Peering into my vegetable laden grocery cart the attractive 40 something heavy set lady asked: “was I going to eat all those vegetables or was I having a party?” Her cart contained packages of dried and pre-prepared foods, cans, boxes and bags of low fat crackers, chips, sugar free and gluten free cookies, flavored yogurts, pastas and energy bars. The odd vegetable and fruit broke the surface of the sea of processed and refined products.
“I have diabetes” she quipped. “Just about everyone in my family has it so I have to be careful with my sugar intake. But, it’s just diabetes II. Apparently it’s genetic in our family – that’s what the doctor told me”.
Diabetes I (requires insulin shots) is an auto-immune disease when the insulin-producing cells are destroyed and is the result of B cells and other immune cells attacking the body’s own tissue.
Diabetes II is considered a metabolic disorder but is in the process of potentially being redefined as an auto-immune disease. In Diabetes II, the pancreas still makes insulin but due to the high glucose intake (in the form of sugars and refined carbohydrates) the cells cannot receive any more glucose and start to shut down – making the cell insulin resistant, further elevating blood glucose levels.
There are over 80 auto-immune diseases that have been identified in the last 10 years with new ones being added annually. An auto-immunity develops when your own immune system (which normally defends the body against disease) decides your healthy body cells are foreign and attacks them. Depending on the auto-immunity it can direct this attack against cells, or organs. Of course this results in abnormal functioning of the organ or cell.
Reported auto-Immune diseases affect some 23.5 million Americans (according to AARDA.org it is believed the numbers are closer to 50 million). Some of the most common auto-immune diseases are:
- MS (multiple sclerosis)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hashimotos/ Graves thyroid disease
- Addisons Disease (adrenals)
- IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
- Pernicious Anemia
- Sjogrens Syndrome
So……. what causes an auto-immunity to occur in what should be a normally healthy body? Theories abound … some are linked to bacteria or viruses, pharmaceutical and recreational drugs, chemicals, environmental irritants etc.
The one common thread that seems to be consistently agreed on by the medical, research and holistic community is that the body produces anti-bodies or an immune response against harmful invaders in your body – in other words it becomes hyper- responsive to an inflammatory condition in the body. When there is a foreign invader in the system such as : an allergen, a toxin, an infection or a food, the body trying to defend itself against the intruder fails to differentiate between the harmful substance and the tissue or organ in the body and turns on the anti-bodies, literally, against itself- wreaking havoc on your own organ.
Why does this happen with some people and not others?
The answer is: it is never one thing. You need A PERFECT STORM to trigger a disease.
Metaphorically speaking The PERFECT STORM can be compared to a 4 legged stool that has several of its legs in a state of disrepair and subsequently cannot support itself. So it is with our bodies. The cycle of disease sets in when a number of factors are combined to trigger a metabolic breakdown – or The Perfect Storm.
- Pre-Genetic Disposition (some say this accounts for 25% of the equation others say higher)
- Environmental Factors ( toxins, chemicals or a viral/bacterial infection)
- Nutrition or your dietary Intake ( SAD diet – standard American diet)
- Lifestyle: i.e. Stress
If you have a pre-genetic disposition (a family history of a disease) and
Take in your daily dose of toxins (Environmental Factors) such as household chemicals & cleaners, chemically laden make-up, commercial facial creams and fragrances, chlorinated and fluoridated water, and consume commercial (non- organic) fruit and vegetables and factory farmed hormone and drug enhanced meats and dairy products, or you may have travelled to foreign country or ate something toxic and picked up a bacterial infection or a virus and
Eat a SAD (Standard American Diet) consisting of pre-packaged, nutrient depleted pre-cooked foods (frozen or otherwise), fast and junk foods, sugars in any form – cookies, cakes, breads etc, lots of bread and bread type products and pastries, pasta’s, restaurant take-outs, bad oils- soy, canola, vegetable, corn, lots of gluten products, vegetables, fruit and meat/dairy/egg products that are commercially grown or raised (non-organic) and
Lead a Lifestyle that is stressful with little or no time for yourself ( high stress job, child rearing, travel, only form of relaxation is 2-4 hours of TV at night, wired and perpetually tired, etc) …….
Then you are setting yourself up for THE PERFECT STORM – a susceptibility to a disease or an auto-immunity which may irreversible! In fact it is believed and understood in the health community that even without a genetic pre-disposition a disease can take hold if the total load (low nutrient dense foods, toxins, and other stressors) is too much and constant for the body to handle.
Let’s go back to my check-out companion. Yes, she probably has a pre-disposition to an auto-immunity – in her case diabetes. However, there are 3 other missing bits to the equation. Did she help trigger the auto-immunity by combining a SAD diet (looking at her shopping cart- I would say probably -yes), taking in a daily dose of toxins, and leading a stressful life? Without further investigation we cannot say – it was my turn at the check-out. I gave her my card and bid her good- bye. Knowledge is power. Once you know how to keep your body healthy, you can take responsibility for your long term health and deflect triggering genetic pre-disposition to a disease or to an auto-immunity or any disease for that matter.
What you need to do to keep yourself and your family healthy (Part II coming…)
For more reading on auto-immune diseases visit: