The Autoimmune Epidemic

 

November 12, 2019 | 5:30 – 7:30 pm

 
PRESENTED BY | Dana Hutchinson, MA, CH, CN, CRM, CFEP . . .
 
Common Autoimmune Conditions & Corresponding Herbal Therapeutics

What Is The Autoimmune Era?
We are living in an invisible health epidemic; a public health crisis slowly gaining attention in a medical world dominated by health conditions like heart disease and cancer. An age where our own cells are mistakenly attacking our own healthy body tissue, thinking that they are toxins. Allow me to introduce you to a rising era of under-appreciated chronic diseases created by susceptible, inflamed, weakened, and unbalanced immune systems; the era of autoimmune diseases. Through our modern society’s addiction to quick fix or chronic over-the-counter medications, our intake of a standard American diet, our exposure to high levels of stress and environmental toxins, and combined with over-usage of recreational drugs, Americans are experiencing an unprecedented rise in autoimmune diagnosis.

Our immune systems naturally guard against foreign entering substances (antigens) like bacteria and viruses through our protective regulatory T and B cells, which are pertinent to the, “maintenance of homeostasis and the prevention of autoimmune diseases” (Wang and Zheng). Both of our B and T- lymphocytes are incredibly important in forming our body’s adaptive immune response to these pathogens in the system. When a pathogen enters the body,  it is “tagged” for presentation to the T cells. Once the T cells have approved the presence of a pathogen in the system, they “activate” the B cells so that they can become mature antibody secreting cells, called effector plasma cells. As the plasma cells are released into the system, “these antibody molecules bind to the targeted antigen and initiate its neutralization or destruction” (Rogers).

In an ideal setting, our immune systems are usually able to differentiate between the foreign invaders (“non-self”) and the body’s own cells (“self”). However, in the presence of immunodeficiency, the immune system can fail in differentiating self vs. non-self-substances, and incorrectly produce autoantibodies against otherwise healthy tissues. Production of inappropriate autoantibodies can react with the body’s own tissues and cells, leading to potential dysfunction of certain organ systems, chronic inflammation, and signs of developing autoimmune conditions (Christensen).

Although the exact cause of autoimmune conditions is widely varied, it is hypothesized that autoantibody production can be related to genetic predisposition combined with exposure to environmental toxins or a prolonged viral illness (Christensen). When it comes to diagnoses of autoimmune conditions, when autoantibodies affect only one primary organ, like the thyroid for example (Hashimotos or Grave’s Disease), it often causes an observable hormone imbalance, making these diseases easier to diagnose. Other conditions that produce “systemic” autoantibodies, usually affecting multiple systems or organs (MS, Lupus, or RA), are much harder to identify as there are often a lengthy list of symptoms, not always obviously related.

In general, autoimmune conditions usually present in a “flare up” manner when symptoms are the most debilitating presentation and can also disappear for periods of time, depending on the client. Autoimmune diseases really do come in all shapes and sizes, all of which can be addressed with varying herbal and alternative protocols. People with autoimmune diseases have been known to experience relief through addressing nutritional deficiencies, high levels of oxidative stress, underlying insulin resistance, unknown food intolerances, leaky gut syndrome, and chronic sleep debt.

Considering The Stress Response

“Allostasis” is commonly defined as the ability of an organism to maintain stability, or homeostasis, through change, (Romm 98) and more accurately describes the human stress response. Every day, Americans are constantly tasked with responding to and recovering from acute exposure to stressful situations (stressors) through either the neuroendocrine sympathoadrenal system (SAS) or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis system. Renowned herbalist and MD, Aviva Romm, mentions that “stressors are threats to homeostasis and the adaptive responses are the counteracting forces intended to reestablish it” (98). Both of these systems control a two-way communication between the brain and body that initiate neuroendocrine and hormonal responses that either switch on or off the stress reaction. This is most commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response that humans generate in order to initiate a protective reaction.

When substances like cortisol or adrenaline are released in response to stressors or lifestyle factors, it is usually positive for the body system. However, when these mediators are not properly turned on or off during a stress experience or they are overused, there can be significant damage done to the body systems (McEwen). A large majority of researchers and medical professionals agree that humans experiencing a chronic exposure to stressful situations or prolonged adverse events may contribute to sustained activation, maladaptive responses, and overall dysregulation of the HPA axis system (Sapolsky), which is responsible for modulating all stress-related inflammatory responses in the body. This can cause a multitude of disorders including the perfect breeding ground for the beginning of an autoimmune condition to surface.

Aviva Romm states that the American public is currently, “plagued by fatigue and exhaustion, insomnia, emotional frustration, digestive problems, weight problems, menstrual problems, infertility, menopausal problems, headaches, susceptibility to colds, musculoskeletal tension, allergies and asthma, atopic conditions, and numerous other problems” (99), which likely are all a result of a weakened immune system and chronic HPA dysfunction (Sapolsky). This suggests that exposure to chronic stress could be a potentially large contributor to the development of some autoimmune conditions.

Considering Food Intolerances

Food intolerances are considered by many sources to be a rising trend in the 21st century. It seems like overnight our population was suddenly intolerant to gluten, dairy, corn, soy, nightshades, and many more culprits. When the body intakes things that our system has already built antibodies towards, we initiate an inflammatory response. When we eliminate things that we are intolerant to, our inflammatory levels tend to drop and potentially fall back into equilibrium. So, how do we find out what foods we are intolerant towards? And are food intolerances contributing to leaky gut syndrome? Dana will discuss a sample elimination diet protocol in class and how this can benefit someone with underlying food intolerance.

Where Are We Now?

With Regenera Medical (2018) reporting that, “Autoimmune diseases are now three times more common than they were a decade ago,” and the USA accounting for $120 billion dollars a year in health care costs ($50 billion more than cancer costs annually), there is no question that the group of 80-100 known autoimmune conditions, may just be the evolution of chronic disease that no one was prepared for. The Western world is diagnosing these conditions at an alarming rate and prescribing medications even faster, in order to keep over-active immune systems at bay. But what are the implications of daily anti-inflammatory drug use, like steroids, over a long period of time? Are there ways that humans can reduce their inflammation levels in the first place to create an undesirable environment for auto-immune diseases to thrive? And finally, are there natural alternatives for autoimmune conditions, contrary to harsh Western treatment plans, that can have therapeutic benefits?

Join Our Class!

If this discussion of autoimmunity sparked your attention, it would be fantastic to have you as a participant in this 2- hour class on the “Autoimmune Epidemic.” Dana will discuss how we as a society entered this age of autoimmunity while identifying common symptoms of top autoimmune conditions of our modern time. She will also provide comprehensive herbal protocol suggestions for the autoimmune conditions discussed. Education will be provided on alternative therapies, supplementation, and general therapeutics for anyone exposed to our modern world toxins wanting to initiate beneficial lifestyle changes. The class will also offer samples of tinctures stocked at the Wildflower Clinic apothecary in Denver, CO. The entire class audience will get to try the “Autoimmune Tincture,” the “Queen of Hearts Tincture”, and the “Meditation Aid Tincture.”

[The content of this blogs does not necessarily represent or express the views of CSCH.]

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If you would like to join this class taught by Certified Herbalist, Nutritionist, and Flower Essence Practitioner, Dana Hutchinson, please read the following information:

To sign up please click on the link.

DATE & TIME | Tuesday, November 12, 2019 • 5:30-7:30 pm
LOCATION |
CSCH, 424 E. Simpson Street, Lafayette, CO
COST |
$10 This class is $20! Please bring cash to the class or you can Venmo @danahutch to reserve your spot today! *This class is free for CSCH students!
[Download Class Flyer]

RESOURCES |

  1. Romm, A. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. Missouri: 2018
  2. Sapolsky R. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. New York: Henry Holt: 2004
  3. Wang, P. Zheng, S. Regulatory T cells and B cells: implication on autoimmune diseases. National Center for Biotechnology Information. US National Library of Medicine. 2013 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3843247/
  4. Rogers, K. Plasma Cell Biology. Encyclopedia Britannica: 2009. https://www.britannica.com/science/plasma-cell/
  5. Christensen, B. Autoimmune Antibodies. Medscape Reference: 2014. Available online at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2172244-overview. Accessed March 2019.
  6. McEwen, B. Protection and damage from acute and chronic stress: allostasis and allostatic overload and relevance to the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2004; 1032:1-7.
  7. Regenera Medical. The Autoimmune Crisis. March 2018. Available online at https://www.regeneramedical.com/the-autoimmune-crisis/

© 2019 Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism | Lafayette, Colorado