Sunday, November 22, 2015

You Should Be Able To Eat Anything.

It is a natural, innate human instinct to want to eat a varied diet. An ancestor eating 10 things was more likely to be fully nourished than an ancestor eating one thing. Obviously you are more likely to be the offspring in that case of people that ate, and that wanted to eat, as many different foods as possible.

 

This is really the state of health that I envision for my patients, my kids and myself. The reason I know this is possible is because we all know people that can eat just about any food and do fine. They can have a been and a burger with a real wheat filled, gluteny bun, they can stop by McDonald’s without being in the bathroom for an hour after, the can even eat genetically modified foods and not have migraines, arthritis, colitis or crohns.

 

Even you probably had a time when you were younger when you were not so sensitive to foods, and you were able to eat and enjoy whatever was served to you. It is a part of human nature that both we and others gratefully and humbly receive and appreciate and consume the food we are offered. Whether in our own homes, out with friends at a restaurant, and at the home of family or friends.

 

Of course in practice I have used to tool of food removal to help others recover their health, but it has always been with the knowledge that this is a symptomatic treatment. It is a treatment that is difficult and that should, if I am doing my best job as a doctor, be limited in the amount of time it is used.

 

I am grateful for the two finger stick allergy panels we can use for the hidden food allergens, you can see the many letters from patients were going off their allergens helped put out their health fire. Yet after the fire is out we have to rebuild the house. I would say the first 10 years in my practice was figuring out how to put out the fire. These last 10 years have been about figuring out how to rebuild the health after the fire is out.

 

Like is most endeavors our success is limited at least in part by our knowledge. This point was brought to me clearly when the two beautiful children of a very proactive patient were brought to me for autoimmune disease. These were parents wth a lot of autoimmune disease in the family that tried to do everything right to avoid auto-immunity in their children. Because of their own struggles with health these parents did not vaccinate their children, and had basically only fed their kids organic and non-gmo foods. Basically be the book they had done everything right as far as they knew. Yet there was a missing piece.

 

The pieces we have been able to do have only involved one side of the equation, the immune activation as a part of the puzzle. By pulling out the food allergens we have been able to take some pressure off of the immune system gas pedal. We have tried to calm the mental, emotional and physical symptoms that a person is experiencing and have been very successful in doing so. But that is not enough for everyone.

 

If you come from a very autoimmune family you will need more than just letting up on the autoimmune gas pedal, you will have to work on the immune system brakes. Yes, if you did not know it your immune system actually has braking signals, or signals that tell it to calm down.

 

What people with a history of colitis, crohns, ms, hashimotos thyroid disease, and diabetes in their family have, is very simply a strong immune gas pedal and no immune brakes.  This goes for any person or family with autoimmune disease. This must have served my ancestors well. I wouldn't be hear if the survival of my ancestors was not dependent on them shooting everything in sight of the immune system, and to keep shooting. Now we flash forward to 2015 and that highly evolved and efficient immunological defense system is transported to modern day western civilization with a complete absence of immunological threats.

 

So this mighty defense system sits around looking for the enemy. It does not find the parasites that it did in the past, so it waits around looking to pick a fight. Eventually it finds something that looks enough like an enemy that it decides to unleash its fury. In the case of these two children on developed an autoimmune skin condition as the immune system found a harmless skin bacteria to pick on, leading to acne. The other child got the epstein barr virus, a harmless virus in 99% of us, and decided that was the new enemy, leading to crohns. These kids to not have some kind of genetic weakness, they just have an immune system with a Ferrari engine and tricycle brakes.

 

So what tools to we have to address this problem of weak brakes? Modern medicine has developed some tools for this, probably the best known are drugs like prednisone, remicade and humeria. There can be effective tools for putting the brakes on the immune system, but they are like using a bulldozer to move the furniture in your living room, very rough and dangerous tools. Useful for emergencies but dangerous for long term usage with side effects like possible cancer.

 

So in practice we have tried to strengthen in the brakes of the immune system with tools like homeopathy, vitamins and herbs. Remarkable to me is that these approaches are often effective, and yet in the worst cases not strong enough. These tools can help strengthen a system and get it balanced, but there is the issue that in some people their body believes the right balance is all gas pedal and no brakes for the immune system.

 

So in a conversation I was having about this with a researcher, she said to me, “You know, they don’t get autoimmune disease where they have parasites”. What?! No. I did not know this. Why after 20 years of treating auto immune disease I did not know this still baffles me. Hence began for me, months of research on the therapeutic use of parasites in practice.

 

We think of the body being “infected” with parasites. But there is another way of looking at it. These organisms were part of the ecosystem when our ancestors were just little marmots. Not only did our bodies evolve in the presence of these organisms, these organism had a role in shaping our physical, neurological, emotional and immunological being. Since the hookworm eradication processes early in the 1900’s we have done an immunological experiment with our bodies called a hookworm-ectomy.

 

The presence of hookworms, parasites and other helminths and organisms in our body can cause an immune reaction, no doubt. The very interesting thing however is that once these organisms get established, hookworms in particular, the start releasing signals that increase … guess what? The suppressor T cells. And by now you can image what these are. Suppressor T cells are the brakes for our immune system. By not having these organisms, and their signals in place, we have removed the strongest check that we had to immune over activation. One only needs to look at the rise in autoimmune disease over the last century to see that the consequence have been profound.

 

It was in the early 1900’s that all of the autoimmune diseases that began to be diagnoses and described in abundance. It would probably be fair to say that the epidemic of autoimmune disease began in the early 1900’s around the same time as the worm eradication programs. That is not because science was at a standstill, people were very skilled in the past at describing what was going on around them. And autoimmune disease did exist, most notably there are some records in the roman empire, which interesting was the a culture that included pure water from aqueducts, and sandals, the combination of which is very effective at cutting off the life cycle of parasitic worms, like the hookworm.

 

Research is finding that organisms such as hookworms are able to plug into our immune system and send signals which the immune system receives. In other words, they speak the same language. And the language the speak, interestingly, is hookworm-ease. We know this because the hookworms where hear long before people were. We also know what the hookworms are saying to the immune system because we are able to measure the results. The hookworms are saying, “calm down”. One of the immune chemicals that has been measured is an immune stimulator called th17. Th17 creates inflammation, swelling, redness and things like that. You won’t be surprised to hear that it is strongly associated with acne. The more th17, the more acne. When subjects were experimentally infected with hookworm their th17 at the end of 20 weeks had decreased by, get this, it's so exiting... an amazing 90%!

 

Similar results have been seen in studies of food allergens. A study of known celiac patients took a group of people that responded very strongly with symptoms to even a small amount of gluten. Think about this amount being like a pinch of salt you would place on your food causing, stomach cramps, nausea and the like. After 20 weeks on the hookworms some members of this same group were able to consume a bowl size portion of wheat pasta with no ill effects.

 

I think its obvious that this approach won’t be for everyone. As most things in life it depends how motivated you are. A person with a little hay fever may not bother, a person facing a life with an incurable autoimmune disease may be more willing to consider trying something like worm therapy. The great news is that answers are coming by combining the best of modern research in immunology with help from some long dismissed old friends. Modern culture and science are amazing, now that same science may be telling us that some are going to need our old friends in order to have modern health.

 

Our modern health should include the ability to have and enjoy modern foods. Because modern foods challenge our immune system we will never be able to enjoy all of the foods we have available unless we get that suppressor T cells system running at 100%. If we are going to have a Ferrari engine we need to have Ferrari brakes. Some people will never need to finish an article like this because they would not even know what we are talking about, chronic inflammation to them means the same as “chronic potatoes” to them. Those of us that are highly inflammatory, and have highly active immune systems with low suppressors need to change the way we think about our bodies.

 

Once you get diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in yourself or your family part of the plan will be to play defense, to remove foods that are capable of creating inflammation. That is where the IgG and IgA can be and will be extremely helpful. You have to put our the fire before you can fix the house. However with the new research we can start thinking about playing offense. We can start thinking about how not to only stop accelerating the immune system but how to start putting on the brakes.