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Autoimmune Disorders Overview
Autoimmune diseases are said to affect approximately 50 to 70 million Americans. Studies suggest that there may be as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases and more women than men may be affected. The cause of autoimmune disease is unknown, however, some medical theories suggest that it may occur due to certain triggers in the body’s immune system.
Autoimmune diseases may also run in family members with a known condition, as well as certain ethnic groups which include:
- African Americans
- Native Americans
Triggers that affect the immune system’s response to certain substances may cause the body to react slower than normal, or over-react where the body attacks and damages its own tissues (autoimmune disease).
These Triggers May Include:
Toxins, fungi, and chemicals (environmental irritants), Drugs, Family history (makes one more susceptible), Parasites, Viruses and Bacteria
Types of Autoimmune Diseases
There are many immune disorders that affect the human body. Some of the more popular ones include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Cells in the immune system attack the joints, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain.
- Systemic Lupus: The body attacks and damages its own healthy tissues. Lupus affects the lungs, joints, eyes, nerves, kidneys, and blood cells.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS): The immune system attacks the nerves cells that result in pain, poor muscle coordination and sometimes blindness.
- Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: Antibodies attack and destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
- Myasthenia Gravis: Antibodies bind nerves and make the body unable to stimulate muscle activity normally.
- Celiac Disease: Inflammation of and sensitivity of the lining of the small intestine (villi) when foods containing gluten are consumed (wheat, rye, barley, etc.)
- Grave’s Disease: Increased/excess amounts of the thyroid hormone in the blood (Hyperthyroidism).
- Hashimoto’s Disease: Inflammation of the thyroid gland resulting in low levels of the thyroid hormone being produced (Hypothyroidism).
- Psoriasis: The immune system stimulates skin cells to produce more rapidly than normal causing the skin to become scaly.
- Pernicious Anemia: Decrease* in red blood cells caused by the body’s inability to absorb vitamin B-12.
- Addison’s Disease: Insufficiency of the adrenal hormone.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): The immune system attacks the lining of the intestines, (colitis, chron’s disease) causing bouts of diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, fever and weight loss*.
- Gillain-Barre Syndrome: The immune system attacks the nerves that control muscles in the leg and sometimes the arms and upper body.
- Vasculitis: Attack and damage to the blood vessels which can affect any organ in the body.
- Reactive Arthritis: This is a group of conditions that may affect the joints, eyes, urinary and genital systems, resulting in swelling and inflammation. It is said to affect more men, especially those younger than 40 years old.
- Sjögren’s Syndrome destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva causing dry eyes and mouth, and may also affect the kidneys and lungs.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: Inflammatory arthritis which affects the spine and large joints.
- Alopecia Areata: Sudden hair loss which results in bald patches on the scalp.
- Polymyalgia Rheumatic: An inflammatory disorder which causes stiffness and pain in the shoulders and joints.
There are many disorders which may affect the body, some of which include autoimmune hepatitis, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, vitiligo, and sperm and testicular autoimmunity.
Autoimmune disorders may affect the body in several ways and may vary or overlap depending on the specific disorder. They may range from basic to complex. Basic symptoms may include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- General malaise (feeling unwell)
- Headache and Migraines
- Chronic allergies
- Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome
Severe Symptoms May Result in:
- Destruction of body tissues
- Abnormal growth of an organ
- Changes in the function of organs
Some of the Major Organs and Tissues Affected are:
- The Brain: Headaches, brain fog, attention disorders, anxiety.
- The Skin: Psoriasis, rashes, dry/ flaky skin, eczema, acne, rosacea, dermatitis.
- The mouth and Lungs: Allergies, sinusitis, frequent colds, asthma, dry mouth.
- Endocrine Glands: Pancreas (diabetes) and thyroid glands (overactive and underactive) thyroid function, that results in fatigue, weight gain or loss, anxiety, general feeling of illness, hyperactivity.
- Adrenal Glands: Tiredness and exhaustion.
- Musculoskeletal System: Weakness, stiffness, pain in joints and muscle.
- Gastrointestinal Tract (GI): Stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, gas, constipation, reflux.
- Nervous System: Lupus, Myasthenia Gravis, fibromyalgia, etc.
- Blood and Blood Vessels (Vasculitis): Fever, weight loss*, rapid pulse, fatigue. These symptoms can, in turn, affect organs such as the brain, lungs, skin, and kidneys.
There will be times when symptoms may worsen (flare-ups) or decrease* (emission). Such symptoms may also affect other organs and tissues in the body such as the joints, muscles, skin, blood vessels, red blood cells, and the thyroid and endocrine glands.
It has been suggested that there may be two main causes of autoimmune disease:
- Genetics (family history)
- Environmental (toxins, infections, stress, etc.)
Other factors that cause autoimmune disorders include:
Some Deficiencies can be Hereditary or Acquired:
- Common, drug induced or severe combined immune deficiency
Some Common Signs of Immune Deficiency Include:
- Pronounced lymph nodes
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Recurring infections
- Painful, swollen joints
The immune system acts as the control center for the body’s overall health. It helps attack viruses, toxins, etc., that can compromise the body’s defense mechanism to help fight infections and assist the body in healing itself.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is a key factor to overall health and longevity. Since the immune system is the hub for good health and healing, preserving and protecting the organs that affect our immune systems can greatly decrease* our chances of contracting autoimmune diseases.
The Immune System Consists of the Following Primary Organs:
- Lymphatic System
- The Spleen
- Tonsils and bone marrow
Stress can be emotional or physical and dependent on how we respond to situations (work, home, relationships, injury, infection, etc.)
Toxins affect the immune system and organs such as the liver and kidneys. Some example of toxins that disrupt immune functions include:
- Mercury (fish)
- Heavy metals
- Amalgam fillings (teeth)
- Infections (bacteria, viruses, toxins)
- Herpes simplex 1 and 2
- E. coli
Gluten Intolerance: Sensitivity to wheat, rye, barley and other foods containing gluten.
Leaky Gut: The lining of the gut (villi) becomes loose, causing undigested food, toxins, and other substances to escape the gut and enter the bloodstream.
Gut health is believed to be responsible for approximately 50% of all autoimmune diseases and disorders. Its main issues are believed to be the body’s inability to absorb substances such as gluten, corn, and soy, mainly genetically modified grains.
The body’s digestive system produces healthy bacteria (mucosa) that assist in the absorption and transfer of nutrients through the system while blocking toxins from entering the bloodstream.
When the gastrointestinal tract (GI) is compromised, it reverses the order by blocking the nutrients from reaching the cells and allows toxins to enter the bloodstream which contributes to illness and disease.
The immune system is basically designed to “attack” and protect the body against foreign invaders (pollutants, viruses, toxins, fungi, etc., much like an internal combat system. When a harmful substance (antigen) enters the system, the body’s normal response is to identify the potentially dangerous substance and produce antibodies to fight and ward them off.
Where an autoimmune response occurs, however, the body’s ability to identify and ward off these harmful substances becomes skewed, resulting in the immune system producing antibodies that destroy normal healthy tissues instead of the antigens.
Medical research suggests that treatment for an autoimmune disease (a chronic condition with no cure*) may involve various interventions that will help manage and control the symptoms during flare-ups. Main treatments should include factors that will:
- Treat* heavy metals
- Manage stress
- Remove* gluten
- Heal the gut
Such Interventions May Include:
- Dietary treatments
- Medical interventions
- Alternative therapies
Let’s Look at a Few of these Treatments in Greater Detail:
Dietary Treatment: (Foods and Supplements)
For patients with autoimmune disorders, dietary treatment includes following a balanced, healthy diet, plus:
- Regular exercise
- Vitamin supplements
- Adequate rest
- Avoiding known triggers or flare-ups
Any efforts to eat well, reduce* our exposure to toxins, along with adequate rest and regular exercise, provide our best chances of protecting our bodies from the onslaught of disease, degeneration and premature aging; all risk factors in autoimmune deficiency and disorders.
Numerous studies suggest that a diet rich in nutrient dense foods, probiotics, supplements, among others, may greatly assist in helping the body to reduce* inflammation, repair damaged tissues and regulate hormonal and metabolism levels, while promoting good health. Let’s take a look at some of these suggestions:
- Avoid and Eliminate* Known Triggers in Your Diet (foods that cause allergic reactions)
- Avoid Grains (wheat, corn, and rice) and pseudo-grains (genetically modified) amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.)
- No Alcohol and Sodas.
- Eliminate* Vegetable Oils and saturated fats (corn, canola, sunflower, soybean, safflower, peanut, sesame, lard, etc.)
- Avoid all Products with Natural and Artificial Sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, saccharin, stevia, etc.)
- Eliminate* Additives from Foods, e.g. monosodium glutamate (MSG,) benzoic acid, lecithin, corn starch, salt and vinegar for pickling, emulsifiers, thickeners, etc.
- Avoid Processed Foods: (fried foods, processed meats such as salami, sausages, etc.)
- Eliminate* Refined Carbohydrates: (white rice, white pasta, sausages, snacks, junk foods, etc.)
- Avoid poultry meats and eggs.
- Eliminate* Nightshade Foods from the Diet: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, chili, etc.
- Limit Your Intake of nuts, legumes, and seeds (choose those that are heart healthy, low acid forming)*
- Reduce* Causes of Inflammation in the Body: stress, how and when we eat, poor/low exercise habits, etc.
- Consult Your Physician before taking medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
DO INCLUDE nutrient dense foods that will promote healing, detoxification, and healthy tissue and hormonal repair:
Cruciferous, Nutrient-Rich Vegetables:
- Broccoli, kale, cabbage, arugula, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard and collard greens, arugula, etc. Probiotics (help improve* healthy gut flora (mucosa)
- Kombucha (fermented tea which is believed to help supports digestion, increases* energy levels, and detoxifies the system)
- Coconut milk kefir
- Pickled vegetables (kvass): beetroot, carrots or fruits.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Probiotic yogurts
- Goat milk yogurt and kefir
- Natto (fermented soybeans)
- Miso (fermented soybeans, barley, rice)
- Raw cheeses (goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, A2 aged cheese)
Some of the Benefits of Probiotics are to:
- Decrease* cholesterol levels
- Treat* colitis and crohn’s disease
- Improve* liver function
- Encourage weight loss* and healthy weight management
- Improve* gut health
- Reduce* colds and flu
- Increase* energy levels (B12)
- Improve* digestion and strengthen the immune system
Prebiotics complement the work and functions of probiotics in the digestive system. Foods rich in prebiotics include:
- Garlic (raw)
- Jicama (raw)
- Jerusalem artichoke (raw)
- Onions (cooked or raw)
- Dandelion greens (raw)
- Leeks (raw)
- Chicory root (raw)
- Acacia gum
- Asparagus (raw)
- Bananas (under-ripe)
Some Benefits of Prebiotics are:
- Improved* digestion
- Cancer protection
- Healthy weight management
- Improved* gut health
- Balanced hormonal levels
- Reduced* inflammation
- Protects bone health
Fatty Fish (Omega-3 has been found to reduce* inflammation in the body)
Mackerel, sardines, salmon, tuna, oysters, etc., (wild caught is better)
Lean-Cut, Grass-Fed/Pasture-Raised Meats (Beef) provide essential amino acids that help heal leaky gut symptoms and detoxify the liver: Organ/offal (liver, etc.)
Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Rich in antioxidants, great for joint care and muscle aches and pains:
Sea Vegetables: Nori, Wakame, Dulse, Saweed, Kombu, Chlorella, Arame, Kelp, etc.
These are rich in nutrients such as iron, iodine, chromium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, etc., that promote healthy thyroid function, stimulate the immune system and provide an array of other trace minerals, B vitamins: (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6) and vitamin C, vitamin E, K.
Edible Fungi such as mushrooms boost* the immune system, provide essential B vitamins (niacin), vitamin D2, iron, selenium, enzymes, and protein. Examples:
Unrefined Salts: Sea Salt, Pink Salt, Gray Salt, etc.
Moderate consumption of *nuts and seeds: (low acidic, high alkaline). These are chock full of nature’s bounties and are good sources of selenium, potassium, calcium B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, copper, Vitamins C, K, E, folate, etc. all promoting healthy immune support.
- Brazil nuts
- Walnuts (Omega-3)
- Macadamia nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
For autoimmune diseases, patients need a variety of supplements (with the guidance of their physician) to help replace deficiencies in the body and support its major functions. These will include fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E) and water soluble vitamins (vitamin C, and B group), minerals and antioxidants that help regulate hormonal levels and improve* immune support:
- Adrenal Support: Fatigue
- Thyroid Support: Healthy thyroid hormone production and stabilization.
- Immune Support: Fights and controls infections.
- Reduced* Inflammation: Improves* stress levels and mood.
- Detoxification: Eliminate* parasites and toxins.
- Gut Health Support: Digestive and leaky gut support.
- Liver Support: The liver purifies and filters toxins and drugs from the system.
- L-Glutamine improves* function of small intestine (villi) by promoting healthy bacteria.
- Butyric acid supports healthy large intestine function.
- Multivitamin Complex.
- Omega 3 (fish, flaxseeds)
- Omega 6 (GLA – gamma linolenic oils (borage, evening primrose)
- Vitamin D3 promotes* healthy bones and joints.
- Lignans and melatonin (healthy skin)
- Coenzyme (CoQ10)
- Beta-carotene Vitamin E
Other supplements include: (with physicians’ approval)
These all help reduce* free radical damage in the body. Free radicals are caused by the aging process, daily exposure to toxins, pollutants, etc.
It is believed that the judicious use of medications, therapies, and treatments will help in reducing* our exposure to certain risk factors. This may be our best bet to decreasing* our chances of attracting autoimmune diseases and set us on the path to improved* health and healing.
Since there seems to be no known cure* for autoimmune disorders, medical interventions may include the following treatments to help control the body’s immune responses:
- Pain medication
- Immunosuppressive medications
- Anti-inflammatory medications (joint care)
- Blood transfusions when necessary for blood disorders
- Hormone replacement therapy where applicable
- Physical therapy
Pain Medications can be used to help reduce* symptoms and control the auto responses that trigger symptoms. They also improve* the body’s ability to fight diseases and include:
Anti-inflammatory and Corticosteroids: Prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone (treatment for asthma, arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, eczema, etc.)
These are drugs that help reduce* and suppress* the activity of the immune system. They help fight infections, diseases, allergies and some cancers. They treat* disorders such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Alopecia areata
- Crohn’s disease
Anti-Inflammatory and Joint Care Medications:
Vitamin D3 promotes* strong joints and bones.
Chondroitin: (one of the most popular treatments for joint care)
- Helps with wound healing and recovery
- Rebuilds cartilage (wear and tear)
- Treats* certain types of arthritis
- Acid reflux
- Reduces* high cholesterol levels
- Reduces* joint pain and tenderness
- Lowers inflammatory and autoimmune responses
- Promotes* joint health
- Fights conditions that affect the stomach, bladder, and intestines
- Protects and repairs leaky gut symptoms
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) or organic sulfur:
Another highly popular medication that assists with:
- Restoring hair growth (boosts* collagen and keratin levels)
- Improving* skin conditions (rosacea, skin discolorations, wounds)
- Reducing* muscle pain, spasms, and cramps
- Reducing* symptoms of allergies and asthma
- Helping the body adapt to stress caused by events both emotional and physical such as trauma from injury and wounds, surgery, exercise, etc.
- Bursitis (inflammation of the joints)
- Chronic joint pain (rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflamed joints).
Blood transfusions are necessary in cases where one is suffering from severe infection, liver, or kidney disease or other life-threatening autoimmune disorders.
It involves the transfer of blood and blood products from one individual to another. The blood must be compatible to allow the immune system to function normally as though the blood were your own.
Hormone Replacement Therapy:
This type of treatment is usually associated with menopausal women but for autoimmune disease and more specifically, thyroid treatment, it can prove effective:
Thyroid Replacement Therapy:
One of the most common reasons for Thyroid Replacement Therapy (TRT) is Hiroshimoto’s disease (hypothyroidism) where the thyroid glands experience slow/low or no- thyroid function.
TRT will help to:
- replace or replicate the normal function of the thyroid gland
- improve* normal thyroid functions
- suppress* and reduce* the growth of thyroid tissue
Physical Therapy Treatment:
A wide-ranging system of physical treatments or interventions that assist in:
- Improving* mobility and range of motion
- Relaxing and reconditioning muscles
- Increasing* overall wellbeing (reducing* symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety)
- Improving* muscle strength and endurance
- Preventing or reducing* chances of permanent disability
- Reducing* pain and inflammation
Some of These Interventions Include:
- Deep Tissue and Swedish Massage: (relaxes muscle and joint tensions)
- Trigger Point Massage: (use of the fingers to apply pressure to specific areas to assist in improving* blood flow to the affected area, increase* energy and reduce* pain.
- Exercise: Stretching, hip, and leg lifts, that helps to improve* balance and posture.
- Traction: Use of force (pulling/pushing) mainly on arms, legs, and neck to correct fractured or dislocated bones.
- Water/Aqua/Hydrotherapy: The application of water treatments greatly assist in helping muscles to relax, decompress nerve endings, minimize muscles stiffness and pain, allows for greater movement. This is recommended for persons who suffer from arthritis, inflammation or chronic pain.
- Heat and Ice Treatments: When heat is applied to an affected area, it decreases* pain and spasms by causing the blood vessels to dilate/expand (vasodilation), thereby increasing* circulation to the area and helping the muscles and tissues to relax.
- Ice Packs have the opposite effect; they cause the blood vessels to contract (vasoconstriction) resulting in decreased* pain, swelling and inflammation to the affected area.
- Ultrasound: the application of sound waves (high/low frequency) to affected muscles to help muscles relax, reduce* tightness/tension and spasms. It promotes* healing by increasing* circulation to the affected area (vasodilation).
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): This technique is applied by using a battery operated machine to transmit electrical current to the affected area to help reduce* pain.
Massage therapy, when applied appropriately has an overall effect on the body and mind, which promotes* healing, reduces* stress levels and fosters a general sense of well-being.
These will include:
- Chiropractic therapy
- Herbal remedies
This type of treatment is said to be a system of applying pressure to the feet, hands, and thumbs. When these points are stimulated, they are purported to cause a corresponding or “reflex” action to certain organs and systems in the body, thereby promoting healing.
Hypnosis: This is said to be a state of consciousness or semi-consciousness that is believed to help sharpen one’s focus and attention to a specific event or emotion that leaves the individual open to certain responses and suggestions.
This method of treatment was first introduced by Sigmund Freud to help patients “purge” their emotions thereby promoting healing and restoration.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is said to be one of the oldest forms of therapeutic treatments used for pain, relief, and other conditions. It uses the technique of inserting needles into various parts of the body to promote healing.
Some Suggestions Indicate That it May be Effective in:
- Reducing* arthritic pain symptoms by releasing endorphins when the needles are applied to the affected areas.
- Relieving symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders by promoting gastric peristalsis in persons with low gastric activity and suppressing peristalsis in patients with active gastric mobility.
- Exerting anti-inflammatory effects which may be assisted by activating the vagus nerves and deactivating inflammatory transmitters.
Chiropractic Therapy: Chiropractic intervention is based on the premise that the brain and the nervous system must communicate effectively in order for healing to take place in the event of injury or illness.
Its main aim is to help rebalance and realign the body through adjustments in the spine that can facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal itself, without the need for medication or surgery.
Some techniques involve repositioning the spine and other affected areas in order to:
- Reduce* joint pain and stiffness through the application of heat
- Increase* blood flow to affected areas to correct realignment
- Mobilize joints and small tissues
For autoimmune diseases, it is believed that certain herbs, when appropriately prescribed, can greatly boost* and rebalance immune system function. Some recommendations include but are not limited to:
- Colostrum (from bovine has been shown to improve* immune system function)
- Milk thistle (deactivates free radicals)
- Grape seed extract
- Borage and Flax oil All believed to help reduce* inflammation
- Evening Primrose Oil
Melatonin and the Immune System
Melatonin is an antioxidant touted to be very potent in:
- Enhancing* the function of the immune system
- Assisting the body’s ability to handle stress
- Lowering cholesterol
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving* bone health
- Boosting the metabolism
- Improving* rest and rejuvenation
So How do We Get Melatonin?
Melatonin is naturally produced in the pineal gland, a tiny organ in the center of the brain. The pineal gland is responsible for the production of important compounds that:
- Arginine Vasotocin (protein that helps induce restful sleep
- Serotonin has a relaxing/sedative effect on the body (elevates mood and helps the body handle pain)
- Epithalamion (a protein believed to slow the aging process and increase* brain power)
In order to make melatonin, the pineal gland draws tryptophan, an amino acid from the bloodstream, which is then converted to seroton in the gland. In turn, serotonin is then converted to melatonin. A fresh supply of melatonin has to be produced each day since it is not stored in the pineal gland for long periods.
Melatonin can also be produced outside of the pineal gland through the retina during the night (sleep/darkness) and direct sunlight during the day. Exposure to light in the daytime increases* melatonin output during the night hours.
Melatonin and Immune Enhancement:
It is believed that melatonin helps the immune system by stimulating certain white (T /fighter cells) which in turn can help improve* the function of the thymus (lymph) in order to fight infection from toxins, etc.
Some of the Main Functions of Melatonin are:
- Protection from free radical damage from (carcinogens, herbicides, radiation, etc.)
- Preventing and help in reducing* tumors
- Delaying some of the effects of aging
- Enhancing* the immune system
- Assisting in coping with stress
- Lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Reducing* the risk of osteoporosis by improving* bone mass
- Improving* restfulness and enhancing* moods
Melatonin and Stress:
One of the factors that influence autoimmune disorders, is stress. The brain, immune, and endocrine system all interact with each other when the body is exposed to stress. Our busy, hectic lifestyles increase* stress levels, rob us of adequate rest and rejuvenation and can expose us to toxins and other environmental factors that can compromise our health.
It is suggested that any disruption in these systems will reduce* the body’s ability to recover from stressful situations that affect the hormonal levels. Melatonin is believed to reduce* the impact of stress on the immune system, by improving* mood and maintaining a positive outlook.
Melatonin and Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Studies suggest that melatonin can stimulate the natural process of lowering and clearing bad cholesterol (LDL) from the system and increasing* the good cholesterol (HDL). It is also said to positively affect the thyroid levels in cases of underactive thyroid function (hypothyroidism).
Studies suggest that stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system plays a major role in increasing* blood pressure and heart rhythms; two factors that can increase* the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. In this instance, it is believed that melatonin lowers blood pressure, thereby decreasing* the incidences of heart attacks and strokes.
Melatonin and Bone Health
Melatonin appears to be necessary for the body’s ability to absorb calcium by blocking the production of cortisol, which is said to rob the body of calcium. It is also believed to help block the effects of prostaglandins which destroy bone mass.
Melatonin and Improved* Rest (rejuvenation)
Melatonin is produced only at night and is dependent on a dark environment. Studies suggest that melatonin levels are higher during the night when the circadian rhythm (body clock) sends signals to the optic nerve that the body is at rest (darkness). Hence, melatonin helps us fall asleep.
During sleep, the brain signals the pineal gland to produce melatonin which is then fed into the blood stream. Boosting melatonin levels this way (naturally) is said to help slow the aging process.
During the day, exposure to sunlight helps increase* serotonin, assisting the body in coping with fatigue, stress, and depression. This same exposure to sunlight during the day also helps the body to increase* its production of melatonin during the night.
Healthy Ways to Increase* Melatonin Levels in the Body:
There are several ways to boost* melatonin in the system:
Foods rich in melatonin (oat brans, bananas, ginger, and naturally grown, non-genetically modified corn, rice and barley, tomatoes and B vitamins are believed to also increase* melatonin levels.
It is believed that vitamin B6 is necessary for producing serotonin from tryptophan, two compounds that help produce melatonin. Good sources of vitamin B6 include artichoke hearts, English walnuts, bananas, sesame seeds.
Increase* Calcium Intake:
Evidence suggests that calcium is important for the pineal gland to produce melatonin. Foods rich in calcium include:
- Mustard and collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Sesame seeds (dried)
- Figs (dried)
- Turnip greens
Increase* Intake of Tryptophan:
Tryptophan is believed necessary for the pineal gland to make both serotonin and melatonin. It is said that increased amounts of L-tryptophan can cause a significant rise in blood melatonin levels. Food rich in tryptophan include:
- Blackeyed peas
- Sesame Seeds
- Tofu (raw)
- Pumpkin seeds (roasted)
Increase* Serotonin Levels:
Foods that boost* serotonin levels include:
- Tomatoes (naturally grown/organic)
Sleep and exercise also increase* serotonin levels by improving* both mental and physical well-being.
Exercise and Melatonin:
It is suggested that one hour of exercise is believed to triple melatonin levels in the body. Since exercise plays a major role in elevating moods (serotonin) and reducing* stress levels, it stands to reason that increases* in physical activity will have a positive effect on the immune system through enhanced* levels of melatonin production.
Other Healthy Habits That can Boost* Melatonin Levels are:
- Increasing* exposure to natural light 9sunlight) and minimize exposure to artificial light
- Maintaining a balanced, healthy eating pattern (eat foods rich in tryptophan and vitamin B6)
- Sleeping in complete darkness
- Avoiding foods/drugs that rob the body of calcium (sodas, cortisol, excess protein, etc.)
- Regular and controlled fasting, especially during the evening hours
Fasting and the Immune System
Fasting is believed to be one of the most overlooked (and rapidly emerging) methods of improving* overall health by strengthening the immune system.
Studies show that fasting raises the production of melatonin outside of the pineal gland by lowering the production of melatonin in the pineal gland during the day, but increasing* its levels at night.
It is believed that during the process of fasting, the intestinal cells called (enterochromaffin) take over the production of melatonin by absorbing protein-rich mucus (tryptophan), thereby decreasing* the work of the pineal gland.
This process seems to make tryptophan more easily available since it is the main amino acid (protein building blocks) used by the body to make melatonin.
Fasting is Said to:
- Improve* rheumatoid arthritis
- Decrease* allergic reactions (hay fever, asthma)
- Help reduce* edema in the lower body
- Help lower blood pressure
- Improve* mental clarity
- Detoxification helps neutralize and eliminate* toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands and the skin which occurs during fasting. Since the body is forced to use fat reserves for energy (fat reserves store toxins), this process burns these reserves and release the toxins by expelling them from the system.
Promote Healing: The energy that is not needed to digest food gets redirected to the metabolic and immune system. This is believed to help destroy tumors and regenerate cells and tissues.
Energize the Body: Fasting is said to have an energizing effect on the body. Studies suggest it lowers the metabolism rate, and improves* immune system function. It is also said to assist in the proper production of protein and hormones that help you look younger by increasing* the hormones that fight the aging process.
Types of Fasting for Improved* Health:
The basic method for fasting is to drink only water and consume less than 200 calories.
Other methods are:
Intermittent: Consuming no food for a specified period. Example, between 12:00 and 6:00 p.m. allowing the body to fast for at least 18 hours.
Consuming no food or drink during the fasting period (1-2 days)
Liquid: Consuming only water, vegetable or fruit juices.
Daniel Fast (popular)
Based on the book of Daniel in the bible, this fast consists of consuming only:
- Whole Grains
- Nuts, seeds, oils (no solid fats)
- No sugar, processed/ fried foods, alcohol, dairy products)
The overall benefits of fasting are numerous and worthy of consideration for increased health and well-being when applied wisely.
Autoimmune diseases can be quite debilitating and can take a toll on the body, mind, work-life balance, relationships, lifespan and quality of life.
For optimal relief and support, do your homework. Try to find the best holistic approaches that can improve* your health and bring greater balance. Take charge of the areas you can control and work with your health care provider, nutritionist, and therapist to determine the best combination of approaches that are unique to your specific condition.
Be optimistic. As with any health care or therapeutic approach, some patients will experience little or no major side effects, while others may heal or improve* faster than others, depending on the severity of the specific disorder. While there may be no known cure*, a positive outlook along with these approaches can help improve* the body’s ability to cope and function to some levels of normalcy where possible.