Autoimmunity is a lot like the Weather!
Autoimmunity is a VERY fluid and individual unique metabolic environment. Every day is a unique combination of your overall health, your personal adaptability, and everything that can affect your immune system.
This naturally makes predicting what will happen tomorrow very challenging.
Over time, your immune system will get very specific and aggressive, or very tired and ineffective – or both. This makes Autoimmune Diseases more predictable only when they are advanced and already life-changing.
If you feel that your immune system is challenged, please read this series of articles.
You do not want to wait and see how predictable chronic inflammatory diseases can become.
If you are living with an Autoimmune diagnosis, please read this series of articles. This perspective on the progression and possible reversal of Autoimmunity may give you some guidance on where you need to start.
As a clinician and as a patient who has lived with and researched Autoimmunity for many years, I am comfortable saying that these conditions are much more predictable and reversible than most of us are aware.
Over my career of meeting many unique people, with their own unique medical histories and specific autoimmune condition, some patterns have started to emerge.
I am not the only clinician to notice these patterns. On an international level, there is a growing consensus that there are many warning signs of potential or Pre-Autoimmunity, and several stages of progression that are consistent among most, if not all Autoimmune patients.
The following Five Stages of Autoimmune Disease are not considered to be or meant to be specific medical conditions. This is meant to be a scale to help clinicians and patients make some important and difficult decisions. They also offer a sense of how long your immune system has been compromised and how long it is likely going to take to turn things around.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of being aware of these stages is the ability to observe your immune system overreact and settle down in predictable ways over time. Most of my patients figure out what will and won’t work within a few months.
I sometimes describe the Autoimmune Spectrum in terms of a dysfunctional marriage. Partially, because that is the actual classic description of Autoimmunity in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and partially because it makes your relationship with your diagnosis into focus.
In the classic text, it states, “Certain conditions are like a bad marriage between inner deficiencies and inner over-reactions, which will eventually use up all of the adaptive resources in the patient.”
Below is a general overview of the Five Stages and what they are like. I will include some basic suggestions on what to focus on in the short term. As you progress through each of the Four Phases of Ancestral Autoimmune Protocols you will learn about many other tools, strategies and practices.
The Five Stages of Autoimmunity
- Stage One – An Erratic and Reactive Immune System
- Stage Two – A Stubborn and Tired Immune System
- Stage Three – Active Autoimmunity and Tissue Damage
- Stage Four – Complex Chronic Autoimmune Disease
- Stage Five – Immune System Renewal or Breakdown
Stage One – An Erratic and Reactive Immune System
“The first sign of an imbalanced immune system is allergies or other strange reactions.”
When I first started focusing my practice on Autoimmune Disease, I noticed how many of my patients had allergies or had an allergy as a child – or both.
Some allergies happen fast and it is easy to figure out the culprit. Other allergies are too slow to show a clear enough reaction to know what is causing your symptoms. Some people have both at the same time.
Many people are metabolically unstable (stress, stimulants, intoxicants) or malnourished, or just chronically inflamed. The more out of balance and/or out of shape your metabolism is, the more erratic your immune system becomes.
If you are an Autoimmune Disease patient and had allergies as a kid, and especially if you have allergies now, go to Stage Three.
If you have an allergy or are beginning to notice that you are getting strange symptoms like:
- Itchy, runny or blocked nose
- Itchy, red, watering eyes
- Wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath
- Itchy or tingling skin
- Hives (a raised, red rash)
- Swollen lips, tongue
- Swollen eyes or face
Chronic illness is about momentum. At first, you need to slow things down and then you can start moving in another direction.
The momentum is always determined by the first signs and frequency of immune system dysfunction. Approximately 85% of my Autoimmune patients have medical histories that go back to early childhood. From Seasonal Allergies to Earaches, and from Strep Throat to Asthma, most of the people I have worked with also had reactive and erratic immune systems as children.
If your immune system has been haunting you and taunting you for many years, or perhaps even since you were born, then the probability of your Autoimmune Disease to progress more rapidly is higher. It is also more likely that you will express, or ‘turn on’ other genes you may have for other metabolic problems or actual diagnosable conditions.
But it all starts with the haunting and taunting.
If there is another word for an allergy it is an over-reaction. Any immune overreaction can be an important warning sign for people who may be prone to Autoimmune Disease. Some allergies only happen because of the seasons. If there is pollen in the air all year, people with hay fever would be really upset. Thirty percent of children and approximately ten percent of adults have allergies which are over-reactions to your environment.
These rest of the world does not over-react to pollen.
Some allergies seem to happen erratically. They only over-react with a perfect storm of environmental and internal triggers and imbalances.
Have you discovered your trigger(s)?
Are you avoiding your triggers or are you waiting to see where the chronic, erratic, and irresolvable conflict will take your marriage? In the relationship metaphor, imagine being married, and your spouse randomly freaks out.
Or, what if they start acting very differently on the full moon?
This is the same thing as having an allergy to something. Figure out what the reaction is about.
Fall back in love with your immune system and take care of each other for a while.
I encourage everyone to take a Stage One immune flare up as some inspiration to get healthy, reduce stress, look into your family medical history, and take advantage of any modern tools that help you track your metabolism.
Reset Your Immune System
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, health is all about the balance of your Adaptability and the erosive parts of your life.
In Stage One of the Autoimmune Spectrum, it usually takes four weeks to reset your reactive immune system. Below are the recommendations I often suggest to my patients who are at risk of developing an actual Autoimmune condition in the future. For example, if a child of one my Autoimmune patients suddenly gets an allergy, I would be more concerned than if their parents had no significant medical history.
These are just general suggestions. This is not my medical advice to you as we have not met. In order to make these protocols safe, relevant and specific to your health, you will need to work with a clinician who is very up to date with Autoimmunity.
I will suggest some directions for lab testing when appropriate, but these decisions and making sense of the results should be up to a clinician who you feel you can trust to guide you through this process.
Stage One ~ 28 Days
If your immune system seems to be over-reacting to little things or can’t seem to make up its mind, then you may want to give the front line a few weeks off.
The best way to enter into allergy season, or to just down-regulate your immune system is with a three day fast.
For one month, do your best to eat a Nutrient Dense and very low antigen diet. The Phase Three Diet would be sufficient for most people, but if you feel you are dealing with something more complex, then a week on the Phase One and three weeks of the Phase Two Diet would be better.
You want your immune system to have a very gentle and predictable four weeks.
There are many supplements that can settle an over-active immune system, and many Adaptogens that can support a more balanced immune response to pathogens. Working with a knowledgeable clinician will save you a lot of time and money. If your situation persists after one month, look into Stage Two of the Autoimmune Spectrum and talk to a clinician about some appropriate lab testing.
Drink two litres of water a day and try and get the first liter in the first two hours in the morning.
You may need to do a Stage One reset every year or after a flare up, so dig in and make sure you are going to get the best results possible.
I would also encourage you to take a step back and look more deeply into your medical history, your family history, and your relationship with health in general. You may be having an annoying allergic reaction, or your immune system may be telling you something about its long-term tendencies.
Another option is to get a self quantification device or basic health APP. In the modern world, there are many easy ways to track your health and get into the habit of noticing patterns.
Stage Two – Coming in a few days
Michael Smith is an internationally respected Clinician, Author, and Speaker. Michael practices Functional Medicine, Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and encourages his patients to follow an Ancestral approach to lifestyle and diet. Dr. Smith has dedicated 25 years to the research and treatment of Chronic Illness and Autoimmune Disease. As an Autoimmune patient, Michael is intimately aware of the devastating impact these conditions can have on your quality of life.
Dr. Smith is also at the leading edge of the treatment strategies, dietary protocols, and the precise lab testing needed to resolve these complex conditions.
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