these exposure reactions under control is the aim of a comprehensive naturopathic approach to health.
Autoimmune conditions are an immune system compromise caused when the body produces antibodies that attack and damage its own cells or tissues. Rhematoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are a good example of this type of immune compromise.
Herein we will focus on autoimmune conditions that tax the immune system day in and day out year round, with a special focus on a commonly seen autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Autoimmune Health Conditions
Rheumatoid arthritis (antibodies attacking your joints - causes pain, inflammation and swelling)
Multiple Sclerosis (antibodies attacking your nerve membranes - causes pain, weakness, blindness, muscle spasms, and poor coordination)
Lupus (antibodies attacking your joints, blood cells, lungs, kidneys, and nerves)
Colitis or Crohn’s disease (antibodies attacking your intestinal lining - causes diarrhea, bowel movement urgency, weight loss, rectal bleeding, fever, and abdominal pain)
Guillain-Barre syndrome (antibodies attacking nerves that control leg and sometimes upper body muscles)
Type 1 Diabetes (antibodies attacking pancreatic insulin-producing cells)
Psoriasis (T-cell buildup in the skin that stimulates rapid skin cell reproduction - causes silvery scaly plaques) Graves’ Disease (antibodies stimulate the thyroid to release excessive thyroid hormone, hyperthyroidism – causes eye bulging, weight loss, irritability, nervousness, weakness, rapid heart rate, and brittle hair) Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (antibodies attack the thyroid and insidiously destroy thyroid tissue cells that produce thyroid hormone – hypothyroidism - causes fatigue, dry skin, constipation, depression, weight gain, cold sensitivity)
Myasthenia gravis (antibodies attack nerves make them unable to stimulate muscle function – causes weakness, worse with activity)
Vasculitis (antibodies attack blood vessels of organ(s) - causes a wide array of specific symptoms)
Understanding Hashimoto’s - An Autoimmune Health Perspective
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is quite common in society; about 80+ percent of those with elevated TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels have Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is more ingrained than its non-autoimmune hypothyroid counterpart. In Hashimoto’s you often see little or no response to thyroid medication (often high doses yield minimal benefit), high TSH levels, and sometimes a mix of hypo- and hyper- symptoms.
Thyroid hormones are needed by all cells of the body as they act at the DNA promoter region and govern the global output of a vast array of protein metabolites that are needed for a vast array of body system functions. A reduction in thyroid activity can be caused by nutrient deficiency, reduced anterior pituitary function, poor conversion of inactive (T4) to active (T3) thyroid hormone, chronic stress that increases proteins used in thyroid-binding, poor thyroid hormone receptor sensitivity (thyroid resistance), increased T3 conversion (also causing thyroid resistance), and auto-immune states such as Hashimoto’s.
Suspected Hashimoto’s triggers include gluten intolerance, vitamin D deficiency, iodine imbalance, estrogen surges during peri-menopause or pregnancy, heavy metals, insulin resistance (insulin surges induce an inflammatory cytokine cascade), polycystic ovary syndrome, and digestive disorders.
The naturopathic treatment for Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune conditions involves approaches that aim to 1) eliminate potential triggers and 2) balance immune system over-response mechanisms.
Eliminating potential Hashimoto’s triggers
Gluten intolerance for example is very common in Hashimoto’s and when gluten is eliminated positive outcomes typically follow. People with Hashimoto’s commonly carry one or more genetic markers for gluten intolerance. I find that patients who eliminate gluten achieve a minimum 30% increase in energy, this is a sign that the body has greater energy reserves when it isn’t attending to immune patrol. Heavy metal toxicity, insulin resistance, digestive compromise, and vitamin D deficiency are part of the top 15 syndromes that affect your physical and mental health. By improving or eradicating these triggers you can achieve a vast array of independent health benefits.
Balancing Immune System Over-Response Mechanisms
Balancing immune system over-response mechanisms is accomplished with the aid of naturopathic interventions that work to balance TH1 versus TH2 cytokine and T- versus B-cell pathways.
Hashimoto’s Symptoms: The BodyMindLink
Hashimoto’s affects your physical and mental health. The physical health conditions associated with Hashimoto’s include fatigue (decrease of metabolites involved in manufacturing energy molecules), decrease in the production of enzymes (enzymes are proteins involved in metabolic reactions all over), reduced gastrointestinal tract movement (digestive tract lining cells are highly active and a new set turns over every 24 hours), low hydrochloric stomach acid (reduced parietal cell output), anemia, reduced fat breakdown, and reduced liver detoxification (phase II). The mental health issues associated with Hashimoto’s are widespread due to altered neurotransmitter output; it is not uncommon to see poor concentration, brain fog, depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, ADD, and schizophrenia in low thyroid cases.
Disclaimer: Information provided is not to be used for self-assessment, diagnosis or treatment. We advise the public to discuss these topics with their health care provider or book an appointment with our Toronto clinic.