Do you suffer from an autoimmune condition such as celiac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis or some other kind? Are you tired of your family or friends telling you that your symptoms are “in your head” or tired of your health care provider throwing their hands up in dismay?
You’re not alone. Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease, many of which do not display outward symptoms that are visible to others. At Starkel Nutrition, we understand that an autoimmune condition can forever change the course of your life, and we do our best to support you in learning how to thrive under your current circumstances. To do so, we first have to understand what is happening in your body and why the imbalance was turned on in the first place.
With autoimmunity, the immune system gets confused and starts seeing its own tissues as foreign invaders or “non-self.” Essentially the immune system goes into overdrive. As a result, standards of care are currently designed to suppress the immune system. Functional medicine nutrition supports autoimmunity in a different way, placing a heavy emphasis on supporting the root cause of health imbalances. While the exact cause of autoimmunity is unclear at this time, Alessio Fasano, MD, a researcher who has dedicated his life to revolutionizing the way we understand celiac disease and other autoimmune conditions, describes it best using his “three-legged stool” analogy. The three factors that seem to be present in all cases of auto-immunity include:
- A genetic predisposition
- A triggering event (virus, toxic exposure, bacterial infections, environmental factors, etc.) and
- Intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) or gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in bacteria).
Intestinal permeability and the ecosystem of the gut are topics we get excited about as nutritionists. The foods we consume directly impact our gut microbiota and its DNA, and there are many strategies for supporting both optimal digestion and healthy gut tissue. As Hipocrates himself stated it best over 2500 years ago, “all disease begins in the gut.” But what if you are not displaying any signs of gut imbalances that are obvious to you? This is why we do a comprehensive assessment of your case and use tools to help you understand what may be going on for you behind the scenes in your digestive tract. In fact, the ability to digest food and absorb nutrients are both often compromised in people who have autoimmune conditions and nutritional needs are higher as a result.
Learning to thrive with an autoimmune condition takes exploration, patience and much support. Let us help you in understanding how to best support yourself through the power of whole foods nutrition and functional medicine.
Written By Siona Sammartino, MS, RDN