The Connection Between Stress and Autoimmunity
Autoimmune diseases are a much larger problem than they were 10 years ago. Now, autoimmune diseases are reaching an epidemically high level with over 50 million people diagnosed. In women under the age of 65, autoimmune diseases are in the top ten causes of death. In fact, there are over 100 different autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune diseases have symptoms such as inflammation, fatigue, rashes, headaches, joint pain, and more.
What Causes Autoimmunity
There are multiple triggers that impact the expression of an autoimmune disease. The most functional way to reverse the progression of an autoimmune disease is to determine and eliminate these triggers. By uncovering the triggers, we are using what is called a Functional Mind-Body Approach. This approach has shown substantial evidence of reversing autoimmune diseases and improving overall health. A Functional Mind-Body Approach combines the sciences of functional medicine*, epigenetics, nutrigenomics, biotransformation, and mind/body awareness.
All autoimmune diseases are linked to one common condition, inflammation. An autoimmune disease is when the immune system is under constant inflammation from frequently recurring triggers. The stressed immune system then mistakes healthy tissues as foreign bodies and begins to destroy them. What causes constant inflammation and triggers is constant stress. Stress comes in many forms but the body is unable to differentiate the difference between the stress of a late bill and the stress of a close family member’s death.
Types Of Stresses
Those diagnosed with an autoimmune disease have one or more of these stressors overly present in their life.
- Chronic Emotional and Cognitive Stress
- Unhealthy Coping Patterns
- Poor Nutrition
- Gastrointestinal Stress
- Adrenal Stress
- Hormonal Stress
- Inflammatory and Infectious Stress
- Toxic Stress
A Deeper Look
Chronic Emotional and Cognitive Stress boils down to the way we think about our past traumas and experiences. In a sense, the stories that we have made up to help us understand the reality experienced. Negative and unhappy thoughts are pro-inflammatory and can disrupt our natural immune function. An overload of unhappy thoughts has the ability to turn on or off genes.
Unhealthy Coping Patterns are common in the American lifestyle. An unhealthy way to cope with the stresses we feel includes alcohol, indulging in sugar, nicotine, procrastinating, excessive carbohydrate consumption, etc. While these habits may take the edge off your mental stress for a few moments, it is fueling a fire of internal stress.
Poor Nutrition is also fairly common as the abundance of food present in the American diet is based around it. Many foods in America are made using GMO products which genetically alter the foods protein, changing how the body reads and interacts with the molecule.
Gastrointestinal Stress is essentially the man behind the curtain. The one that is constantly performing and responsible for the reactions exhibited. Up to 80% of the body’s immune cells are housed in the GI tract. When the GI tract is stressed, the tight junctions become loose, allowing molecules to creep in and out of the intestinal lining.
Adrenal Stress, exhaustion, and burnout is another constant stressor. The adrenal gland is responsible for “fight or flight”. However, when constantly being stressed the adrenal glads maintain an unnatural fight or flight response. This causes an increased level of hormones to be released affecting the entire body and its multiple organ systems. Some specific examples include blood sugar control, DNA repair, and decreased cognitive function.
Hormonal Stress is one of the top influencers that leads to adrenal stress and fatigue. Supplements such as birth control mimic the body’s natural hormonal response interfering with other natural pathways.
Inflammatory and Infectious stress can be caused by getting sick. When any type of infection is present in the body, the body reacts by sending out antibodies, increasing the level of stress on the immune system.
Toxic Stress is all around us. Toxic stress comes from chemicals, heavy metals, and many household cleaning supplies including laundry detergent and deodorants.
How Can We Help The Body
Avoiding all stressors all the time is nearly impossible but there are ways to make a positive impact in the stress your body feels. First, identifying your stressors are key. One test that we use to test for stressors is GI Effects by Genova:
Secondly, you can begin by incorporating healthy coping patterns while removing the unhealthy habits you once had. Meditation, yoga, 5 minutes of deep belly breathing, even a few minutes of positive self-talk stimulate our immune system positively and decrease inflammation.
Third, work with a healthcare provider to perform a safe biotransformation to aid in the elimination of added toxins the body may be holding onto. Additionally, a 30-90 day elimination diet will get rid of a large portion of toxins around the home and in the body. Switching to all organic,non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, and naturally grass-fed food sources will reduce the amount of toxic stress the body is exposed to as well as increase your nutritional status. Making the switch to organic all-natural cleaning products and deodorants will reduce the exposure as well.
Lastly, saunas and Epson salt baths are a great addition to help the body further detox from past exposure.
It can be frightening to turn over and read the label on your favorite food or worse, your favorite bath soap. The ingredients list is a mile long when it should be fairly short. Educating yourself and becoming aware of the stressors around you is a huge step! Next, working with a team of health care professionals who are aware of the underlying causes of autoimmunity is what will take your health to the next level. – Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health Coach
Corey, Michelle. “Uncovering the Splinters in Autoimmunity.” Functional Medicine University . 2020, www. functionalmedicineuniversity.com/members/964. cfm .
Functional Medicine* and Integrative Wellness requires Doctors to engage in further education outside of their core training and within their scope of practice.
* Additional Education: M.S.A.C.P – Licensed in Texas & New Mexico. Scope of Practice Governed and Determined by State License & State Board Rules & Regulations.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, and nervous health issues or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health protocols to treat injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.