We need inflammation! It's a vital process that our body goes through to mount a response to a perceived invader, be that a pathogen (bacteria, virus or yeast), damage to a cell (such as when we experience a cut or broken limb) or a toxin.
When the alarm system is initiated, an array of communicator molecules stimulate the innate immune system to go to work. The innate immune system is essentially our first line of defense; present within our barrier structures (the skin, gut, and respiratory membranes). As all these structures are "open" to the environment, they induce what we term as "tolerance" to "normal" stimuli, so the immune system doesn't overact unnecessarily.
On the other hand, if a genuine invader or injury is encountered or sustained, our innate immunity provides a rapid and non-specific response. In short, it contains and reduces the effect whilst calling into action the "big-guns" of the immune system—the adaptive immunity which is more targeted and measured. To use a cops and robbers analogy; the innate immune system can be likened to the policeman on the beat doing his rounds; the adaptive immunity is when the chief inspector is called in to work more specifically on the case.
Inflammation becomes a problem when:
- "tolerance" switch goes awry and the immune system starts mounting a response to innocuous stimuli
- inflammation to this stimuli becomes aberrant, and/or if the immune system starts attacking its own tissues as if they were a foreign molecule
When this happens, your body is fighting something—an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food or the stress response—and it redirects its attack on your joints, your muscle, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body.
3 environmental factors that act as triggers in autoimmunity
- Dietary proteins, such as gluten/gliadin or casein (from dairy products), or other proteins from other foods, if not digested properly, can cause inflammation.
When our mucosal immune system is not working properly, inflammation in the gut can result in intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut syndrome. That allows the entry of undigested food protein, such as gliadin and casein, into the submucosa, then from the submucosa to the lymph nodes, and then into circulation, where our white blood cells (lymphocytes) will attack it as “foreign” and produce antibodies.
Unfortunately, due to the similarity between various food antigens and human tissue, now the antibodies produced against casein, for example, will attack our own tissue, resulting in autoimmunity. It is well established, for example, that wheat antibodies can attack the cerebellum, neurons, thyroid tissue, joints and the heart muscle, and almost every single one of these tissues cross-reacts with other food antigens.
- The second factor involved is toxic chemicals. These chemicals have the capacity to bind to human tissue and thereby induce an immune response. Bisphenol A, found in plastic bottles, cans, paper cups is coated in it!
- The third factor is infection. Dr Aristo Vojdani (a respected researcher, scientist and author who has published more than 150 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals) states that an infection releases a toxin, the immune system makes antibodies against the bacterial toxin and, because of the similarity between the toxin and human tissue, antibodies against that tissue are made, and so an autoimmune picture can also develop.
In my clinic, I seek to help clients with symptoms of autoimmunity - which can include joint pain, weight gain, brain fog, gut imbalances, mood disorders and fatigue identify their root cause(s) - find the trigger causing their immune system to betray them.
Locating the causes of hidden inflammation
Functional medicine teaches that immune imbalance, while often resulting from a genetic predisposition, will generally arise in the context of one or more of the following triggers: the habitual consumption of a pro-inflammatory diet; food allergies and intolerances; microbial infections; hormonal imbalances; nutritional insufficiencies; and xenobiotic exposure. A functional approach is a really powerful model at both identifying and assisting in reducing these triggers and mediating factors.
The gut is invariably an excellent place to start. The digestive tract is home to trillions of bacteria and represents the site of greatest density of our innate immunity receptors in the body. These receptors play a key role in priming the immune system and in the management and maintenance of our immune response. Their inappropriate activation leads to altered innate immunity and hyper-stimulation, which, in layman's terms, is a runaway inflammatory response.
By listening carefully to a person's story and sometimes performing some specific functional tests, I can work to uncover the causes of inflammation rather than simply providing solutions for the symptoms.
The whole picture
Identifying root causes to achieve your optimal health and wellbeing
I use the functional medicine model to assess your health. This means seeking to identify interactions between different systems in the body through comprehensive case history taking, your presenting signs and symptoms and on occasion functional laboratory testing. The goal is to identify and address the triggers and underlying causes of your health problems rather than simply focusing on symptoms.
To book an appointment or speak with a member of my team, get in touch.