Autoimmune conditions are complex. There are a variety of immunological and metabolic factors at play in such conditions. In addition to this, there may be more complex, emotional and psychological factors involved. This article is going to address some of the many factors at play in such conditions, as well as discussing nutritional-related therapies which may assist the body’s normal functional abilities.
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body “attacks” its own cells and tissues. Allegedly this occurs because the body cannot [for some reason] tell the difference between “self” and “non-self”. An estimated 24 million Americans suffer from the effects of autoimmune diseases, of which the symptoms are many.
Over the past three decades, the incidence of autoimmune diseases has more than tripled! Why does the immune system mistake its own tissues for an invading antigen? Many people such as Donna Jackson Nakazawa and Mark Hyman, MD believe it is due to environmental toxicity. In the incidence of autoimmune disease, Nakazawa calls these toxins “autogens”. Hal Huggins, DDS, a leading holistic dentist believes autoimmune diseases are caused by dental mercury. His own autoimmune Multiple Sclerosis symptoms have long abated after having removed his mercury dental fillings and improving his health.
The conventional treatment for autoimmune diseases offers immune suppressive drugs such as prednisone and methotrexate. While these drugs may indeed offer some relief, there are long term effects, many of which induce varying degrees of toxicity and liver damage. No medications address the causation of autoimmune conditions.
Clues Regarding Metabolic Imbalances In Autoimmune Conditions
Curiously there are some interesting variables associated with most autoimmune conditions:
- Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha
- Excessive Catabolic Activity
- Low Serum Potassium
Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha is a cytokine signalling protein. TNF-a is released mostly by macrophage cells. It is the TNF-a which induces cell apoptosis, or cell death. The activation of TNF-a is one of several immune factors, which induces the inflammatory response. Numerous studies cite the increase in TNF-a when autoimmune conditions are present, as well as decreases in symptoms when TNF-a is decreased either through drugs or through antioxidant therapy. TNF-a induces inflammation. It is critical to point out that inflammation is synonymous with catabolism.
Catabolism is the metabolic process that is responsible for the breakdown of cells. Anabolism is the metabolic process which induces cellular growth. Both anabolic and catabolic activity are essential components to normal metabolic functions, and additionally are involved in lipid immune responses. Problems arise when there is excess catabolic activity or excess anabolic activity.
The majority of people with autoimmune conditions are stuck in an excessive catabolic state, while having weakened anabolic defenses. This information is based upon clinical observations over many years. Much research of the anabolic and catabolic dualism has been conducted by Emanuel Revici, MD.
There are correlations between decreased cholesterol levels and certain autoimmune conditions. It just so happens that cholesterol is a powerful anabolic lipid, one that regulates inflammatory, catabolic immune lipids such as leukotrienes and prostaglandins. It can be postulated that in autoimmune conditions, the excessive tissue destruction is due in part to low cholesterol values, which if sufficient could assist in the containment of the inflammation and destruction of tissues.
Limited studies have been done on cholesterol and TNF-a, however some studies indicate the involvement of lipids in the regulation of TNF-a (see ‘sources’ below).
There are many studies which indicate the presence of decreased serum potassium in autoimmune conditions. This is likely not related to a quantitative dietary deficiency in potassium, but more likely associated with poor cell membrane voltage. Potassium is a primary intracellular electrolyte, when coupled with sodium, generates electricity so that the many functions of the cell can take place. Any compromise to cell membrane charge, will necessarily compromise the function of the cell.
It is important to not think of potassium as existing separately in the body, but rather in an intrinsic relationship with other electrolytes such as sodium, phosphate, magnesium, sulfate and calcium. The point here is that proper electrolyte balance is an essential component of healthy cellular function. Certain individuals with abnormally high and/or abnormally low electrolytes should work to improve their cell hydration levels, otherwise will suffer the consequences of inadequate cell membrane electro-conductivity.
If you suffer with an autoimmune condition, it should be pointed out that no one protocol or therapy will work for everyone. However, individualized diet and nutrition offers tremendous potential for healing and for restoring the body’s normal biological functions. Too often people with diseases are searching for cures to disease. This is the wrong approach, in my opinion. The attention should be on improving the health of the body, and to support its normal, biological functions, making the body infallible to disease processes.
An appropriate strategy should consist of necessary laboratory testing and data. A protocol should address:
- Individualized Metabolic considerations
- Improving hydration, digestion and detoxification