Natural Treatments for Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, IBD, multiple sclerosis, Type one diabetes, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and psoriasis etc. are on the rise, with almost 50 million Americans suffering from these disorders.
Most people suffer for years with autoimmune disease before getting a diagnosis, and treatment is usually a prescription medication, but there is no cure. Typically, even with medication many symptoms still remain.
The complex problem of autoimmune disorders requires a more complex solution than conventional medicine provides.
Taking medication to suppress the immune system only temporarily alleviates the symptoms, and a healthy immune system is important. Basically medicine is just like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound. It’s not going to do much to solve or reduce the bigger problem. That’s why autoimmune sufferers are looking for better options.
Eastern medicine takes a different approach. According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), autoimmune disorders happen when there’s an imbalance in the body, either an excess or deficiency or both, in different areas. TCM takes into account the individual, the underlying conditions that accompany each autoimmune sufferer, and provides a personalized solution, a holistic diagnosis, to correct the underlying issue. If you focus on JUST just the symptoms any solution will be short lived at best.
A number of studies have shown that acupuncture causes positive changes in the body within the nervous system, the immune system, the brain, the blood circulation, and that it can help reduce inflammation. Acupuncture provides relief for pain and can help manage the symptoms of autoimmune disease.
In addition to pain relief, acupuncture is known to balance the immune system. Acupuncture relieves stress, and when you’re stressed or run down, your immune system can become weakened which makes autoimmune sufferers more likely to have a flare up.
If you have an autoimmune disease it is important to avoid immune stimulants like echinacea because they can agitate out-of-control immune responses.
An immune modulator like astragalus or turmeric or an adaptogen like American ginseng might be better, but there is a such a wide range of responses to herbs depending on your underlying condition, and no herb is grown out of the ground as an “immune modulator” that is just not how plants work, so a knowledge of how to combine herbs, and what herbs would fit the person is absolutely important in order to have a positive effect.
That being said, certain herbs can be used to treat autoimmune disorders. A few of those are:
- Sarsaparilla has been thought to treat autoimmune diseases by purifying the blood and reducing joint and muscle inflammation.
- Gentiana macrophyllae has been used for centuries to treat systemic lupus erythematosus in people who “run hot”
- Artemesia anomala (sweet Wormwood) is used for heat or some inflammatory conditions.
- Reishi Mushroom is listed in ancient Chinese medical texts as an immune modulator with calming, pain-relieving action.
- Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Remember though, that autoimmune disease is a combination of excess immune activities and underperforming immune responses. So neither suppressing the immune response as western medicine does with steroids, nor “boosting” it with herbs addresses the problem properly. Adaptogens or immune modulators, not immune tonics should, therefore, be part of the mix.
The first step in dealing with most autoimmune disease is to identify dietary triggers. This is most optimally done with an elimination diet for a few months, and to have help with designing, documenting, and sticking to an elimination diet, do so together with your acupuncturist or doctor. Slowly add back potential allergens one at a time, waiting a week each time to see if you have bloating, pain, migraines, nausea, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, itching, or brain fog in response. Evaluating what might be triggering for you is important, and no two people are alike, so it is literally the only way to know what is hurting you.
Whether there is a genetic component or an intestinal onset, many flares can be triggered by the combination of food sensitivities and “leaky gut.” Once intestinal “good bacteria” are leaked through the tight junctions in the gut wall, proteins that are not supposed to get into the body can create havoc .
Treat your gut bacteria with naturally fermented food, and prebiotics such as grains and pulses. Food with some fat helps protect the good bacteria down their acid ride through the stomach.
Try a variety of plain full-fat yogurts and kefir, miso, olives, blue cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi. If you use probiotic supplements look for a variety of strains, more stands are better, but no supplement is an adequate replacement for naturally fermented foods.
If you are suffering from an autoimmune disorder, Traditional Chinese Medicine is worth a try. It can help relieve many symptoms and get you on the road to fixing the imbalances that allowed the autoimmunity to develop in the first place.
If you’re looking for a personalized diagnosis and solution, consider scheduling a virtual consultation with an expert, to help come up with a custom wellness plan.