Autoimmunity – 3 Major Causes & Why We Should Pay Attention Now

by Jasmine Tan, 1 May, 2017

By Coach JJ Wong, Genesis Gym HQ 

Introduction:

Genesis Gym takes a holistic approach to health and fitness. Besides customizing your training programmes using science-based techniques, we also ensure that your body is getting in the right nutrients and adequate amount of sleep and recovery.

The Genesis gym team of coaches and I have worked with clients with various autoimmune conditions.

  • Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Obesity
  • Skin conditions

We have bettered the lives of these clients by reducing their stress and toxin levels through providing guidance on nutrition, supplementation and making better lifestyle choices.

Autoimmunity is a result of the immune system not being able to recognize the body’s own cells, perceives them as “foreign” and attacks them.

Many things can change the identity of our cells, making them unrecognizable to the immune system. Stress, food allergies, bacteria, and toxins in our surroundings can alter the shape of the cells, leaving them vulnerable to being mistaken as harmful cells by the immune system. These cells are then identified as threats and the immune system starts to produce defenders (antibodies) to attack them, causing the body to develop autoimmune diseases.

Let’s first understand how our immune system works.

(Image Source: health24.com)

The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend the body against foreign and disease-causing microorganisms. In normal circumstances, it does a remarkable job as a defense mechanism, protecting us against a multitude of foreign “invaders” that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

There are 150 million people all over the world suffering from autoimmune diseases. Modern research is also uncovering that autoimmunity often plays a part and yet goes undiagnosed in patients suffering from better known diseases such as cancer, heart disease and brain disorders. If we include these into the total universe of autoimmune disease patients, the number is likely to be even larger.

Autoimmunity is at the core of many modern diseases and these are life-threatening conditions that most people never recover from. In this article, you will find out what are 3 main causes for developing autoimmune diseases, and immediate steps that you can take to keep autoimmunity at bay.

 

MAJOR CAUSE #1: ALLERGENS

The GI tract (short form for gastrointestinal tract) is a group of organs that work in tandem to convert food into energy for the body. Inside the food, you may have unwelcome microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses and in general, the GI tract is very strong and fully capable to deal with these foreign matters that we put into our body.

In fact, it is estimated that over 70% of your immune system is situated in your intestines. However, your genetic makeup could predispose you to react negatively to certain foods, otherwise known as food allergies. Persistent consumption of foods that you are “allergic” to can cause problems to your GI tract.

A Healthy Gut vs. A Leaky Gut (Image Source: www.happygutlife.com)

A Healthy Gut vs. A Leaky Gut

In a healthy gut, the cells in the intestinal walls are tightly arranged and they are very selective in the substances being allowed to pass through the walls and absorbed into the bloodstream. Exposure to food allergens can damage your GI tract by causing inflammation. This in turn, creates holes between the cells in your intestines, causing “leaky gut” (the scientific term being intestinal permeability). These “holes” reduce the selectivity of the intestinal walls and allow more foreign matter, as well as undigested food particles, to pass through the barrier of the intestines and interact with the immune cells.

Recognizing that these are foreign invaders, the immune system starts to produce antibodies against them. However, there are foods and bacteria that have similar building blocks (amino acid sequences) similar to that of cells in the body. Because of this similarity, the antibodies produced may then also begin to attack our own cells. This is called molecular mimicry. The “leaky gut” problem has been shown to exacerbate the autoimmunity problem.

In summary, when you have allergic reactions to certain food types, it causes your immune system to overwork. This increase in immune activity can increase the risk of the immune system attacking the healthy cells in the body.

 

ACTION STEPS TO MANAGE ALLERGENS

Common Food Allergens (Image Source: singleton-associates.org)

  1. Eliminate common food allergens from your diet for 30 days. You can find the 8 most common food allergens in the picture above. After participating in a full elimination diet, slowly reintroduce the foods back in, preferably one at a time. If you get bloating or gastic discomfort, it is a sign that you could have a food sensitivity, and it would be best to eliminate from your diet completely.
  1. You can also do food rotation diet. List down the foods that you normally eat on a daily basis. Substitute all the foods on the list with different foods for 3 weeks - change the protein, vegetable and carb sources. For example, if your diet consists of eating proteins such as chicken, beef and eggs, for the next 3 weeks, substitute all 3 with pork, salmon and whey protein instead. Then slowly introduce the original list of proteins one at a time after the 3-week window. This rotation diet prevents your body from having a toxic response to the regular foods that you eat.
  1. Track your stools. It is normal to have 1-2 bowel movements a day. Ideally, they should be easy to pass, and loosely formed but bulky. If you have more than one of the following symptoms, it would be highly recommended to check with your doctor on further investigation on your intestinal health:
    • You have more than 3 bowel movements in a day,
    • You have less than 1 bowel movement a day
    • Your bowel movements are urgent, straining, accompanied by a lot of gas, cramping and pain.
  1. While working with a doctor or functional nutritionist, you may also want to determine what type of supplementation may help with intestinal problems.

 

MAJOR CAUSE #2: MICROBES

The health of your gut is tied to your immune system. Microbes (microorganisms) present in your gut, produce 150 times more genes than human beings and it turns out that these microbes actually train the immune cells in your body. When you have a healthy population of microbes in the body, it lowers the rate of developing autoimmune diseases. This is known as biodiversity, where your body has a large variety of microbes that gives you a diverse and well trained immune system.

ACTION STEPS TO MANAGE MICROBES

Exploring nature is a great way to expose children and adults to microbes.

  1. Expose yourself to lots of microbes. It first begins at childbirth, where the mother gives birth to the baby naturally. The baby gets inoculated with the microbiome (community of bacteria) of the mother within the uterus. It is the internal bacteria of the mother that the baby is pre-programmed to receive at birth. Therefore, if it is necessary for a C-section to be performed on the mother, it is critical to do swabbing of the mother’s bacteria on the newborn. For young children and adults, going out to nature parks and reservoirs that are far from the city, participating in gardening and not being afraid to get your hands dirty in the soil are all is a good ways to expose yourselves to microbes.
  2. Take probiotics. Probiotics by definition are bacteria with specific traits that have a specific health benefit to the human body. You can get in probiotics from eating fermented foods, such as kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and yogurt.
  3. Feed the microbes well with prebiotics. The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that breastfeeding a newborn for 6 months and up to a year, because it has an impact on the child’s weigh, risk of obesity, and digestive health in the future. For children and adults, consume prebiotic-rich foods such as starchy vegetables (root vegetables), apples, asparagus, bananas, beans, blueberries, dandelion greens, garlic, onions. The prebiotics will feed the good bacteria in the microbiome, which in turn will help to reduce inflammation and provide other health benefits such as increased bone density, and appetite and weight control.

Take note: If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), seek out a practitioner to advise you what is safe for your consumption.

  1. Limit your exposure to things that would destroy the microbes. These include antibiotics, antiseptic products (creams, lotions and soaps), chlorinated water and foods that are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Antibiotics are used to wipe out the bacteria inside our body, both good and bad. This can cause significant damage internally, not to mention that it can also cause leaky gut.

 

MAJOR CAUSE #3: TOXINS

“The human cell is an antenna for the outside world. It takes the signals from the environment and turns it into biology.” – Dr. Jeffrey Bland (Source: befityoga.com)

The environment around us plays an important part in the development of autoimmune diseases. The air, the ground, the water and the food are saturated with an exorbitant amount of chemicals. With every breath, every glass of water, and every bite of food, you’re putting these chemicals into your body.

The signals from the environment change the shape and behaviour of your cells, which in turn confuses your immune system. The likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases increase with the increase of chemical levels in our bodies.

Pollution in the environment has also increased the risks of a myriad of health issues.

Studies have also linked the pollution of our environment and the significant increase in our exposure to chemicals such as those present in plastics to a myriad of health issues ranging from obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, amongst others.

With our global human population growing at a rate of 0.77% per year, chemical production is increasing at a faster rate. Even with our current high usage of chemicals, it is estimated that chemical use will have doubled between the years 2000 and 2024.

This accounts for the sharp rise in autoimmune diseases in recent decades. The environment has changed over time.

ACTION STEPS TO MITIGATE TOXINS

Your toxic load refers to the chemicals that you are exposed to but cannot eliminate (chemicals in minus chemicals out). Here are a few ways to help reduce your exposure to chemicals, as well as increase elimination of toxins in the body.

Reducing your exposure to toxins:

  1. Use stainless steel or glass water bottles and food containers. This will reduce your exposure to plasticizers (phthalates and BPA) that can cause damage to your immune system.

The Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen List 2017 (Image Source: joyoushealth.com)

  1. Refer to the “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen” list for the fruits and vegetables that have been tested to have the highest and lowest levels of pesticides residues on them. Purchase organic for those on the “dirty dozen” or choose from the clean fifteen”, which are safer to eat.
  1. Choose skincare and other personal products that are free from harmful compounds. You can find a list of chemicals to avoid and products to use at this website.

Removing shoes before entering your home reduces the amount of chemicals you bring in from outside. (Image Source: floormatshop.com)

  1. Remove your shoes before entering your home and do not wear outdoor shoes inside the house. This will reduce the amount of chemicals from outside being brought into your home.
  1. Clean the air in your home by getting a high quality air purifier that gets rid of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Your air purifier should force the outside air through a series of HEPA filters and charcoal filters. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance, which removes at least 99.9% of airborne particles.

Increase the elimination of toxins:

  1. Following the same steps listed in the earlier Allergens section, you have to make sure you are having daily bowel movements. If your bowel movements are delayed, you will reabsorb and recirculate more toxins in your intestines.

Getting sufficient sleep will reduce overall inflammation in your body.

  1. Get plenty of sleep and reduce overall inflammation in your body. Your body detoxifies when you rest, and especially when you sleep throughout the night.

 

Cruciferous vegetables (Image Source: mendicinocoastclinics.org)

  1. Increase your consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and so on. They will help enhance your ability to detoxify chemicals.
  1. Keep your water intake high, as this will increase the output of urine and ability to sweat. Other than faeces, toxins can leave the body via your perspiration and urine.

Genesis Gym personal trainers customize your training programmes to give you better overall health

  1. Exercise regularly, take hot baths and use the sauna to induce sweating.

 

Conclusion

It is very important that we continue to be well-informed on autoimmune diseases and take as many action steps as we can to protect our bodies from the various triggers so as to improve our health and prevent autoimmunity from occurring.

At Genesis Gym, we do our best to take care of you in a holistic way. We do recommend that for medical issues, you do look for functional medical practitioners for proper diagnoses and treatment.

The above action steps discussed in this article are based on general recommendations and if they do not work for you, you will need to seek the advice of functional medical specialists to help you further with laboratory testing and other medical assessments.

 

The Genesis Gym customised personal training programmes are not just tailor-made fitness training, our coaches also help you in 3 major aspects to achieve good health holistically:

#1: Manage your stress levels

#2: Customise your nutrition plan

#3: Help you alleviate chronic aches and pains

 

To find out how Genesis Gym can start you on your #transformationjourney, call us now at 93374188 or email [email protected]

 

 

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