Autoimmune conditions have grown rapidly the over past years, with more than 50 million Americans living with some sort of autoimmune disorder.
I've already covered the multifaceted reasons for the autoimmune explosion we are seeing, and I've also given you some effective tools to reverse autoimmune symptoms and balance your immune system.
Now, I want to go over the top triggers that can flare up an autoimmune response and cause devastating symptoms in the body.
From full-blown autoimmune diseases like Crohn's, celiac or Hashimoto's disease to common "autoimmune spectrum disorders" like acne, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it's important to know what the potential "land mines" are that can turn on an inflammatory-immune response in your body:
The infamous "G" word is a protein that's found in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and other grains. This protein is linked in many different studies to an increase risk of autoimmunity.
Many people and their doctors believe you have to have celiac disease to be gluten intolerant. When their labs for Celiac come back negative, they are told that avoiding gluten is not necessary. This antiquated misinformation keeps many people struggling with an autoimmune condition very sick.
For many of my autoimmune patients it doesn't have to be a piece of bread or pasta to cause damage either. Foods cross-contaminated with gluten can be like gasoline on a fire for many people with autoimmune conditions.
2. Gluten-free grains
Many people with autoimmune problems already avoid gluten, but still consume foods like corn, oats and rice. As well-intentioned as that decision may be, these grains can be just as damaging as gluten, or even more damaging.
The proteins in these grains are very similar to gluten, which can be like a game of Russian roulette for someone suffering from an autoimmune condition. Just like gluten sensitivities, symptoms do not have to be gastrointestinal in nature. A flare-up of any autoimmune symptom can occur with exposure to grains.
Everyone is different, so it's helpful to run immunological blood tests to see what your body is cross-reacting with.
A favorite in the health community, pseudo-grains like quinoa are high in proteins called saponins which can damage the gut lining, causing an immune response in the body. Soaking and rinsing quinoa can reduce the gut-damaging effect, but for many autoimmune conditions this is not enough.
Stress has many far-reaching effects on your health; one of them is your immune system. Research has found chronic mental stress to be a trigger for autoimmune diseases.
Many of my patients noticed the onset of their health problems during a rough time in their life. Caring for an aging parent, the loss of a loved one or a divorce can be the tipping point for an autoimmune response.
Our environment has been bombarded with toxins that were unknown 100 years ago. Studies have shown toxins play a role in autoimmune cases such as autoimmune thyroiditis.
It should be no surprise that sugar is on this list, but I'm not just talking about the stereotypical junk food. There are many "healthy" junk foods that are popular in the health food community that will not be good for autoimmune conditions.
Healthier-sounding terms like "organic turbinado sugar" or "agave nectar" on a food label may sound more earthy and natural, but sugar is still sugar to the immune system.
This yummy food can cause a lot of damage to someone living with an autoimmune condition. The literature shows that some people who struggle with autoimmune problems may be negatively affected by chocolate.
Casein, the main protein found in milk and other dairy products, can be a trigger for runaway inflammation in the body. Removal of the dairy proteins in ghee or clarified butter can be a safer alternative for some people. Some autoimmunity disorders can also handle fermented dairy, like grass-fed whole yogurt or kefir.
A plant group that consists of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, goji berries and some spices contains alkaloids in their skin which can cause an inflammatory response in the body.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, occurs when normal bacteria of the microbiome grow from the large intestines where they belong into the small intestines. This can lead to a number of localized autoimmune spectrum conditions such as IBS and acid reflux. Chronic SIBO can also lead to a leaky gut which can then cause autoimmune problems throughout the body.
11. Weakened microbiome
The majority of your immune system resides in what's referred to as the microbiome. This highly sophisticated gut ecosystem consists of trillions of bacteria colonies. Your microbiome controls not only your immune system but your brain, hormones and genetic expression.
Parasitic, yeast and fungal infections have all been implicated in a variety of autoimmune type conditions such as Parkinson's and M.S. It's also important to note that you don't necessarily have to be experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms to be affected by these pathogens.
I run a specific two or three day stool lab to uncover these often undiagnosed factors in autoimmunity.
12. Leaky gut syndrome
Functional medicine considers an increased permeability to the gut lining, or a "leaky gut," a precursor to autoimmunity. All of the above-mentioned triggers can lead to leaky gut syndrome. Because of this, a leaky gut can be seen as a causal trigger, but also the effect that proceeds from an autoimmune condition.
When your gut is damaged undigested food proteins and bacterial endotoxins can pass through the protective gut lining, turning on an autoimmune reaction throughout the body.
In summary, finding out your individual underlying triggers can save you from the years of unnecessary suffering that millions with autoimmune conditions go through. I clinically investigate autoimmune cases all around the world, customizing personalized plans for the individual.