Where The Functional Medicine World Is Failing Autoimmune Disease
Frequently, patients continue to suffer the effects of autoimmunity even after being treated by a functional medicine doctor. As an autoimmune specialist in NYC, I can assure you that though functional medicine is meant to be a holistic approach to health and while it’s light years ahead of mainstream medicine, there are still critical areas being missed. For too long, the unseen world of intestinal bacteria has eluded our reach. We now sit at a pinnacle in medicine, where embracing the gut microbiome is not only possible, but omitting to do so is dangerous in the face of complex medical conditions. It’s only by tapping into the incredible power of the gut microbiome, that we can effect change as widespread as the issues themselves. Unfortunately, the functional medicine world has not quite caught on yet, so treatments often miss the mark.
The deep effects of the Microbiome
In mass, bacteria weigh more than all the fish in the oceans and animals on the earth. Within our own bodies, they out-number human cells by a count of 10 to 1. Incredibly, the trillions of microbes located in the intestine, work together as one, self-organizing, self-directing organism, much like a super computer with untold intelligence and insight into restoring health. Through them information is extracted from food, the immune system regulates, inflammation resolves, communication pathways are restored, and our natural defenses are repaired. In cases of autoimmunity, the focus is often on triggers like viruses and toxins. Doctors overlook the fact that all of these things are filtered through the microbiome and when healthy, these assaults are washed away. No supplement or medication can possibly make such deep, widespread changes as the untold number of bacteria already within us.
Likewise, genetic changes including MTHRF and others along the methylation pathway are often emphasized. While these key genes certainly play a role, without considering the microbiome they are stripped of context. Within the human body, there are 150X more bacterial genes and they are constantly changing, an ability our own genes lack. Bacteria are vast reservoirs of DNA that are constantly shuffled, transferred, and shared. They change our own genetic expression, turn off disease, and improve cellular function. It is a grave omission to leave them out of the equation entirely.
The Microbiome Doctor Can Help
I’ve spent many years as an autoimmune specialist in NYC and working with gut bacteria which has lead me to a deep understanding of their critical role in health. Microbiome Medicine takes healing far beyond what functional medicine can achieve, recognizing that bacteria are the “sine qua non” of life, both on Earth, and within each of us. Restoring the health of the microbiome and tapping into it’s unique healing abilities must be the focus of any protocol especially those treating any complex autoimmunity.
The Microbiome Medicine Approach
I am often asked what tests are best to determine microbiome health. While it’s become popular to have a compositional analysis done, this does little to uncover how the ecosystem is functioning. After all, there is no one right ecology, only the right one for you. When the balance has become unhealthy, it will be easy to detect by looking at symptoms. This includes GI issues, changes in mood, memory and cognition, pain throughout the body, changes in insulin function, skin symptoms, and many others. High levels of inflammatory markers such as CRP, SED, TNF alpha, IL6 and IL8 tell us the microbiome is not functioning properly and has lost its integrity. We may see increases in in toxic burden, viral, fungal and bacterial infections. Other markers include levels of LPS, butyrate and SCFA. Here’s an autoimmune diet food list and supplement protocol that will be helpful in getting inflammatory markers down:
Restoring The Health And Function Of The Microbiome To Heal Autoimmunity
1) Heal the gut wall with these compounds:
- Zinc carnosine
- Vitamin D
2) Targeted Probiotics can help rebalance the immune system including:
- Saccharomyces Boulardii
- B infantis 35624
- A good quality broad-spectrum probiotic including several different strains of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
3) Improve the health of endogenous bacteria already living in the gut:
- Take SCFA like butyrate
- Prebiotic supplements including GOS, GOS, inulin and arabinogalactan
4) Diet, diet, diet!
- Include large quantities of organically grown plants
- Eat fermented and probiotic living foods like kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut
- Prebiotic fibers as found in radish, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, garlic and onion
- Clean filtered water
- Grass fed hormone free meats
- Wild, low mercury fish
- Healthy fats
5) Improve detoxification and inflammation
- milk thistle
- 1820 Clary Sage Omega 3 Oil
- GLA sources like borage oil and EPO
This category deserves a special mention. Over the years I have recognized that trauma and stress early in life changes the fingerprint of the microbiome altering its ability to function. This is often at the root of disease especially autoimmunity.
People remain stuck, with their will broken, as they move through life in survival mode, depressed and just trying to get by. Aside from using specific adaptogenic compounds to support the body and adrenal glands, I often work with patients to help them shift their focus away from their own problems towards elevating others. By focusing on the well being of those around us, we tap into a sense of awe and wonder, experiencing an incredible satisfaction that is beyond happiness. Research has even shown that tapping into these feelings, can rewire the body and improve health.
This new type of medicine goes further, getting closer to the deeper causes that are underscoring disease and autoimmunity and are commonly overlooked. We can only reach these levels by redirecting the will, tapping into the microbiome, and using living natural compounds to infuse life. This is what we call the will/mind/body approach. The microbiome is the foundation and portal to health and we are the leaders in this field.