Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

Last time, we discussed possible reasons why more women than men develop autoimmune diseases. In the case of lupus, it's 9 women for every 1 man who is diagnosed with lupus.

Slate.com offered some possible theories for the causes of autoimmune disease, based on the gender imbalance: genetics, pregnancy/ birth leaving another person's cells in your body, and estrogen. Here's the problem with these theories: the new conventional wisdom is that genetics do not really cause disease. As Dr. Oz would put it, "Genetics load the gun; lifestyle pulls the trigger." Wish I had a better, less violent metaphor, but it does get the point across. Genetic tendencies are not our inevitable fate. Just because I'm in a bar, it doesn't mean I'm going to get drunk. (Slightly less violent metaphor?)

Now before I sound like I"m blaming the victim, let me state 2 things. One, I've been living with lupus for 20 years, so I'm talking about me, too. Two, many of us are doing things we *think* are good for us, usually because we've been told that it is, but it turns out to be a problem in the long run. I'm trying to empower us to get better, so please take this not as fingerpointing at the sick person, but fingerpointing at what is possibly making the person sick. I honestly believe that none of us wanted or chose to have lupus.

In my opinion, everyone with an autoimmune disease should be tested for the following:
1) Vitamin deficiencies, especially Vit. D
2) heavy metal poisoning, including mercury
3) Celiac disease and Gluten intolerance
4) other food allergies
5) Candida overgrowth

Any one of these, and certainly a combination of these, is going to cause problems. And if left untreated, the problems will cause problems. Multiplying like rabbits. And not the good cute rabbits who lay chocolate Cadbury eggs on your lawn on Easter. Mean rabbits.

And here's the thing I was talking about before- when we do stuff we think is good for us, like stay out of the sun because we have lupus, we worsen our vitamin D deficiency. We *must* supplement with high quality vitamin D if we are avoiding the sun, or live north of Maryland, esp. between October and May. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include depression, chronic fatigue, weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis. http://www.vitaminddeficiencysymptomsguide.com/

There are so many examples of us doing something that's not even fun, thinking we're making ourselves healthier when in fact we're making ourselves worse. You would think if you're going to pay the price for bad decisions, you could at least enjoy yourself along the way. We get a cavity, so we go to the dentist, and he gives us a filling. that's made of MERCURY, a known toxin, extremely poisonous. It can cause rashes, muscle weakness, kidney function, memory impairment, neurological problems, insomnia (is this sounding like lupus to anyone?). BTW, there are non-mercury fillings available.But you need to ask your dentist if (s)he is mercury-free. If your filling is silver in color, it definitely has mercury in it,  as much as 55%. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_poisoning

We think we're being healthy eating whole wheat bread. Sounds like a nice hearty, healthy food. But not if you have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Celiac causes malnutrition. If you have Celiac and continue to eat foods that contain gluten, it will kill off all the villi in your small intestine and make you unable to absorb nutrients from your food. You can then stuff yourself and still be starving from malnutrition. Now there's a magic trick I don't want to volunteer to be a part of. Milk products- another food we were told was healthy- is also a problem for people with Celiac. http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/celiac-disease-symptoms . People gluten intolerance suffer the same symptoms as those with Celiac, but the blood tests come out different. http://gluten-intolerance-symptoms.com/

get tested for other food allergies. 100% of lupus patients have food allergies. 100%?! And food allergies come in 2 sizes: immediate (you know these- you eat shrimp, you have hives a few hours later; you eat peanuts, you can't breathe; me, I eat pineapple and my tongue immediately itches then hurts for 3 days- those kinds of food allergies are obvious); but then there's the delayed reactions- you could eat something then get joint pain that doesn't show up for as long as 4 days later. Who's going to figure that out? Well, a blood test, that's who. Or, alternately, the elimination diet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elimination_diet . People blame autoimmune diseases and symptoms on genetics, sin, bad karma, or some symbolic psychological issue manifesting itself... Yeah, OK, and maybe I'm just allergic to cheese. On top of whatever I started with, I developed so many new allergies after taking prednisone, I practically needed to live in a bubble. A latex free bubble that is.

Here's another one, and all too common. We get the flu or bronchitis and we go to the doctor- the responsible thing to do- and he gives us antibiotics. Which, if you have a cold or bronchitis, doesn't really help, because those are viruses, not bacteria. But we take it anyway to "avoid getting a secondary infection," but really because that's the only trick the doc has up their sleeve. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when you take antibiotics, they kill off all the good bacteria in your digestive system. Yeah, our digestive system is filled with all kinds of cooties, and we need those cooties. Those good cooties are what we need to multiply like (good) rabbits. Once the good cooties are killed off, the bad cooties, especially candida can take over and wreak havoc. And not just the "inconvenience" of having a smelly yeast infection or thrush, which are gross, but I'm talking systemic problems: brain fog, digestive problems joint problems, exhaustion, irritability, headaches, rashes, sugar cravings, and worst of all- zits! oh Lord not zits! http://www.candidasymptoms.net/#candida_symptoms . Know what else causes candida overgrowth? Steroids. Prednisone. Oh the irony.

OK, that's a lot to chew on, even though it's gluten free. And you could just go on a candida diet or gluten free diet without getting tested, but trust me. Both of those diets are so challenging, especially at first, that you'll want to know for sure that you need to be on them. It will help you stay motivated. You can get tested for heavy metals, candida antibodies, celiac and gluten intolerance antibodies, and vitamin deficiencies and most of these tests are just blood tests. The celiac one can involve an endoscopy and that's  a bigger deal, but if you have celiac and find out, it would be a life-changing piece of information.

Until next missive-

Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient

"I am reading Carla's book How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This? and loving it. I LOVE Carla's songwriting, so I'm not surprised that her prose writing is as smart, funny, and insightful as her music." - Christine Lavin

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