Layman's Autoimmune Disease Interpretation

I’ve been hit by a barrage of Autoimmune Paleo questions in the last 24 hours.  It’s caused the thoughts swirling around my brain on the topic to finally been put in writing.

I’ll start off by saying, I love Robb Wolf.  He’s smart, logical, healthy and changing lives.  There aren’t very many crushes a married woman has… but every once in a while a girl can crush. I’m not only inspired and impressed with Robb himself, I’m always learning and growing the more I’m exposed to his PodCast, book and website – everything (well, almost everything) I’ve got here comes from that exposure.  Here’s Robb’s definition of Autoimmunity on his FAQ.

Autoimmunity is a process in which our bodies own immune system attacks “us.” Normally the immune system protects us from bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. The immune system identifies a foreign invader, attacks it, and ideally clears the infection. A good analogy for autoimmunity is the case of tissue rejection after organ donation. If someone requires a new heart, lung kidney or liver due to disease or injury, a donor organ may be an option. The first step in this process is trying to find a tissue “match”. All of us have molecules in our tissues that our immune system uses to recognize self from non-self. If a donated organ is not close enough to the recipient in tissue type the immune system will attack and destroy the organ. In autoimmunity, a similar process occurs in that an individuals own tissue is confused as something foreign and the immune system attacks this “mislabeled” tissue. Common forms of autoimmunity include Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and Vitiligo to name only a tiny fraction of autoimmune diseases. Elements of autoimmunity are likely at play in conditions as seemingly unrelated as Schizophrenia, infertility, and various forms of cancer. Interestingly, all of these seemingly unrelated diseases share a common cause: damage to the intestinal lining which allows large, undigested food particles to make their way into the body. This is called “leaky gut and the autoimmune response”. Here is a 7-part video series by Prof. Loren Cordain describing the etiology of Multiple Sclerosis. Keep in mind, this is the same process which underlies ALL autoimmune disease.

Wikipedia lists autoimmune disease symptoms as the following:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Blood sugar changes
  • Digestive or gastrointestinal problems
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated fever and high body temperature
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold in the hands and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility or reduced sex drive (low libido)
  • Inflammation
  • Irritability
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Malaise
  • Weakness and stiffness in muscles and joints
  • Weight Changes

And depending on the type of autoimmune disease:

  • Destruction of an organ or tissue
  • Increase in the size of an organ or tissue

By listening to Robb’s 73 (so far) PodCasts, I’ve learned a lot about autoimmunity and what role lectins and phytic acid can play as gut irritants wreaking havoc on your body (permeability of intestinal lining, to be specific).  90% of all the cells in your body are in your gut.  NINETY PERCENT. When you’re putting anti-nutrients and toxic food (see references in links above) into your intestines, making them more permeable to absorbing the pathogens, it will give you all of the symptoms above.  It makes it impossible for your body to run healthy and clean; you’re unable to absorb nutrients from the healthy foods properly  Ultimately, we now fortify our milk, our orange juice and tons of processed foods with the nutrients we could be naturally eating, absorbing and self-regulating through natural consumption if our bodies weren’t in a state of toxic shock from the grains and legumes prescribed by almost every doctor, nutritionist and even (incredibly deep into a conflict of interest through their investments into grains) the Government.

Alright… so, now that I’ve linked you to the other side of the internet and back, let’s get to the questions which sparked this diatribe.

Question #1: Which Autoimmune diseases are known to do better under Paleo?
Robb has noted that in particular Celiac, Multiple Sclerosis, depression, Schizophrenia, Hashimoto’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Ulcerative Colitis, thyroid dysfunction, Scleroderma, Sarcoidosis, Crohns, Cushing’s, Lupus, eczema, acne, Rheumatoid and junior arthritis, chronic lymes, Endometriosis, Fibromyalgia and even cancer have all been documented as improved or put into remission with Paleo.  Wikipedia has a huge table of Autoimmune diseases – I would say with enough time to research 100% would be improved.
The answer comes from this: Because Celiac is an autoimmune disorder of the intestines, medical professionals developed a test through tissue transglutaminase where a response is triggered from gut irritation.  Medical professionals are now able to adapt this screening for diagnostics of other autoimmune diseases.  So far (according to Robb, I can’t find journal studies in my quick Google search) every single tested condition has seen remission on an autoimmune version of the Paleo lifestyle (that includes diet, walking and sleeping).

Question #2: My daughter has had an on-going struggle with asthma and pneumonia.  She’s now being diagnosed with autoimmune issues, how could Paleo help?
Because both conditions are caused by inflammation of the airway, and a spiral affect from there, these conditions can both be categorized with the other autoimmune diseases noted.  The Paleo diet IS an anti-inflammatory diet and is noted as the ideal diet for asthmatics and other inflammatory sufferers.  Paleo could offer as good, if not better results, than medication.

Question #3: My son has type 1 diabetes and his AC1 scores aren’t as low as I’d like, can Paleo help?
Obviously Type 2 diabetics will benefit from Paleo, but because Type 1 diabetes can be tied to autoimmune issues Robb’s site shows success stories (1 and 2) for putting it into remission as well.  Paleo offers not only the benefits to diabetes on the autoimmune front, but it also offers a reduction in the glycemic load and offers healthy sources of glucose, reduction in fructose and regulates insulin production.  Again, Paleo could offer amazing results!

I feel like these 3 questions really round out an overall lesson I’ve learned in the last couple months about Paleo: our bodies don’t like the modern diet, we’re just not evolved for it!  If you’re not strictly Paleo, think about it.  I had a TON of those autoimmune symptoms pre-Paleo but it never occurred to me I even had symptoms – it felt like life, but it’s not.  As Angelo Coppola says, we as humans are not broken by default.

Ask yourself: Do you have gas, heartburn or difficulty sleeping?  Do you want to lay in bed “a few more minutes” in the morning?  Do you get creaky joints, aches, pains or need coffee to kick off your day?  Do you get headaches? Are you cranky, irritable, frustrated or fleeting moments of sadness?  I can tell you that for 99% of people, those symptoms would disappear going 100% Paleo.  I didn’t even realize I wasn’t feeling my best – I literally wake up every day with joy and excitement, full of energy, pain-free.  If Paleo can be a rebirth for me, I can only imagine what a difference it could make for someone struggling with autoimmune disorder(s).

I sat at lunch today and listened to a woman describe symptoms I used to experience monthly.  When I explained how and why Paleo would help, and what improvements I’ve seen first hand on my own cycle (which I’ll eventually blog about), the result was another woman at the table recommending Pamprin and then someone else handing her Midol.  I was scoffed at and ignored as a loon.  Our society has become so dependent on the answer being medicine that we can’t see the forest for the trees anymore.  The solution is not always necessarily medicine; medicine masks the symptoms but the underlying cause remains the same: your body is telling you something is wrong.

Please note: I am in no way a medical professional or offering medical advice.  Please make wise choices, as they are your own and I am not liable.  Before stopping any current medication, educate yourself and discuss with a like-minded professional.

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