Getting A Grip on Autoimmunity Requires Identifying the Next Trigger: Inflammation
Where Does Inflammation come From?
When a person feels foggy, run-down, easily overwhelmed, and flat, we know that hormone signaling and Inflammation are some of the additional triggers that need investigation. Where does this inflammation come from? Unfortunately, many of the Triggers we have been talking about are the culprits.
- Sugar: Sugar, particularly in the form of fructose and sucrose, spikes insulin and triggers release of inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are tiny protein secretions that our cells release and they can act on the cells that released them, nearby cells, and sometimes cells in other places throughout the body.
- Chemicals: Pesticides, environmental pollution, hormonally-modulating plastics, fire retardants, and cosmetic additives all activate the immune response to some degree and cause disruption to our cells’ healthy energy production.This is especially true for the sensitive tissues of the thyroid.
- Pathogens:oral pathogens, gastrointestinal pathogens, gut parasites, bacterial and stealth pathogens, environmental moulds, viral pathogens and tick-borne pathogens including Borrelia burgdoferi, which is known to cause Lyme disease.
- Stress: Both psychological and physiological stress causes the body to produce the hormone cortisol.While cortisol is useful in allowing the body to respond to acute, short term stress (i.e. fight or flight when danger is present), continuous elevated cortisol levels are unnatural and cause an inflammatory response. Cortisol also inhibits the conversion of storage thyroid hormone to active hormone leading to states of hypothyroidism even with normal-looking labs.It also acts as a systemic immune suppressant, lowering levels of secretory IgA, an important body guard of the gut mucosa.
- Gut Dysbiosis– Dysbiosis occurs when harmful organisms, such as bacteria, fungi (yeast and mold), viruses, and parasites take over the gut environment and change your physiology such that it favors their survival (and that of other pathogens) to the detriment of your health. What constitutes a healthy microbiome is constantly being redefined as more research is done. Recent research suggests that we may need to consider viruses, in addition to bacteria, as part of our commensal microbiome. “There have been suggestions that every individual harbors approximately 8-12 chronic viral infections at any given time, and these may be harmful only in the limited percentage of the population that has a certain genetic predisposition.”
What Does Inflammation Do?
Once inflammation is present within the body, it is highly self-perpetuating. Inflammatory cytokines communicate both with nearby cells and cells throughout the body traveling to tissues and mitochondria, oxidating stress as they go. For example, inflammation that occurs in the brain causes a shift to occur: healthy production levels of serotonin and melatonin deviate as the brain attends to the production of an anxiety stimulating chemical, quinolinate. This in turn sets off symptoms such as lethargy, difficulty sleeping, depressed thoughts, lowered libido, and apathy toward social interaction.
Causes of Inflammation
Autoimmune Diseases, Allergies and Asthma
Inflammation as the result of autoimmune disease can occur both at a localized site within the body as well as systemically throughout causing the body’s tissues to be attacked. Inflammatory markers are higher with patients who have one more more autoimmune diseases and often translate into conditions such as intestinal permeability and dysregulated immune system.A patient with allergies and/or asthma may actually have an underlying autoimmune disease since a healthy functioning immune system can usually regulate it’s response to these stimuli.It is worth exploring the source of chronic inflammation and consider autoimmunity as a contributing factor.
Too much Omega 6 Fatty Acids not enough Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Balancing the types of omega fatty acids consumed is important for a healthy diet with a ratio of 2:1, omega-3 to omega-6. However in most industrialized countries, the ratio is much higher and in America the average consumption ratio is 20:1. Why is this problematic? When this imbalance becomes to significant, the overload of omega-6 and deficiency in omega-3 causes systemic inflammation and can promote a host of chronic diseases.
Omega-3 fatty acid plays an important role in reducing inflammation in the body while certain types of omega-6 can actually contribute to inflammation. While not all omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation, some research has indicated that excessive omega-6 fatty acids has an effect on complex regional pain syndrome. Vegetable oils tend to be the most common source of omega-6 in the American diet, especially for those who consume a lot of processed foods.
Omega-3 deficiency often comes at the cost of omega-6 over consumption and lack of this vital fatty acid is linked to symptoms such as dry skin, memory problems, mood swings, joint pain, heart issues, and autoimmune disease. It’s especially important for vegetarians and vegans to look into alternative sources of omega-3 since fish oil is packed with it. In fact, of all the omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) tend to have the most dynamic immunomodulatory properties. Within this set of PUFA, those derived from fish oil (EPA and DHA) are the most biologically potent and have been shown in clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in managing inflammation brought on by autoimmune disease.
Chronic Stress and Adrenal Resistance
Cortisol is a hormone made by your adrenal glands aka your stress handling glands. Your adrenals produce hormones in the body that have anti-inflammatory. Too much of these hormones ie Cortisol and you begin to suppress the immune system. A common problem with people who have autoimmunity is GCR or glucocorticoid resistance. This occurs when glucocorticoids aren’t able to dampen the immune system when needed so glucocorticoid levels remain elevated and a fervent, drawn out inflammatory response results.GCR is sometimes caused by reoccurring stress and loaded cytokine activity thought to affect “between 40 and 60% of depressed patients, especially those presenting melancholic and/or psychotic symptoms”
Insulin resistance has been shown to increase inflammation and can cause heightened levels of free fatty acids andhyperglycemia. This can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation due to insulin signal reduction in certain areas while simultaneously increasing insulin signaling in other areas. The sympathetic nervous system, or the body’s “fight or flight” response, can be activated to “fight” in response to elevated free fatty acids and inflammation resulting from insulin resistance.
Obesity causes the body’s self-protection mechanisms to slowly shut down which creates an pro-inflammatory environment optimal for cultivating autoimmune diseases. As adipocytes, the body’s fat cells, enlarge they build up a resistance to insulin and free fatty acid levels rise. This triggers the body’s inflammatory response and elevated cytokine loads which further ignites the cycle of autoimmune response.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Oxidative Stress
Mitochondria are the tiny powerhouses of our cells which help convert calories from food we eat and the oxygen we breathe into usable energy or ATP for the body. When mitochondrial dysfunction occurs, any organ or tissue in the body can be affected since the cells aren’t able to fully function and convert the energy we need. Prolonged Oxidative stress depletes and robs our Glutathione stores. Without sufficient levels of Glutathione to counter the affects of Oxidative stress- cells die. This vicious cycle continues.
Antioxidants Reduce Inflammation:
Tissue damage caused by oxidative stress can, in theory, be significantly decreased by increasing antioxidants. Therefore, there is a direct correlation here with antioxidant uptake and reduction of inflammation, chronic illness, and many types of autoimmune disease. One study took a look at supplementing antioxidants into the diet while also lowering fat consumption and overall calories which resulted in a delayed onset of lupus symptoms and boosted the immune system overall (6).
Antioxidants play a crucial role in safeguarding the brain against aging and decreased cognitive function due to oxidative stress. Supporting a healthy gut and it’s connection to a healthy mind, allows us to stay healthy and vital through the natural aging process. There are numerous herbs rich in antioxidants that have displayed much of the same anti-inflammatory characteristics that over the counter medications advertise. Turmeric or curcumin is an excellent example of a safer and more natural alternative for managing inflammation. Additionally, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate are important for decreasing inflammation and improving synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. Vitamins and herbs with anti-inflammatory properties can serve as antioxidants and suppress cytokine loads signaling the autoimmune response.
Take Away Points
- There are many causes of inflammation that can trigger an autoimmune response.
- Once inflammation is present, it can become a self-perpetuating cycle.
- Some causes of inflammation such as sugar, chemicals, pathogens, stress, can largely be controlled by the amount of exposure the individual has to these triggers and making a conscious effort to limit exposure.
- Other causes include allergies, asthma, chronic stress, adrenal resistance, insulin resistance, obesity, and mitochondrial dysfunction.
- At DrHagmeyer.com we strive to fully understand the needs and concerns of our patients and we will work closely with you to ensure your good health is restored. To help ensure your health is improved, we offer extensive testing and customized treatment programs as well as an overriding dedication to helping you get better.
- Your health is our passion.
Learn more about Autoimmune Disease and Other Triggers:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Autoimmune Disease and Functional Medicine
- Identifying Your Autoimmune Triggers
- Trigger I: Identify Leaky Gut and Compromised GI Function
- Trigger II: Eliminate Food Senstivities
- Trigger III: Toxins, Heavy Metals, BPA
- Trigger IV: Infections, Parasites, and Lyme Disease
- Trigger V: Balance and Optimize Hormones
- Trigger VII: Identify Individual Nutritional Deficiencies