top of page

The Autoimmune Spectrum: Does It Exist, and Are You on It?

Autoimmunity, which affects three quarters more women than it does men, encompasses a range of conditions and diseases that involve the immune system mistakenly attacking the body’s own organs, tissues, and cells. Traditional medicine often focuses on individual autoimmune conditions and symptoms, while functional medicine generally takes... a wider view. Unfortunately by the time most people are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, their immune systems have already destroyed a significant amount of their body - this amount of autoimmune-inflammation attack doesn’t happen overnight. While I try to aim to help people turn their health around before they hit this point, some clients come in with already diagnosed autoimmune diseases. Here, I would like to talk about the autoimmune-inflammation spectrum, the symptoms that define it, what I have found helpful for people across it, and how taking more control over our health (through diet and lifestyle changes) empowers us. Inflammation is an essential part of our immune system and is not inherently bad. We need inflammation to fight off infection, and to heal. We would die without healthy levels of inflammation. When inflammation runs wild, though, it can be a root component of many modern diseases we face today, particularly autoimmune ones. As with everything in the body, it’s all about balance. In America alone, it’s estimated that 50 million people have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. In most cases, the official diagnostic criteria are that the patient’s immune system has already destroyed a significant amount of their body. This amount of autoimmune-inflammation attack did not happen overnight—it’s the end stage of the larger autoimmune-inflammation spectrum. My focus is on addressing the causes of the inflammation before the client reaches that end-stage level of destruction. There are 3 main stages of the autoimmune-inflammation spectrum: 1. Silent Autoimmunity: There are positive antibody labs but no noticeable symptoms. 2. Autoimmune Reactivity: There are positive antibody labs and the patient is experiencing symptoms. 3. Autoimmune Disease: There’s enough body destruction to be diagnosed and loads of potential symptoms. I see many people in the second stage: not sick enough to have been given a diagnosis code, but nonetheless feeling the effects of autoimmune reactivity. People living somewhere on the inflammation spectrum often get sent from to doctor to doctor, with a pile of medications, yet nothing to show for it. So what can we do today to optimize our health, rather than simply waiting for end-stage disease? My practice is about proactive steps to optimize health. What can we do today to optimize our health, rather than simply waiting for end-stage disease? When someone is diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, they have already been experiencing autoimmune-inflammation for many years. New studies point to what many in functional medicine have been saying for decades: Food reactivity, like gluten sensitivity, is one end of a larger inflammation spectrum with autoimmune diseases like celiac on the other. Remember, there has to be significant destruction of your intestinal microvilli to be diagnosed as having celiac disease. But many people with celiac disease don’t even experience severe GI symptoms; research is now finding that celiac disease can manifest as neurological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and brain fog, as well as skin problems. Also, just because someone is experiencing autoimmune reactivity or pervasive inflammation, doesn’t mean their conditions will get to the severe point of diagnosis. Millions spend their lives stuck in autoimmune reactivity, being thrown from specialist to specialist. For the undiagnosed people struggling with autoimmune reactivity, there is also much you can do to take control of your health. I like to focus on finding out what diet or lifestyle choices might be causing or contributing to one’s inflammation. By looking at stress, sleep, food, toxins, hormones and genetic impairments, I am able to get a comprehensive view of their health puzzle. I like to assess gut health, where around 80% of our immune system resides. Because inflammation can impact any part of your body, the manifestations of inflammation can be far-reaching. Some of the most common early symptoms of inflammation are: •Brain fog •Fatigue •Anxiety •Pain that travels throughout the body •Digestive flares I like to use food as medicine. As Hippocrates, the father of medicine famously said, “let food by thy medicine and medicine thy food.” Now, research is bearing that out. Studies estimate that about 77% of immune system reactions are determined by things we have at least some control over, such as our food, stress levels, and exposure to pollutants, with the remainder determined by genetics. Our world has gone under a rapid change over a relatively short period of time. Compared with the totality of human existence, the food we eat, the water we drink, the depleted soil, and polluted environment are all relatively new introductions. Research is looking at this mismatch between our DNA and the world around us. Around 99% of our genes were formed before the development of agriculture, approximately 10,000 years ago. With inflammatory health problems, what works for one person may not for the next. I have seen a healthy food work as wonderful food medicine for one person, and cause flare-ups in another person. I try not to have a bias and say, “This is how everyone should eat or what everyone should do”. My job is to find out what a person’s body loves and hates. I design customized food medicine protocols and micronutrients to support the body based on each individual’s case. Dealing with an autoimmune condition can be overwhelming—is there anything you’ve found that can make it less so? The message of health responsibility is important: Knowledge is power. When you know better, you do better. In my experience, the vast majority of us have so much power to take control of our health in the form of positive lifestyle health interventions, whether those changes improve our quality of life by 25 or 100%, it’s a move in the right direction. If you would like to explore this matter further, please feel free to get in contact with me on 0438 112 050 or you can message me over Facebook too. I am more than happy to help out where I can. Yours in health, Maria Lucey, Nutritionist

Sign up for our Promotions and Nutrition Newsletter!

Thanks for submitting!

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Classic
  • Twitter Classic
  • Google Classic
bottom of page