Here in this section I have invited a group of respected individuals who practice Integrative/Functional healthcare to share their thoughts on ‘Autoimmune’ issues. We plan to share their expertise through written articles, bi-monthly for 10 months of the year.
Meet Jennifer Garrett
The Hidden Link between Leaky Gut & Immune Conditions
Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many posts on your health and immunity. I’m Jennifer Garrett and as a Naturopath and Homeopath with over 25 years in practice, I’ve helped thousands of patients with their health issues, providing solutions and guidance for optimal health and wellbeing, plus the knowledge and confidence to remain well.
Now through Autoimmune New Zealand, I’ve been given the opportunity to share some of that knowledge with you. And so it begins…Zonulin, Gluten and Immune Diseases. Continuing the gluten theme from an earlier blog post here is a short piece on a protein you’ve never heard of called Zonulin and how it affects you.
I can see you roll your eyes and think, “what the h…. is zonulin”. Well, you really need to read on and find out…
In 2000 researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the US discovered that the protein Zonulin has a big part to play in leaky gut.
They found that it regulated the permeability of tight junctions that hold your gut wall together. Zonulin’s job is to open up the tight junctions when appropriate to allow digested food particles in and other stuff out of the blood stream. If these tight junctions become loose then the unready contents of your gut can make its way into the blood stream, and hey presto leaky gut. When this undigested food gets into the blood stream it can trigger an immune reaction, as the immune system sees it as a foreign body and tries to destroy it. As a result it may also trigger a bunch of other immune responses.
Gluten’s role in all this is that, for some reason, it appears to up-regulate (make more) Zonulin and as a result not only compounds gluten’s effect for those people with coeliac disease, but it is suggested, other immune diseases as well. So, due to gluten’s potential to cause leaky gut, whether diagnosed or not, it may very well be a problem to us all and could be contributing to a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated health conditions. For more click here to read the University of Maryland article which gives you more information and makes an interesting read.
I must admit I’m seeing more and more patients with immune diseases who, along with their doctor, have no idea of what could be causing it. My initial recommendation is to stop all gluten, as 80% of our immune system is in our gut and you need to rest it, so it can begin to heal, regardless of which body system is being attacked. If you think you could be having problems with gluten, your gut, your immune system or whatever, please feel free to give me a call to discuss what’s going on for you.
As a Naturopath and Homeopath with over 25 years in practice, I’ve helped thousands of patients with their health issues, providing solutions and guidance for optimal health and well-being, plus the knowledge and confidence to remain well. 25 years of making people fabulous.
Meet Cate Grace
A good friend asked me recently about my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). She has known me a while and was courageous enough to admit she didn’t really understand what it was. Sometimes, you can show how much you care by sharing what you know and other times, you can show how much you care by acknowledging what you don’t know. What a gift she gave by asking, it gave me the opportunity to remember and share some of want I have learnt in the last decade since I was diagnosed with RA at age 30. I am sure as it is for my friends, family and colleagues that your arthritis diagnosis has often been misunderstood.
Here are some facts:
* it’s wrong to think arthritis is just an inevitable part of getting older; it isn’t!
most people diagnosed with arthritis are of working age and children get arthritis too
* arthritis is the single greatest cause of disability in New Zealand (MOH website May 2014)
More than half a million New Zealanders will be affected by arthritis during their lifetime
*there are over 100 types of arthritis, the most commonly known are osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by injury or normal wear-and-tear on aging joints.
Gout is inflammation, pain and swelling when crystals made of one of the body’s normal waste products, uric acid form around a joint.
By contrast, Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive autoimmune disorder.
In response to an unknown trigger, the body makes antibodies that attack its own tissues. The self-attacks mostly attack Joints but can attack organs, nerves, muscles, tendons, and bones in children, women, and men of all ages. Disease attacks, called flare-ups, occur periodically, or can be continuous in some people. These flare-ups cause inflammation, pain and fatigue. It’s a nasty disease that effects all parts of your life and is extremely unpredictable. One day you are feeling great, the next day bed ridden in excruciating pain.
A decade on and I am not being flippant when I say my RA is the best thing that ever happened to me. Despite its nastiness, this disease is unlikely to kill me, so it will be with me for some time, treatments are always improving but there is still no cure. I had to learn to positively manage it or it would have consumed me. It has not been an easy ten years and there are still dark times with the unpredictability of the disease. Often my smiles and laughter follow bouts of private pain, fatigue and tears, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I constantly check in on my chatter and attitude towards coping with the hand I had been dealt. I have realized no one cared whether I thought this was all unfair, it takes the same amount of energy to be positive as it does to be upset. Being grumpy or frustrated at my loved ones or medical team changes nothing and it never gets me the answers I want – they don’t know why either.
Over time my I refocused on what I can do. This new mindset allows me to love my curves and size 16 body as it is (thanks to my treatments it is unlikely my rear will ever see Size 12 jeans again). My crutches are no longer an embarrassment, as I am proud they allow me to do all I want to do in a day without my body giving way and me face planting the ground. I embrace this disease and all its side effects as part of me but learnt to let go of the pain and suffering that can defines who I am or what I am capable of. My RA has allowed me to learn about my body at a deeper level and understand what makes me tick. I now live a life full of new opportunities and and have an exciting future raising awareness of what can be achieved despite what challenges you face in life.
Here are eight of my favourite tips for getting started to embracing your life as it is.
* drink more water; hydration is a great pain killer
* move more – even just a few minutes throughout the day can make all the difference
* focus on what your body does well – stop beating yourself up for what it doesn’t
remember how the world was a playground when you were a kid
* have fun and be silly sometimes
*smile at strangers and hug loved ones
* hang out by yourself in nature and be in awe of it ( I started with watching birds fly)
* watch either the sunrise or the sunset (doing both is magical)
*each night give yourself pat on the back for all you did well today
Keep practicing on your positive mindset
I believe it is the best the way to cope
for there’s no RA cure… yet
but there’s a lot that can be done
many small steps lead to big possibilities
and if you positively embrace life with arthritis you can achieve all that you desire
Smiles for a fabulous day & rest of your week, Cate Grace
Meet Lana Vernon
Hi, I’m Lana and I’m a health coach on a mission to inspire women with inflammatory bowel disease, not just to survive, but to thrive!
Why IBD? Well here’s my story…
I was first diagnosed with IBD in September 2003, just before my 23rd birthday. I’d experienced minor digestive complaints (irregular bowel movements, urgency, bloating, wind, etc.) for years, but it had always been dismissed as irritable bowel syndrome. Then I started passing blood. Back I went to the GP, from there onto a specialist for a colonoscopy, and then I received my official diagnosis of ulcerative proctitis.
My disease wasn’t severe at the time and I thought that, just like many other illnesses, if I took my medications it would eventually go away. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way! I continued to pass blood, experienced severe wind and bloating, and I knew the location of every public toilet in South and East Auckland (I was a sales rep at the time). I was constantly tired, and the quality of my food intake deteriorated as I turned to chocolate and energy drinks to get me through a day of work (and attempt to satisfy the insatiable hunger brought on by steroid enemas). After about 3 months of very little change in my symptoms, I suddenly became critically ill. I could barely eat, I was in the bathroom more often than I was out of it, I was losing a lot of blood, and I was in an incredible amount of pain. At its worst, I was actually crawling between my bed and the bathroom. Unsurprisingly, I ended up in hospital.
To cut a long story short, it was New Years Eve 2003 (3 months after I was first diagnosed) when they realised that my bowel was about to perforate. Although I narrowly avoided emergency surgery, after 4 weeks of trying all the other medical treatments, it was clear that they weren’t working and my only other option was surgery – a total colectomy and end ileostomy. At this time, it was also confirmed that I had Crohn’s disease. When I came out of hospital, I struggled to walk up my parents’ driveway. I was just starting to make progress when I had another disease flare and needed more major surgery in July of the same year – this time, making my ileostomy permanent.
So how did I get from surviving to thriving?
I had a lot of time to think in the 5 or so weeks I was in hospital! I realised that a lot of the lifestyle choices I’d been making prior to getting sick were not choices that supported my health or even showed that I valued myself. Right then and there, I chose to change.
Admittedly it didn’t happen magically and it hasn’t always been easy. Managing symptoms, treatment side effects, and multiple appointments and investigations, can make it so hard to choose health. Pushing myself, trying new things, looking after my health, and embracing what life had to offer was often really difficult when I just wanted to curl up in bed and sleep for a week! It was a constant battle, and for years, fatigue was my nemesis. Then towards the end of 2010, I embraced a new way of eating and a new way of thinking about health. I began eating a whole-food based diet, and I gradually started to see that health and fitness was a lot more than just what I weighed or how much exercise I did. Over the past 4 years, I’ve researched and experimented with many things to make a difference to my health – nutrition, exercise, stress management, work-life balance, self-care…
Rebuilding my health and regaining my life has been a process of learning, experimenting and discovering what works for me. Alongside the physical changes, I’ve experienced a huge improvement in my energy levels, and I no longer feel like I’m just surviving. The ‘fog’ has lifted and I am truly thriving. I can honestly say that I’m happier and healthier now than I was at 23! Over the past 10 years, I have laughed, I have loved, and I have lived. I didn’t just survive – I thrived. Now it’s my mission to inspire others to do the same.
So, are you ready to choose health? .. One step you can take right now is to surround yourself with a support group – people who will cheer you on as you walk this journey of rebuilding your health. If you haven’t already, please come on over to my Facebook group for women with IBD and introduce yourself. The group is a space for you to ask questions regarding holistic health, share your stories, and inspire each other. It’s about empowering you to take back control and choose health. You’ll find plenty of encouragement and support there to help you manage and improve the quality of your everyday life.
Lana Vernon MSc (Health Psychology), Pn1
p: 09 390 4584
m: 021 775 424
Meet Ange Haldane (Natural Ange)
‘The Overlooked Role of Chronic Infection in Auto Immune conditions’
by Angela Haldane
NZRN comprehensive; Naturopath, Medical Herbalist MNZAMH Quantum Reflex Analysis practitioner
Have you ever felt that your auto immune condition or health condition stemmed from the last time you travelled and you got food poisoning? or since that root canal? or since that last operation or injury – you haven’t been right since?
No matter how much nutrition or medicine you try, it doesn’t make any difference? Here lies the interference factors that stand in the way of good health.
Hidden infections such as parasites, biofilms, moulds, fungi, mycoplasmas or dental infections can make the immune system overwork, and thereby result in autoimmune conditions.
Chronic low grade infection is often overlooked and frequently goes undiagnosed. It appears that the incidence of these infections have dramatically increased in recent years. Infections can become chronic due to the body’s inability to clear invading pathogens, including infections from bacteria, nanobacteria, virus, mycoplasma, parasites and biofilms. 12 3456
Infection: Infection is a critical player which gradually exhausts the nutritional resources of the body. Upon studying the literature (especially in light of Panjwani’s research7 which links autoimmune disease to viral infection), it appears clear that in chronic neurodegeneration, the process may often involve the immune system’s relentless attack on the infected cells which provides a constant damaging stream of oxidative stress and ever – escalating levels of excitotoxicity and free radical injury to nerve cells, 8eventually leading to neuro- degenerative disease.
Neuro-degenerative disease may commence with symptoms such as fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, memory problems etc. The infection connection to neuro-degeneration is well established for numerous conditions of outright infection such as viral encephalitis, Lyme disease, AIDS, spongiform encephalitis (Mad Cow Disease) and other conditions are now linked to infection as well, such as dementia, stroke and so-called auto-immune disease.
The widespread use of hydrogenated oil in our food (hydrogenated vegetable oil or margarine) is known to reduce cell membrane fluidity9, makes the cell much more permeable to bacteria and viruses and the cells become even more susceptible to cancer.
- 1 Potera . C (1,996) BIofilms invade microbiology. Science Vol 273
- 2 Resource Library, Biofilm Systems training Lab, etc: http://www.erc.montana.edu/frmain.htm
- 3 (2000) Identification of mycoplasma in synovial fluid of arthritis. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 38: 90-93
- 4 (1999) Mycoplasma bacteria tied to chronic illness. Medical Sentinel Vol 4. no 5, 172-75
- 5 Scott DW. (2001) Common mycoplasmas – now weaponised, pathogenic and deadly. Nexus magazinevol 8 NO. 5
- 6 (2001) International nanobacteria minisymposium http://www.nanobac.com/
- 7 Panjwani NN. (1995) Virus-Induced Autoimmune diease. Essays inVirology; 1(2), London School ofHygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
- 8 Stoll G, Jander S. (1993) The role of microglia andmacrophages in the pathophysiology of the CNS.Prog Neurobiol. 1995;58:233-247.
- 9 Booth PJ. (2001) Designing folding systems for membrane proteins. Albany Molecular Research
Technical Reports. vol 6. no 63
10 Cell membrane permeability can be reversed by removing hydrogenated oils from your diet and replacing them with cold pressed oils – eg. olive oil.
Inflammation: Infection or trauma can initiate the inflammatory process. The process of inflammation can increase the free radical activity in neurons. Once again causing the neuro-degeneration cascade, which then causes nutritional deficiency, (especially with a lack of basic minerals calcium, magnesium and trace elements) which then allow chronic infection to take place.
“Consumption of wholefoods, in their unprocessed form, such as spinach, blueberries, carrots, broccoli, tumeric, buckwheat, kale, strawberries, grapes and many more, haveshown the ability to reduce the risk of neurodegeneration beyond the sum of their measurable antioxidant and chemo protective effects. This fact suggests that currently unknown factors contained in these foods may be responsible for this protective effect”. 11
10 Kano-Sueoko T (1999) Ethanolamine requirements for growth of mammaliamepithelial cells in culture: reverse correlation with malignancy progression.
11 MarshallR.JPhD,CCN.TheOverlookedRoleofChronicInfectioninNeurodegenerationandits Reversal Using Neutraceutical Agents. Nutrition Perspectives: The Journal of the Council on Nutrition of the American Chiropractic Association, Part 1: Volume 27, No 2, April 2004, pp5-18; Part 2: Volume 27, No 3, July, 2004, pp5-18
Consultations available with Angela Haldane “Natural Ange”
Harvest Natural Health Centre, 407a Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland 1021 (upstairs) Telephone 09 3760174
Meet Julianne Taylor
In 2009, I was introduced to the work of Loren Cordain who wrote a paper that changed my view on nutrition forever: “Cereal Grains – Humanity’s Double Edged Sword” Cereal Grains; Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword (read from page 47) where Cordain explains that one of the mechanisms that causes the body to attack its own tissues (AutoImmune) is a case of ‘molecular mimicry’. Foreign proteins enter our body and in the process of attacking them – our body also ends up attacking our own tissues which have similar amino acid sequences, this is often called cross-reactivity. There is evidence that cereal grains have antigens (foreign proteins) that initiate cross-reactivity.
Having an Auto Immune disorder, and after reading this I immediately removed all grains from my diet, and the result was that my auto-immune joint inflammation stopped immediately and has never returned. After 30 years my knees no longer swelled with exercise, my stiff sore neck was no longer sore and a big ganglion cyst on my wrist shrank to nothing.
Since then I have continued to read all I can on this link between diet, lifestyle and auto-immune disease. One researcher who has put forward a hypothesis on this is Dr Alessio Fasano, who researches celiac disease and noticed many similarities between celiac and other auto-immune conditions. Fasano proposed the following 4 factors need to be in place for an auto-immune disease to occur:
Genetic susceptibility (ie. – if you don’t have the genes for celiac disease you will never get it no matter how much gluten you eat).
The host must be exposed to an antigen (The antigen – the foreign protein that a person reacts to must continuously enter the body in order for us to react to it – for example if you have celiac disease and you eat gluten you will have a constantly inflamed gut. If you remove gluten entirely the disease and the antibodies to gluten disappear).
Compromised epithelial barrier in the gut (The antigen must cross over the gut barrier cells and enter the body – this is only possible when you have a ‘leaky gut’, also called intestinal permeability).
Changes in our microbiome – gut bacteria The changes and killing of our “microbiome” appear to affect how genes are switched on or off in an immune response to a potential antigen
The current view is that auto-immune disease cannot be reversed – but Fasano points out that celiac disease can be reversed. Although we can’t change our genetic predisposition we can change other factors. He says that in order to stop the auto-immune process it is necessary to restore a healthy gut cell lining so it does not let proteins and bacteria through, and also remove the antigen if known. Celiac disease is fairly simple in this regard – gluten causes the gut barrier cells to be damaged leading to leaky gut, and also triggers the auto antibodies, so removing gluten causes the disease to reverse. In other auto-immune diseases the antigen is not always known so this can be difficult to remove, however we can still heal our gut and increase the good gut bacteria through diet and lifestyle changes.
How do you heal your gut so it doesn’t allow foreign proteins through?
1. Remove foods that irritate the gut cells and cause gaps to open up between the cells. The number one food is gluten – it interacts with gut cells and causes the release of a chemical called zonulin which causes the tight junctions holding cells together to loosen. Many auto-immune diseases have increased levels of zonulin including Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic lupus erythematosus, Multiple Sclerosis, Inflammatory bowel disease, ankylosing spondylitis, SLE and Crohn’s Disease. All grains have proteins similar to gluten it is important to remove all of them including rice.
2. Remove other causes of leaky gut. The following all contribute to leaky gut and should be avoided:
Alcohol – remove alcohol altogether to help heal your gut
Antibiotics – disrupt gut flora, can take months to recover
NSAIDS – non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Nurofen and aspirin (avoid taking these if at all possible, or take non irritating medication like Panadol)
Stress – reduce as much as possible
Birth control pills – avoid
Sleep deprivation – you need 8 hours sleep a night, magnesium can help you get a restful sleep
Disrupted circadian rhythm; not getting sun in the daytime, artificial blue lights at night – like computer and TV screens. Put a programme called F.Lux on your computer. Buy orange glasses and wear them for the last 2 hours before bedtime. Go for a walk in the sun before work and during the day.
PPI (proton pump inhibitors for indigestion) and antacids. Changing to a grain and dairy free diet often reduces the need for these medications.
Excess endurance exercise; do not do too much exercise. Walking, yoga and short periods of intense exercise like weights are best.
Low vitamin D. Get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement if needed. In the summer sunbathe for short periods at midday so your skin can manufacture vitamin D.
3. Repair your gut epithelial cells. As well as avoiding the above irritants it is necessary to actively heal your gut and help reinstate good gut bacteria.
Bone broth – is particularly healing and should be included daily
Probiotics and fermented foods – help reinstate healthy bacteria; I recommend a soil based probiotic like Prescript Assist. Fermented foods include coconut kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchee.
Vegetables – including root vegetables, and fruit – especially berries to help feed your good bacteria. A special starch called resistant starch is particularly good at feeding healthy gut bacteria and is found in foods like green bananas.
Cordain recommends you avoid these foods to allow the gut to heal:
Gluten grains MUST be strictly avoided. Wheat, oats, barley, rye, triticale
All other grains (rice etc.) and pseudo- grains like buck-wheat and quinoa
All legumes; lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, peas, soy and soy products, peanuts …
All dairy; cream, butter, ghee, milk, yoghurt, even raw.
All alcohol, it is a gut irritant
Nightshades; includes potatoes, eggplant, capsicum, all peppers and chilli, tomatoes
Although Cordain does not include these – I’ve noticed many people with auto-immune disease do not tolerate any nuts or seeds, or need to limit them. For this reason I recommend a 30 day trial eliminating all nuts and seeds, No sugar or sugar alternatives, No chemical additives, No preservatives, No colours or flavours
No vegetable or seed oils
So what can I eat? … Dr Terry Wahls designed a nutrient dense diet that reversed her multiple sclerosis, shown in this diagram:
Fasano, A. (2011). Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer. Physiological Reviews, 91(1), 151-175. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00003.2008
Fasano, A. (2012a). Intestinal Permeability and Its Regulation by Zonulin: Diagnostic and Therapeutic Implications. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 10(10), 1096-1100. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2012.08.012
Fasano, A. (2012b). Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, 42(1), 71-78.
Knippenberg, S., Damoiseaux, J., Bol, Y., Hupperts, R., Taylor, B. V., Ponsonby, A. L., . . . van der Mei, I. A. F. (2014). Higher levels of reported sun exposure, and not vitamin D status, are associated with less depressive symptoms and fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 129(2), 123-131. doi: 10.1111/ane.12155
Kranich, J., Maslowski, K. M., & Mackay, C. R. (2011). Commensal flora and the regulation of inflammatory and autoimmune responses. Seminars in Immunology, 23(2), 139-145. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.smim.2011.01.011
Lauret, E., & Rodrigo, L. (2013). Celiac Disease and Autoimmune-Associated Conditions. Biomed Research International, 2013, 17. doi: 10.1155/2013/127589
Rashid, T., & Ebringer, A. (2007). Ankylosing spondylitis is linked to Klebsiella – the evidence. Clinical Rheumatology, 26(6), 858-864. doi: 10.1007/s10067-006-0488-7
Integrative/Functional and Nutritional Practitioners in New Zealand