I remember sitting in a lecture hall during my first year of medical school. “The immune system attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds neurons, interfering with proper nerve conduction.
“The immune system attacks the body?”
I thought, “why in the hell would that happen…?”
This first introduction into the autoimmune phenomenon came shortly after a naturopathic philosophy class. Yes, naturopathic physicians take a philosophy class. In fact this philosophy is one great distinction between this field and conventional medicine. In the philosophy class, among other things we study the 6 principles of naturopathic medicine. I see these principles as universal truths, deeply resonating with me the first time I was introduced to them, and each time I come back to them. One of the principles is Vis Medicatrix Naturae: The healing power of nature.
Implied in this supreme principle is the fact that the body has an inherent self-healing wisdom. It is this force that moves within the body, steering anyone towards health. A fever, for example, is a symptom of the immune system activating to fight an invading infection. Pain and swelling, for example, is caused by the influx of blood and immune cells to clear the debris from an injury. Diarrhea is the body’s attempt at getting rid of a gastrointestinal irritation, toxin or organism. Even cholesterol plaques on arterial walls is the body performing patchwork on irritated and inflamed blood vessel walls that are exposed to oxidative damage and other stressors. Even the great malady of cancer is thought to be the body’s best effort at storing toxins, healing a wound, or fighting a stubborn virus.
So, why would the body ever stray from this most important guiding principle of medicine and healing? How could the body be ‘tricked’ to attack itself as is apparently the case with autoimmune illnesses?
Well, there are indeed many theories… hidden or cryptic antigen theory, modified antigen theory, T cell bypass, T cell-B cell mismatch, epitope spread or drift, the bystander effect, molecular mimicry, anti-idiotype theory, antigenic complementarity, and dual-affinity T cell receptors.
While these theories sound very sophisticated and well thought out, none of them really hold much weight. As such, more and more diseases are being labeled as “autoimmune,” which may as well mean, “medical research and science doesn’t know what the hell is going on.”
I have no harsh feelings against the conventional system nor the thousands of brilliant scientists who devote their lives to understanding the underlying causes of disease and how to heal.
The fact of the matter is that there is so much unknown. There is so much more that “we” don’t know than what “we” do know. Yet, physicians, people, politics - we all want answers. So, we make stuff up to satisfy these desires, despite them not being the truth.
Autoimmunity Is Going Viral
Millions of people with mystery illnesses are grateful to finally have a diagnosis. You’re told your crippling joint pain is your body attacking the joints. Your weakness and fatigue is your body attacking the nervous system. Your persistent stomach aches and diarrhea is the body attacking the colon.
Standard treatment is to suppress the immune system with steroids (or in recent years biologic agents) which quenches the fire, but is far from resolving the underlying issue? WHY? Because the medical field doesn’t know what is really causing these ‘autoimmune’ symptoms.
All symptoms of all autoimmune diseases are caused by a combination of infections and environmental toxins. I was first introduced to this ‘alternative theory’ by Anthony William, the Medical Medium. When I first read it, it ringed so true on a deep level. Only later did I realize that some fringe science is indeed uncovering the truths that he has been sharing for decades.
We are constantly exposed to pathogens throughout our life, and before (in utero). Bacteria, viruses, fungi… we coexist with microorganisms on this planet. In fact, bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1. We are 10x more bacteria than human. And viruses? That number is far too great to comprehend. They are everywhere. It is estimated that a single teaspoon of seawater contains 10 million viruses, so how many are in and on your body? I’ll let you ponder on that for a moment…
Most bacteria we can see with the help of microscopes and advanced laboratory equipment. Viruses, however, are far too small to catch any glimpse of. Composed of just a few DNA strands, most viruses are submicroscopic. As such, we rely on different tests, or assays, to indirectly detect the presence of a certain virus in the human body. Limited to this approach, it is only possible to see what we are looking for. And what is it exactly that we are looking for when it comes to viruses? The relatively small handful that have been discovered to cause disease in humans.
Hepatitis viruses, herpes family virus (of which there are dozens), influenza viruses (of which there are thousands of strains), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)small pox virus, measles virus, rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus - these are just a few of the common ones you may be familiar with. While medical research has a finite list of viruses that cause disease in humans, the true number of viruses that effect humans is astronomical. We are exposed to all of these strands of genetic material each and every day of our lives through breathing air, drinking water, human contact, or directly from our mothers womb. Luckily we are equipped with an immune system, far more brilliant than any antiviral medication, that has our backs. White blood cells hunt down and flush out these invaders (along with other bacterial or fungal pathogens) around the clock, day in and day out.
Like all other aspects of ourselves, the brilliant and resilient immune system can get stressed and run down. Things like pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and other chemical compounds burden the system (in ways we won’t get into now) which in turn fuels the foreign pathogens that we are already exposed to. Now, consider this scenario on top of a diet full of rancid fats and unproductive proteins in place of the vitamins and micronutrients that fuel the very immune system our health is dependent upon. On top of this, let’s say there is a chronically dehydrated environment that creates thick blood and lymph that further inhibits proper oxygenation and flow to heal organs and clear the junk from the system that causes the problems in the first place. Finally, let’s throw in psychological stress - grief, anxiety, despair, anger, loneliness - all accompanied with an enormous surge of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that hammer down the system even more.
The scenario is far too common, and the perfect storm that allows hidden pathogens to thrive.
Then, symptoms creep in “out of nowhere” - Joint pain, chronic fatigue, weakness, migraines, irritable bowels, dizziness, mysterious rashes - that send you to the doctor. “Well… we aren’t exactly sure what’s going on here, but the symptoms seem to fit with (autoimmune diagnosis). Let’s run some tests to confirm.” These tests, measuring inflammation or “autoantibodies” are vastly imprecise and inaccurate. Inflammatory markers simply give a measure of the general inflammation in the body (caused by viral activity coupled with an inflammatory lifestyle). “Auto-antibodies” are thought to be antibodies that your immune system generates to attack a target tissue or organ. Why the heck would your body do such a thing!? Most scientists and experts in the field also understand the possibility of “molecular mimicry” or cross-reactivity with microbial or viral pathogens. Slowly but surely, this pathogenic link is being revealed. Your body NEVER attacks itself. In fact, your body is ALWAYS healing, or doing its best to, given the current circumstances. That is the truth.
The conventional treatment of most autoimmune conditions is completely backwards and upside down. Giving anti-inflammatory drugs can certainly make sense and be a necessary step to take. When a fire is burning, you don’t want to plant new trees and weed the garden, you want to pour water on it! But when the fire burns again, the conventional approach is to lay-off all of the firefighters. Immunosuppressant agents such as steroids, various inhibiting agents, and biologic drugs are designed to wipe out the immune system. Those little white blood cells that protect and serve around the clock are killed innocently for doing their job. Why do symptoms subside? If you consider a war being fought and you tell the troops on the opposing side to go home, there might be less noise and rubbish, but that doesn’t mean you won the war.
This is why in the conventional world autoimmune diseases are incurable. They are treated as such. Rather than supporting people in identifying the true cause of the dis-ease and holistically supporting the inborn immune system, drugs are given to wipe it out. In this environment, underlying infections persist as a person’s innate healing power is severely dampened. The result is pharmaceutical dependance, the exact goal of the medical industry.
I’m not saying your doctor is a bad guy, I’m just saying he doesn’t know better. But now YOU do.
Stay tuned for part 2...