No matter how you currently feel, chances are that a scientifically-tailored personalized lifestyle medicine program can help you become healthier. The fact is that unhealthy changes can occur in the body decades before signs and symptoms manifest. This is certainly true of many autoimmune conditions. By the time symptoms develop, the immune system may have destroyed a lot of healthy tissue. To minimize the damage, early intervention is essential - but first the condition has to be identified.
There are at least 80 autoimmune diseases, which likely affect more than 70 million Americans. Autoimmunity also plays a role in other conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and autism. Autoimmunity commonly results in pain and fatigue but can produce a wide variety of other unpleasant effects. A few of the perhaps more surprising of these include anxiety, osteoporosis, insomnia, seizures, obsessive compulsive disorder, unexplained hypoglycemia, recurrent miscarriage, and infertility.
Destruction of a given tissue can have wide-ranging consequences. For example, intrinsic factor is involved in vitamin B12 absorption. Antibodies that target intrinsic factor cause the autoimmune disease pernicious anemia and may result in vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms of fatigue, weakness, constipation, weight loss, neuropathy, depression, confusion, memory loss, rash, poor appetite, sore mouth, tongue inflammation, incontinence, and heart disease.
Cyrex Laboratories has created Array 5- Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen to measure antibodies against 24 different tissue "targets" (including intrinsic factor) from a blood specimen. Elevated levels of any of these antibodies are associated with increased risk of developing (or having) one or more autoimmune diseases.
Array 5 measures antibodies that can damage the gastrointestinal tract, liver, skin, endocrine system, reproductive system, musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, and nervous system. Autoimmune diseases don't typically develop over night - usually it takes years. Auto-antibodies are immune system proteins that target tissues for destruction. These antibodies can be measured in the blood before people have symptoms; they can be detected years before autoimmune disease is clinically diagnosable. One of the measurements on Array 5, "ASCA + ANCA", is strongly predictive of developing Crohn's disease within the next three years - if nothing is done. But something can be done.
Powerful drugs fraught with side effects are not the only approach to autoimmunity. It would not make sense to use toxic treatments in the pre-clinical stage, when antibodies are elevated but disease is not manifest. However, at this stage, natural therapies to restore immune tolerance and reduce inflammation can be used without fear of major side effects. OraMune TF, which contains colostrum and transfer factor, and a medical food called UltraInflamX Plus 360 are among the most effective supplements I have used to help patients with autoimmunity.
Once an elevated autoantibody is detected, a functional medicine investigation can be undertaken to identify modifiable triggering factors. The goal is to prevent progression of the autoimmune process. Some of the more common contributing factors to the induction of autoimmunity include leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivity reactions (especially gluten), chronic infections (including periodontal disease), imbalanced intestinal flora, and chemical toxicity. Thorough evaluation, including targeted specialized laboratory testing, can identify these causative factors. Using this approach, it is possible to halt, reverse, or prevent the development of autoimmune disease.
Array 5 is a good test for anyone with unexplained symptoms. Array 5 is also a valuable test for anyone who wants to be proactive and stay healthy. Because of genetic predisposition, It is particularly important when there is a family history of autoimmune disease. It is also important for people with a diagnosed autoimmune disease because the biggest risk factor for getting an autoimmune disease is having one already; when your immune system loses tolerance for one tissue in your body, it is more likely to start attacking other tissues, as well.
A new patient of mine was troubled with a variety of symptoms that defied diagnosis by conventional medicine. These included digestive symptoms, peripheral neuropathy, anxiety, forgetfulness, hair loss, and heart palpitations. She took the Array 5 test and what we found was astounding.
Her test shows that her immune system is attacking her gastrointestinal tract, nervous system, and heart, among other tissues. It would appear that autoimmunity is a big part of her problem. Additional testing by Cyrex Laboratories - Arrays 2, 4, and 10- revealed that this patient had "leaky gut syndrome" and many foods her immune system was reacting to. I advised her to avoid the foods she was reactive to and started her on a program to heal the leaky gut. Within two weeks she had improvements in digestion, nerve tingling, and skipped heartbeats.