Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist Overview
Autoimmune conditions encompass a variety of conditions including: Vasculitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s, Scleroderma, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves’ Disease, and many more. These autoimmune conditions can be difficult to live with as they can severely diminish a patient’s quality of life. Unfortunately, when an autoimmune condition is untreated or not treated appropriately, this can lead to disability. Many patients with autoimmune conditions may not be able to hold a job, are unable care for their children well, or it may even lead to marital problems. The diagnosis can be challenging to accept; and while pharmaceutical medications may be necessary for maintenance of the condition, there are several non-pharmaceutical strategies to consider. Our Gilbert, AZ office location has a Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist who offers various treatments to help people regain their quality of life.
What is an autoimmune disease and who does it affect?
Autoimmunity is a response by the body’s immune system where the body attacks itself1. This occurs due to the lost ability of the immune system to recognize itself. The immune system’s main function is to detect invaders and eliminate them safely from the body. When the body shifts towards an autoimmune state, the immune system begins to detect normal tissue in the body as a foreign invader. Depending on the tissue that is affected, it can lead to different autoimmune conditions. About 85% of autoimmune cases affect women, and it is the leading cause of death in young or middle-aged women.
What are the potential causes and contributing factors of autoimmune conditions?
The cause for the body to shift into attacking itself is commonly multi-factorial1. Causes and triggers can be different depending on the person and the type of autoimmune disease. Our Naturopathic Medical Doctor in our Gilbert, AZ office can help discern the trigger and possible causes. Some causes and contributing factors can include:
- Environmental exposure & toxicity
- Leaky gut
- Prolonged nutrient deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalances
Genetics may account to up to a 30% risk of developing an autoimmune disease condition. If a family member has an autoimmune condition, your risk of developing a similar condition increases. However, epigenetics plays a larger role in your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. Epigenetics is simply the interaction of genes with your environment. The environmental terrain you are exposed to will either turn on or off genes that express autoimmune predisposition. Environmental terrain can include: water quality, air quality, nutrition quality, environmental exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, plastics, microorganisms or other toxins. This terrain also includes: quality of interpersonal relationships, satisfaction in different areas of life, history of abuse, thought patterns and efficiency of elimination.
One of the largest contributing factors to the development of an autoimmune condition is stress level. There are 3 different types of stress: physical, chemical and emotional. Up to 80% of people report they experienced an unexpected, emotional event before the onset of their autoimmune condition symptoms2. Emotional stress in particular directly affects cortisol levels and other neuroendocrine hormones. Prolonged stress or strong, sudden stressful situations lead to the dysregulation of immune system, which may lead to autoimmunity2. Specifically, prolonged stress actually increases humoral immunity, influencing the onset of autoimmune conditions3.
Hormone balance is critical in the development and management of autoimmune conditions. Sex hormones shift the Th1 and Th2 balance of the immune system, leading to autoimmune conditions. This explains why some autoimmune conditions may worsen with menopause and improve with pregnancy such as in rheumatoid arthritis4. While in systemic lupus erythematosus, pregnancy may lead to no change or a worsening of the condition4. Each autoimmune condition is characterized by a dominance of Th1 or Th2 immune pattern. The immune pattern present will additionally help determine the best treatment for promote Th1/Th2 balance. Our Naturopathic autoimmune specialist in the Gilbert, AZ office can determine which immune pattern is present in your autoimmune condition.
What are common symptoms associated with autoimmunity?
- Joint pain, aching, swelling
- Morning stiffness
- Unexplained rashes
- The feeling of “never well since”
How does a rheumatologist compare to the medical care provided by a Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist?
Naturopathic Physicians work to uncover the underlying cause of symptoms related to your autoimmune condition. In addition, once the cause of the symptoms is discovered by our Naturopathic autoimmune specialist, the next step is to support each of your organ systems. Once an autoimmune condition begins to manifest itself, 7 or more organ systems have already been compromised. Our specialist provides treatments that will promote balance in the Th1/Th2 immune pattern. In contrast, a rheumatologist may only provide pharmaceutical intervention to suppress the immune system rather than correct the underlying imbalance in Th1/Th2 immune pattern. While medications may be necessary depending on the severity of your autoimmune condition; our natural autoimmune specialist works in collaboration with your rheumatologist’s medical treatment to promote the best possible outcome.
What can I expect in my first visit with a Naturopathic Doctor?
- Comprehensive case history
- Family medical history review
- Physical Exam
- Detailed lab review may include:
- Basic Blood work
- Specific lab tests
- Testing for intestinal permeability
- Food sensitivity panel
- Environmental exposure testing
Why should I choose Naturopathic treatments for my autoimmune condition versus only medications?
Naturopathic medical care typically diagnoses and treats patients within 6 weeks of symptoms occurring. However, in the current medical system, autoimmune conditions may take up 4-5 years to be diagnosed and treated. A medication-only approach leads to unnecessary side effects from medications, does not treat the Th1/Th2 immune pattern imbalance, and does not address the contributing factors leading to your autoimmune condition. Additionally, our Naturopathic autoimmune specialist will specifically tailor the treatments to your individual case to get better results and resolution of your symptoms without harsh side effects. Treatments can include:
- Comprehensive evaluation and diagnostic testing
- Medical Nutrition
- Medical-grade vitamins and mineral supplementation
- Herbal formulations
- Lymphatic therapy
- Collaborative care tea approach with your rheumatologist, if necessary
Dr. Michelle Barraza, our Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist, has treated hundreds of patients with great success; for more information about Naturopathic Medicine or our doctors, please call 480-648-1534 or message us below. Start living the life you intended, today!
1 Rose, N. R. Overview of autoimmunity. Uptodate July 10, 2017. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-autoimmunity?source=history_widget
2 Stojanovich, L., Marisavljevich, D. Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S156899720700170X?via%3Dihub
3 Elenkov IJ, Chrousos GP. Stress Hormones, Th1/Th2 patterns, Pro/Anti-inflammatory Cytokines and Susceptibility to DiseaseTrends Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Nov;10(9):359-368 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10511695)
4 Adams Waldorf KM, Nelson JL. AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE DURING PREGNANCY AND THE MICROCHIMERISM LEGACY OF PREGNANCY. Immunological investigations. 2008;37(5):631-644. doi:10.1080/08820130802205886. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709983/)