My educational background is vast and includes being certified in Biokinetics, Clinical Nutrition, Integrative Nutritional Health Coaching, Naturopathic Nutrition and Integrative & Functional Medical Nutrition Therapy (IFMNT).
Over the years of training patients and clients, my focus has become more on women’s health, pre/post natal health and children. Focusing on how important a role what you put into your body plays. When my eldest son was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at age 4 (and another autoimmune disease 2 years later), I turned my pain into passion. I was driven by motivation to help my son as much as I could with a natural, holistic, functional approach, as conventional medicine said there was nothing to be done.
In recent years I have studied further to become a Functional Nutritionist and Integrative Health Coach, with a focus on Women and Children’s health, especially in Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s, ADHD, Vitiligo, etc. As a Functional Nutritionist I work closely with clients (face to face or online) to conduct a holistic assessment of their nutritional requirements and to compile an individual program for diet, supplementation & lifestyle changes. This is done to alleviate, or prevent illness and promote optimal health. This is achieved through functional diagnostic testing, negotiating meal plans, recommending non-scheduled supplements as well as providing nutrition related resources or support material (reading, food diaries, recipes etc). It includes guidance on how to make long lasting lifestyle changes (more sleep, exercise, meditation etc).
Today I have a great passion to help, guide, support and inspire other women, kids and families that struggle with their health issues. We live in Dubai, UAE, however I consult online with clients from South Africa, Singapore & the UK.
What is autoimmunity? Or an autoimmune disease?
These days everyone around us seems to have an autoimmune conditions. There are over a 100 recognized autoimmune conditions, with common ones like Hashimoto’s, Hypothyroidism, Crohn’s, Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, Lupus, MS, Vitiligo and even Alzheimer’s. Women more than men tend to develop autoimmune conditions. Certain autoimmune diseases, like Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus, run in families. Not every family member will necessarily have the same disease, but they inherit a susceptibility to an autoimmune condition. While you cannot reverse autoimmune conditions, it can be put in remission (like cancer). The immune system has memory cells, so any trigger can off-set the immune system again. If you have one autoimmune condition it increases your risk for another one.
70% of our immune system resides in our gut lining, the rest is distributed in our body.
The immune system protects us from viruses, bacteria, foreign substances, and even cancer cells, but does so with a delicate balance. Without a good immune response (an under active immune system), even minor infections could be deadly. That said, an overactive immune response (as with autoimmune diseases) can lead to illness.
The gut is the foundation of our health (since 70% of our immune system lives there). Its the first line of defense against pathogens & where we digest & absorb nutrients. Numerous studies have established a direct link between gut health and the immune system, autoimmune disorders, endocrine disorders, mental health & even cancer. It’s no wonder why gut health is a major topic of research in the medical community but also a crucial part of preventing & managing autoimmune conditions.
Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. Meaning our immune system attacking our own body cells. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called auto-antibodies that attack healthy cells. Its a runaway immune response also known as systemic Inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.
Taken as a group, autoimmune diseases are the third leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the industrialized world, only surpassed by cancer and heart disease. Many autoimmune diseases are chronic diseases that progress over the course of years and are characterized by the presence of auto-antibodies that precede the overt disease. Auto-antibodies may also predict specific clinical manifestation, disease severity, and rate of progression, as well as specific clinical phenomena. Early diagnosis of most of these autoimmune conditions are key to prevent further regression & severe symptoms like pain.
Genetic predisposition, environmental factors, chronic infections and gut dysbiosis play major roles in the development of autoimmune diseases. Because the incidence of autoimmune diseases is rising, researchers suspect environmental factors like infections and exposure like chemicals or solvents might also be involved.
What are the common triggers for autoimmunity?
- Functional medicine considers an increased permeability to the gut lining, or a “leaky gut,” a precursor to autoimmunity. All of the below-mentioned triggers can lead to leaky gut syndrome. Because of this, a leaky gut can be seen as a causal trigger, but also the effect that proceeds from an autoimmune condition. When your gut is damaged undigested food proteins and bacterial endotoxins can pass through the protective gut lining, turning on an autoimmune reaction throughout the body.
- The number of possible environmental triggers is vast and includes chemicals (heavy metals), bacteria, viruses (Epstein Barr virus being a common one) and molds.
- Common food triggers include: The infamous “G” word (Gluten) which is a Protein that is found in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and other grains. This Protein is linked to many different studies and is known to lead to an increase risk of autoimmunity. However dairy, eggs, soya, corn, sugar & nightshades can all cause an inflammatory response to create autoimmunity.
- Stress (from work, relationships and life etc) have shown to alter the gut microbiome causing leaky gut, creating an increased risk for autoimmunity.
- Electric magnetic radiation (EMF’s) is the latest in environmental toxins to affect our health, causing gut impermeability & for the immune system to go in overdrive. Some individuals more than others are more sensitive to EMF’s.
Sometimes it’s a combination of triggers that can off set an autoimmune reaction.
Early symptoms of many autoimmune diseases are very similar, such as:
- Tummy troubles, like gas & bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea
- Achy muscles
- Swelling and redness
- Low-grade fever
- Trouble concentrating
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
Individual diseases can also have their own unique symptoms. For example, type 1 diabetes causes extreme thirst, weight loss, and fatigue. IBD causes belly pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
How do you test for autoimmunity?
No single test can diagnose most autoimmune diseases. Your doctor will use a combination of tests and a review of your symptoms and physical examination to diagnose you.
The Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA) is often one of the first tests that doctors use when symptoms suggest an autoimmune disease. A positive test means you may have one of these diseases, but it won’t confirm exactly which one you have or if you have one for sure. Other tests look for specific auto-antibodies produced in certain autoimmune diseases. Your doctor might also do nonspecific tests to check for the inflammation these diseases produce in the body.
My advice would be to seek help from a Functional Medicine practitioner. He/she would not only be able to do the ANA panel, but more functional diagnostic tests to look for the root cause (trigger) of your autoimmune condition.
I got a diagnosis, now what? How to improve on your health today.
I highly recommend you to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner or Nutritionist that specialise in autoimmunity. It takes a lot of hard work, with trial & error. Finding the root cause of your autoimmune condition is a crucial step to recovery. While this might take some time (with lots of testing), you don’t have to delay the healing process. You can start today improving your conditions with the food you eat & some lifestyle modifications.
1. Addressing your gut health with diet
Avoid main food triggers like gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, soya.
Reduce the inflammation in your body with an anti-inflammatory diet, foods like fatty fish, turmeric, ginger, berries, green vegetables. And avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, processed foods, vegetable oils etc.
Healing the gut lining with nutrient dense foods like bone broth, coconut oil, turmeric, chia seeds & many others.
2. Manage your stress
Yes we all know stress is a silent killer. Stress causes inflammation in the body as well as breaking of the gut lining.
Include daily stress reducing strategies like meditation, prayer, yoga, brisk walking, time in nature, etc.
Make sure to get enough quality sleep, this will also help reduce inflammation and support the body to recover.
3. Detox daily
Our liver is the main organ for detoxification. Making sure it works daily is crucial for the removing the build up of toxins that can cause autoimmunity.
- Sweat daily via sauna or exercising.
- Drink enough filtered water.
- Include detox foods in your diet like dandelion, beets, cilantro, lemons, ginger etc.
- Eat foods that promote glutathione levels: avocado, asparagus, cruciferous vegetables, organ meats.
- Make sure you have 1 – 3 bowel movements a day.
4. Environmental toxins
A variety of pathogens & heavy metals can cause autoimmunity. Its worth investigating to see if they play a role. For instance its well known that Epstein Barr virus is present in Hashimoto’s disease, MS and Lupus, while heavy metals in the brain can cause ADHD in children.
Avoid or remove environmental triggers if & when possible example:
- Avoid drinking tap water (high in lead), drink filtered water.
- Avoid using plastic water bottles, plastic containers etc.
- Avoid conventional household cleaning products.
- Avoid conventional beauty products (a lot of toxins enters our body via our skin).
- Limit exposure to EMF’s. Switch the wifi router off at night.
5. Extra support
With autoimmunity you want to modulate and support the immune system, and not over stimulate it. These days we can’t get enough valuable nutrients from our diet, and especially with autoimmunity we sometimes need higher levels and more support. Some supplements have been found to be very supportive in autoimmune conditions include:
Known as the “Sunshine Vitamin”, this nutrient is essential for many metabolic and immunological pathways in the body and for better immunological function and lower inflammation. Vitamin D is most abundant in animal and dairy fats (eggs, organ meats, butter), but the best way to get it is by soaking up some time in the sun – about 20 to 60 minutes a day, depending on your complexion. Consider getting tested every few months to ensure your Vitamin D levels are within a healthy range (ideal range 60-80 ng/ml). There is also an array of natural supplements available.
Product featured: Good Health Colostrum & Better You DLux 1000
Colostrum may also help to support gut health by feeding the beneficial gut bacteria and thus crowding out the pathogenic bacteria. Colostrum is a rich combination of enzymes, antibodies, and growth factors. Colostrum acts as a reboot to the immune system, which is why it is called an immune modulator. As such, colostrum helps modulate the immune system and protect the GI tract. Colostrum also contains immunoglobulins that stay in the GI tract to further support the immune function.
Why spore based probiotics and not another one? Spore-based strains have an innate resistance to the stressors of heat, light, stomach acid, and time. This ensures long-term viability and protects them against degradation so that they reach the lower GI tract intact and alive.
Product featured: Florish Probiotic
These gut bacteria can effectively change the gut by increasing microbial diversity and encouraging the growth of key health-promoting, commensal gut bacteria. While restoring and maintaining healthy gut barrier function to help regulate immune function. Probiotics have been shown to have many positive effects on the body including immuno-modulation, protection from infections, improving digestive conditions, increasing nutrient absorption, helping with weight loss, and improving brain health.
The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) possess the most potent immune-modulatory activities. There have been a number of clinical trials assessing the benefits of dietary supplementation with fish oils in several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in humans, including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Psoriasis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Migraine headaches.
Product featured: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega & Lipolife TurmerEase
There’s a lot of hype around Curcumin these days and for good reason. Curcumin, which comes from a highly concentrated extract of turmeric, plays a huge role in promoting a healthy inflammatory response, a healthy immune system, and healthy aging. Studies have shown that it can positively impact the expression of genes that regulate systemic inflammation, which is a major factor in anyone with autoimmunity.
Glutathione is the body’s most potent antioxidant, and may play a key role in supporting those with autoimmune disease. Studies show low concentrations of glutathione in those with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, in particular, suggesting that depleted levels play a role in autoimmune development. Another study linked low glutathione levels to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and contact dermatitis. Glutathione also plays a role in detoxification. Without enough glutathione to help your body detox, toxins can build up and negatively impact your body’s immune response.
Product featured: Quicksilver Glutathione
Components of medicinal mushrooms have been shown to induce genetic expression that leads to the creation of a variety of immuno-modulatory cytokines and cytokine receptors. This allows for the immune system to respond appropriately to stressors and helps to dampen inappropriate inflammation. Several medicinal mushroom polysaccharides have been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory activity, like Reishi & Shiitake.
Product featured: Sfera AntiflamCare
Is there hope when I have an autoimmune condition?
There is always hope when it comes to autoimmune conditions, addressing the root cause of the problem while changing your lifestyle & diet can take you a long way.
Great examples are Dr. Terry Wahls. She overcame progressive multiple sclerosis. Bound to a wheelchair because of MS she got herself out and in remission relying mostly on food.
My own kids. Both my boys have Vitiligo, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the skin pigmentation and breaks it down. While conventional medicine has told me regaining skin pigmentation is not possible, we have been working hard to modulate the immune system, supporting the body so it can heal itself. We have had progress in regaining skin color again.
So when all is said and done…
Don’t blame it all on the genes. While your genes are set and it may increase your risk for certain autoimmune conditions there is always a trigger involved. Find the trigger and put it out! However, if you have the opportunity to test your DNA, get it done! It’s worth knowing. And being able to change your dietary habits & lifestyle to prevent autoimmune conditions are powerful.
Your diagnosis doesn’t define you, it’s only a name for symptoms specific to an area in your body. Get to the root cause of the problem, don’t just manage symptoms.
Never loose hope, our bodies are amazing at healing given the right food & environment.
Finally work with a team that can support, guide & educate you in your journey, a Functional Medicine practitioner, a Nutritionist, a Health Coach, a Yoga instructor and/or Life coach.
Wishing you lifelong health