Posts Tagged as: Autoimmunity
You could be developing an autoimmune disease, one of the most common diseases today, and are not aware of it. This is because autoimmune diseases sometimes start off as “silent” autoimmunity. This means your immune system is attacking tissue in your body but the damage isn’t bad enough to cause symptoms yet.
Autoimmune disease is more common than cancer and heart disease combined, and that’s just the diagnosed cases. Many, if not most, cases of autoimmunity are happening without a diagnosis.
This is because medicine does not screen for autoimmunity until symptoms are advanced and severe enough for a diagnosis and treatment with steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery.
Autoimmunity: The disease for the modern era
Autoimmunity can affect any tissue in the body or brain. It occurs when the immune system attacks and damages tissue as if it were a foreign invader.
Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and psoriasis. More than 80 different autoimmune diseases have been identified so far.
Autoimmune disease affects 1 in 5 people, the majority of them women. It is believed women are more commonly affected because of their hormonal complexity. Although autoimmune disease is very common, the statistics do not tell the whole story.
Autoimmunity can happen long before diagnosis
Autoimmunity can begin long before damage is bad enough for a disease to be diagnosed. Many people can go years, decades, or even an entire lifetime with symptoms but never have damage bad enough to be labeled disease.
As an example, autoimmunity against the pancreas can cause blood sugar issues long before the development of type 1 diabetes. Additionally, about 10 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is caused by diet and lifestyle, also have pancreatic autoimmunity. This is called type 1.5 diabetes.
One of the most common autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Patients may need to gradually increase their thyroid hormone because although they were diagnosed with low thyroid, the autoimmunity was overlooked and left unmanaged.
Or a patient may have an autoimmune reaction that has not been recognized as a disease. For instance, autoimmunity to nerve cells may produce symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an autoimmune reaction to nerve sheathes. However, because the autoimmunity is not attacking nerve sheathes specifically, the patient cannot be diagnosed despite MS-like symptoms.
Autoimmunity can attack anything in the body
People can also have symptoms that suggest many types of autoimmunity. Although symptoms vary depending on which tissue is being attacked, many autoimmune sufferers experience chronic fatigue, chronic pain, declining brain function, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, brain fog, and more.
Fortunately, functional medicine offers lab testing that can screen for autoimmunity against a number of different tissues. We also use strategies such as an anti-inflammatory diet, blood sugar stabilizing, gut healing, addressing toxins, and habits that minimize stress and inflammation.
Ask my office if autoimmunity may be causing your strange and chronic symptoms.
Gallbladder surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries today. Did you know simply going gluten-free may lower the risk of needing gallbladder surgery?
For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers a wide range of adverse reactions, from joint pain to poor brain function. In the last several years, research has also linked gluten with gallbladder disease in gluten-sensitive individuals.
Gluten sensitivity largely undiagnosed
An astonishing number of people are gluten intolerant but do not know it. Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity can cause leaky gut, chronic pain, inflammation, neurological damage, and autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue). Gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect between 20 and 40 percent of the general population, and is less frequently identified than celiac disease, though this is changing.
How gluten can raise the risk of gallbladder surgery
So how can gluten raise the risk of requiring gallbladder surgery? The process begins with damage to the small intestine. This damage inhibits its ability to properly secrete a hormone called cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin is the hormone that signals the gallbladder when it’s time to release bile, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. As a result, bile builds up in the gallbladder, causing inflammation and raising the risk of gallbladder disease and subsequent gallbladder surgery.
Approximately 60 percent of people with celiac disease — an autoimmune reaction to gluten — also have gallbladder, liver, or pancreatic conditions, and this is apparently one reason why.
Why you need a gallbladder
Although you can live without your gallbladder, it is essential to overall health. The bile stored and secreted by the gallbladder enables you to digest fats. Without a gallbladder, your liver still produces bile, but the bile just “leaks” continually into the small intestine. This means there are no adequate reserves of bile to break down fats when needed.
These fats then become rancid and inflame the digestive tract while fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids
are not properly absorbed. Ultimately, this compromises the function of your entire digestive tract. In fact, studies have linked gallbladder removal with an elevated risk of colon cancer.
Also, if the gallbladder is not removed but isn’t doing its job well, this can be detrimental to liver function.
It is worth caring for your gallbladder to preserve the health of your digestive system, and hence your immune system. If you are sensitive to gluten, it’s important to go gluten-free to maintain gallbladder health and lower your risk of needing gallbladder surgery.
Additionally, your gallbladder appreciates a diet high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, and free of processed oils and hydrogenated fats. And in general, it is safest to keep starchy carbs (cake, potatoes, white flour, refined sugar, etc.) to a minimum.
Various botanicals and nutrients can support liver and gallbladder health. They include milk thistle seed extract, dandelion root, ginger root, and phosphatidyl choline.
If you have already had your gallbladder removed, don’t despair. Taking ox bile with your meals can help you emulsify and absorb your fats, which are vital for many aspects of health including brain function. For more information, contact my office.
If you handle store receipts or use plastics (who doesn’t?), brace yourself for some disturbing new findings about BPA (bisphenol-A), the toxin in plastics and store receipts.
A new study shows BPA is linked with an autoimmune reaction that destroys the lining of nerves. Autoimmune nerve sheath degeneration is connected to autism spectrum disorders, multiple sclerosis (MS), neuropathy, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Previous research has shown blood levels of BPA spike after handling store receipts for just five seconds, and that the toxin long lingers in the body.
BPA and neurological autoimmunity
A 2016 study found a significant link between an immune reaction to BPA and an autoimmune attack against nerve sheaths.
The important part about this study is that it’s based on immune sensitivity to BPA, not the amount of BPA in the blood.
A person can react to BPA the way people react to gluten, dairy, or other foods, developing inflammatory symptoms.
This means person may have low levels of BPA in their blood yet still have an immune reaction to it that can trigger autoimmunity. Conversely, a person may have high blood levels of BPA but no immune reaction and thus a lower risk of it triggering autoimmunity (although BPA is associated with other health disorders, too.)
Animal studies also show a high degree of correlation between BPA and autoimmunity.
BPA sensitivity in mothers raises autism risk in children
Autoimmunity to nerve sheaths is commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. In fact, some research has found autoimmunity to nerve sheaths in almost 80 percent of subjects with autism compared to a control group.
Other studies show subjects with autism have significantly higher levels of BPA in their blood than controls.
Most disturbing are the findings that immune reactions to BPA in mothers can be passed on to offspring, thus considerably raising the risk of autism in their children.
Receipts major source of BPA contamination
BPA is ubiquitous in our environment. The toxin is found in large amounts on thermal receipts used by stores, restaurants, gas stations, airlines, ATM machines, and so on. Holding one of these receipts for as little as five seconds is enough to absorb it into your bloodstream.
BPA in plastics and other products
BPA is found in many other common products as well, such as plastic food and beverage containers, toys, tin can linings, and medical products.
BPA is leached from products through heat or exposure to acidic foods or beverages.
BPA also harms hormone health
BPA’s estrogen-like qualities have been shown to cause reproductive defects, cancer, and immune problems in animal studies. In the developing fetus, BPA can cause chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage.
BPA is also linked to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, ovarian and reproductive dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and obesity.
BPA-free is no guarantee
BPA-free products are available but many unfortunately still have synthetic estrogens and pose a health risk.
How to protect your body from BPA exposure
In addition to reducing exposure to BPA as much as possible, functional medicine strategies can help protect you from the negative effects of BPA.
The goal is to keep the immune system balanced and not prone to over reacting, which can trigger chemical sensitivities and autoimmunity. Ways to do this include an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, shoring up your glutathione reserves to protect your cells, and making use of natural compounds to support neurological and immune health. For more information, contact my office.
Do you crash when you go too long without eating, losing energy and becoming “hangry?” Hanger—hunger plus anger—is that explosive combination of low blood sugar and irrepressible irritability that turns a normally nice person into a multi-headed hydra.
People joke about being hangry, but when it happens regularly, it means your body and brain are in a perpetual state of alarm. This constant stress raises inflammation and accelerates degeneration of the brain.
In other words, being chronically hangry ages you too fast.
How being hangry ages your body too fast
The low blood sugar that triggers “hanger” sends your body into an emergency “fight-or-flight” mode, causing you to snap at loved ones or fly into a rage because you can’t untangle your earphone cords. This constant stress ages the body and brain.
Low blood sugar also raises an immune messenger called IL-6, which triggers inflammation that destroys tissue.
If you have a chronic or autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis, the inflammation from low blood sugar can trigger flare ups that destroy tissue, worsen symptoms, and advance your condition.
Autoimmunity means an over zealous and imbalanced immune system is attacking and destroying tissue in the body. Many people have autoimmunity but have not been diagnosed. Low blood sugar can worsen autoimmunity and speed destruction of tissues or glands in the body.
In a nutshell, the stress and inflammation from chronically low blood sugar ages your body too quickly.
How being hangry ages your brain too fast
The low blood sugar from being hangry deprives the brain of fuel and impairs brain function. This speeds degeneration because energy-deprived brain cells die.
Brain-related symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Irritable and easily upset
- Feeling shaky, jittery, or tremulous
- Agitated and nervous
- Eating gives you energy
- Poor memory, forgetfulness
- Blurred vision
- Lack of appetite or nausea
- Energy crash around 3 or 4 p.m.
- Wake up anxious around 3 or 4 a.m.
Being hangry can worsen brain autoimmunity
Chronically low blood sugar also ages the brain by triggering autoimmune flares in the brain.
A number of people have autoimmunity to brain and nerve tissue but don’t know it—it’s more common than realized.
When blood sugar drops too low, it can trigger the autoimmune process in the brain just as it does in the body, speeding the brain degeneration process.
A few common symptoms of brain autoimmunity include fatigue, “crashing” after too much stimulation or exertion, brain fog, memory loss, anxiety or depression disorders, autism or ADHD symptoms, and poor balance.
If you suffer from any brain-related symptoms, preventing low blood sugar is crucial.
Tips on avoiding low blood sugar to slow aging
If you want to function optimally and slow the aging process, make sure to avoid getting “hangry.”
Tips include never skipping breakfast or other meals, avoiding sugars and processed starches, eating plenty of vegetable fiber and healthy fats, minimizing caffeine, eating small meals every two to three until blood sugar stabilizes, and avoiding foods to which you are sensitive (such as gluten and dairy for many people).
A number of herbal and nutritional compounds can also help bring blood sugar to normal levels and balance immune and brain health. Ask my office for more advice
Star Trek’s Zoe Saldano recently revealed she has Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a thyroid disease affecting millions of women that causes weight gain, fatigue, depression, cold hands and feet, brain fog, constipation, and many other symptoms.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disease. Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, in this case the thyroid gland. It is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting an estimated more than 23 million people.
The thyroid gland governs metabolism in the body and produces thyroid hormones, which are needed by every cell in the body, including brain cells.
This is why a thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s causes a person to gradually lose function, feel run down, lose brain function, and find it impossible to lose weight (although not in Saldano’s case.)
Saldano’s unusual explanation for Hashimoto’s
When asked about her Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism diagnosis, Saldano said, “Your body doesn’t have the energy it needs to filter toxins, causing it to believe that it has an infection, so it’s always inflamed.”
This is an unusual and narrow explanation for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s.
Research shows multiple factors play into the development of an autoimmune disease, including:
Genetic susceptibility (Saldano’s family members have Hashimoto’s)
⦁ Imbalanced immunity
⦁ Food sensitivities
⦁ Environmental toxins
⦁ Leaky gut
⦁ Chronic stress
⦁ Gender (autoimmunity mainly affects women)
⦁ Hormone imbalances
⦁ Blood sugar imbalances
⦁ Chronic inflammation
⦁ Viral or bacterial infection
In a nutshell, rarely can we point to one defining trigger of autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Typically, a person experiences a number of chronic health issues that go undiagnosed until the overburdened immune system tips into an over zealous attack on the body.
What Saldano is doing right for Hashimoto’s
Although her explanation for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism may be a bit off base, Saldano otherwise puts forth some good lifestyle examples.
For starters, she follows a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Studies link these foods with autoimmunity, including Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
She also talks about the stress reducing techniques of not being too hard on herself and surrounding herself with the support of loved ones.
How to find out if you have Hashimoto’s
Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed in the conventional health care model. This is because doctors often only test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to prescribe medication.
About 95 percent of hypothyroid cases are due to Hashimoto’s. It’s important to check for TPO and TGB antibodies, which tell you if you have autoimmunity. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to balance and regulate the immune system so it stops attacking the body.
For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, contact my office.
If you have diabetes, whether it’s type 1 or type 2, your doctor likely recommended a diet endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. But did you know the diabetic diet recommends foods that could be slowly worsening your diabetes condition?
Turns out there is more to a diabetic diet than grams of carbs and sugar, although those are vitally important.
For people with type 1 diabetes and for an estimated 20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, diabetes is an autoimmune disease.
This means the immune system is attacking and destroying the parts of the pancreas involved in insulin production and regulation. Over time destruction is severe enough the body can no longer adequately regulate blood sugar.
Certain foods on the diabetic diet, such as gluten and dairy, have been shown to both trigger autoimmunity and make it worse.
Many type 2 diabetics have autoimmune diabetes
People with type 1 diabetes, which begins in childhood, understand diabetes is an autoimmune condition.
However, many people with type 2 diabetes can go for years without knowing there is an autoimmune component to their diabetes, which generally sets in during adulthood.
This type of diabetes is called type 1.5 diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA), or even double diabetes.
Type 1.5 diabetes involves the lifestyle components of being overweight or obese and eating a diet that promotes high blood sugar, along with the autoimmune component that slowly destroys the insulin-producing abilities of the pancreas.
Where the diabetic diet fails
Although grams of carbs and sugars are vital considerations for people with all types of diabetes, what is overlooked is the immune reactivity of foods.
Research shows a link between certain foods and the triggering or exacerbating of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 and type 1.5 diabetes.
If you have an immune reaction to certain foods and consume them daily, they are going to keep the immune system in a constant state of inflammation and attacking body tissue. This makes blood sugar continually difficult to manage, despite careful consumptions of carbs and sugars.
Foods to avoid with autoimmune diabetes
The two top foods to avoid if you have autoimmune diabetes are gluten and dairy. Both have been linked to a number of autoimmune diseases, including diabetes.
Gluten has been shown to trigger an autoimmune attack against the GAD enzyme, which plays a role in insulin regulation and brain function. Casein, the protein in dairy products, has also been linked with autoimmune diabetes.
If you have a sensitivity to these foods or other common immune reactive foods, it is worth getting tested or doing an elimination diet. Knowing which foods are provoking an autoimmune attack can help you better manage your type 1 or type 1.5 diabetes.
Ask my office for more advice on ways to tame inflammation and manage your autoimmune diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to rule out autoimmunity.
Our bodies have to work hard to deal with hundreds of toxic chemicals in our daily environment, in our food, and our water. Even if you eat a clean, organic diet and use non-toxic products, it’s impossible to completely avoid them. Thankfully, certain natural compounds can boost levels of our most powerful antioxidant, glutathione, in our bodies.
Glutathione is a powerful defense against toxins and inflammation. It protects the body’s cells from damage, it helps detoxify the body, and supports optimal immune function.
When glutathione levels drop too low, this makes you more susceptible to autoimmune disease, multiple food sensitivities, chemical and heavy metal sensitivities, chronic inflammatory disorders, leaky gut, and other immune-related issues.
By ensuring your glutathione levels stay at robust levels, you provide your body with an army of soldiers ready to “take a bullet” and shield your cells from the destructive forces of toxins and inflammation.
Things that deplete glutathione
In an ideal world, we have plenty of glutathione. Our bodies make sufficient amounts and the glutathione system is not overly taxed. Sadly, the modern world is far from ideal. Chronic stress, environmental toxins, diets low in nutrients but high in inflammatory triggers, sleep deprivation, smoking, sugar, excess alcohol, and other stressors slowly deplete glutathione levels. Glutathione levels also decrease naturally as a result of aging.
A straight glutathione supplement is not effective taken orally. Instead, people can take glutathione through a liposomal cream, nebulizer, suppository, IV drip, or injections. S-acetyl-glutathione, reduced glutathione, and oral liposomal glutathione are forms that are absorbable orally. These methods will help raise glutathione levels and your general antioxidant status, which can reduce inflammation and improve health.
Another method that raises glutathione uses precursors to boost levels and recycle glutathione within cells.
Glutathione recycling helps guard against autoimmunity
Recycling glutathione entails taking existing glutathione the body has already used in self-defense and rebuilding it so it can work for us again.
Research shows a link between poor glutathione recycling and autoimmune disease. In other words, if you’re not recycling glutathione well you’re at more risk of developing autoimmune disease. Healthy glutathione recycling is a vital tool in managing autoimmune disease.
Glutathione recycling helps repair leaky gut
Glutathione recycling also helps repair leaky gut and protect it from permeability. Leaky gut can lead to or exacerbate autoimmunity, multiple food sensitivities, and chronic inflammation. When glutathione recycling is insufficient, a person is more prone to developing leaky gut and all that maladies that accompany it. Glutathione recycling is vital to good gut health.
How to boost glutathione recycling
The most important first step to boost glutathione recycling is to remove the stressors depleting glutathione levels to the best of your ability. Look at your life around sleep deprivation, smoking, foods that cause inflammation, sugars and processed foods, excess alcohol, and other factors.
In addition to addressing lifestyle factors, you can take a variety of nutritional and botanical compounds that have been shown to support glutathione recycling. They include:
⦁ Alpha-lipoic acid
⦁ Gotu kola
⦁ Milk thistle
Boosting your glutathione levels with an absorbable form and then supporting glutathione recycling can significantly help you manage autoimmune disease, inflammatory disorders, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and more.
Those with high blood pressure and heart disease know to avoid salt, but researchers have learned salt comes with another risk — too much alters immune cells in a way that promotes autoimmune disease.
Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune disease rates have skyrocketed in recent years, affecting more people than heart disease and cancer combined.
Although salt is not in itself harmful, Americans are guilty of eating way too much salt, more than the human body was ever designed to process. Fast foods, junk foods, and snack foods are all heavily salted to increase palatability and mask their inherent poor quality.
Sadly, our extreme consumption of salt raises the risk of the body’s immune system attacking itself and destroying viable tissue; this is what autoimmune disease is. For instance, in Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. In type 1 diabetes, it is the pancreas that falls under attack. This gradual tissue destruction, along with the inflammation generated from the autoimmune attacks, causes a wide array of chronic and seemingly irresolvable symptoms.
The cells in the immune system responsible for this auto-destruction are called TH-17 cells. Researchers discovered that immune cells exposed to salt turned into TH-17 cells. Further experimentation showed mice fed a high-salt diet were more likely to develop a disease similar to multiple sclerosis.
A later study on human subjects showed just seven days on a high-salt diet put the immune system into inflammation overdrive, just as if it were encountering an infection or in the throes of an autoimmune attack. An interesting side note: The high-salt diet used in the study represented salt intake for the average American.
Increased TH-17 means increased inflammation in general. This not only raises the risk of autoimmune disease, but other inflammation-based diseases all too common today: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and disorders of the gut, skin, and respiratory system.
Should you stop eating salt?
Although researchers are quick to say removing salt is not going to cure an autoimmune disease, it’s important to pay attention to your salt intake if you are working to manage an autoimmune disease or other chronic inflammatory condition.
Researchers found lowering salt intake in human subjects produced beneficial, anti-inflammatory changes in the immune system.
The USDA daily recommended intake of sodium is 2300 mg, which is the equivalent of only one teaspoon of salt. Some argue we need even less than that and get plenty from produce and meats. Either way, the average American consumes twice the recommended amount, which research has shown causes inflammatory changes in the immune system.
Those who have low blood pressure may have been told to consume extra salt in order to raise blood pressure. Low blood pressure means tissues in the body and brain are not getting sufficient blood flow. In this case, trial and error may be necessary to see what works. Glycyrrhiza, a compound in licorice root, may also be effective in raising blood pressure.
With the promise of good intentions around the corner, the end of the year can turn into a downward spiral of too much sugar and alcohol.
It’s hard to get back on the healthy eating wagon, but knowing a few things about how sugar and alcohol affect the body can help.
Recovering from the sugar hangover
Has a sugar hangover left you with an upset stomach, a headache, brain fog, skin issues, chronic pain, mood swings, allergy symptoms, lethargy, and self-loathing?
Steps for recovering from a sugar hangover include:
No sugar. Holiday desserts shoot your blood sugar levels up and down. This taxes the immune system, imbalances brain chemistry, and skews hormones. To stabilize blood sugar, eat protein every two to three hours, never skip breakfast, and avoid sweets and starchy foods. Focus on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Hydrate. Staying hydrated with filtered water will help flush toxins from your body.
Support your liver. Help your liver flush toxins with compounds such as as milk thistle, dandelion, N-acetyl L-cysteine, beet root, panax ginseng, and more.
Heal your gut. Unstable blood sugar inflames the gut and promotes yeast and bacterial overgrowth. In addition to stabilizing blood sugar, follow the autoimmune paleo diet that eliminates common immune triggers (such as gluten), and use gut support compounds like probiotics and L-glutamine.
Exercise. If you’ve been morphing into the couch, go easy initially to avoid more inflammation. Appropriate exercise will help tame inflammation, improve brain function, and help flush toxins.
Recovering from the alcohol hangover
Alcohol hangovers are their own special hell.
We don’t fully know why hangovers happen, but a few facts can help us recover from them.
Alcohol blocks the production of a hormone that helps the body absorb water. As a result, the body immediately excretes the water—up to four times as much as the alcohol consumed. This is what causes fatigue, dry mouth, and a headache. Drink plenty and use electrolytes to help rehydrate.
When that water is excreted, many of our water-soluble vitamins go with it, contributing to that lousy hung-over. A b-complex supplement before drinking and another the next day can help compensate.
Alcohol also breaks down the body’s store of glycogen, an energy source, thus causing weakness, fatigue, and lack of coordination. It’s important to remember to eat.
Drinking alcohol creates the powerful toxin acetaldehyde in the body. The body attacks it with an antioxidant called glutathione, our body’s most powerful antioxidant. Using natural compounds to support glutathione can help with recovery.
Alcohol inhibits glutamine, one of the body’s natural stimulants. When you stop drinking, the body responds by producing more than it needs, disrupting sleep and causing hangover tremors, anxiety, restlessness, and increased blood pressure. Allow yourself to take it easy.
The New Year is a great time not to focus on unrealistic goals, rather on simple daily strategies to not only recover from holiday excesses but also improve how you feel and function all year. Ask my office for more advice.
Managing an autoimmune condition is hard enough. Throw in holiday travel, staying with relatives, meals out, and exhaustion, and autoimmune management goes to a new level of difficulty. However, failing to follow your plan can wreck the holidays with symptom flares or an energy crash.
What to do? First, take a deep breath and adopt a no-stress, can-do attitude. Just as at home, good autoimmune management simply requires some advance planning and strategic thinking.
By tending to some fundamentals, you can enjoy your holiday with friends and family, recover quickly back at home, and return to your routine.
Here are some tips to help you manage your autoimmune condition while traveling.
Map out meals and snacks so you don’t go hungry or trigger a flare. The functional medicine approach to managing an autoimmune disease requires following some variation of the autoimmune diet. This diet is usually a strict Paleo diet of ample produce and healthy meats and fats, and no grains, dairy, soy, sugar, or processed foods.
Google ahead of time to find out where you can eat at your destination. Look for the Whole Foods and other health food stores. Make sure you have a refrigerator in your hotel room or ask your hosts to make space for you in theirs. You can insulate and pack frozen meals to heat up in a mini crockpot, also stowed in your luggage. Some people even pack a hot plate and cookware. Bring a travel bag large enough for approved snack items to stave off hunger. Ideas include beef jerky, celery, sardines, olives, coconut meat, and other filling snacks.
Pack plenty of glutathione support. Traveling includes plenty of stressful events that can deplete your glutathione stores. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant and vital to preventing and taming autoimmune flares. Early mornings, long days, new environments, crowded airplanes, Grandma’s fabric softener, and so on — these stressors can deplete glutathione so that inflammation is more likely.
Options include glutathione precursors such as N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, cordyceps, and milk thistle. You can also take s-acetyl-glutathione, or an oral liposomal glutathione. Note that taking straight glutathione is not effective.
Search ahead for hypoallergenic hotel rooms. Ever walk into a hotel and get blasted with that sickly perfume smell? Some hotels overdo it with the scented products. Others have feather pillows, and dusty, stale rooms. Look for hotels that offer scent-free, allergy-friendly rooms with hypoallergenic bedding, air purifiers, and windows that open.
Carry a mask to avoid pollution or toxic odors. There’s only so much you can do to control your environment while traveling. If the passenger next to you on the packed plane is doused in cologne, it helps to have a face mask handy so you can breathe easier. A good face mask is comfortable and allows you to breathe easily while protecting you from toxins in the air, thus keeping your immune system calmer. Some companies even make face masks for children.
Don't let your vacation become work. Schedule in down time to nap, read, or go for peaceful walks. Stress is a powerful inflammatory toxin so it pays to make sure you enjoy your vacation with plenty of rest time.