Although autoimmune disease symptoms can vary depending on the tissue the immune system is attacking, most people with autoimmunity struggle with bouts of fatigue, energy “crashes,” brain fog, inflammation, and pain. These symptoms can throw a frustrating wrench in your exercise habit. Or if these reoccurring symptoms have prevented you from starting an exercise routine, take heart. Regular exercise can be one of the most effective ways to manage your autoimmune condition — you just need to heed your body’s fluctuating needs and tolerance levels.
Autoimmune disease is a condition in which an immune imbalance causes the immune system to attack and destroy tissue in the body. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that many people successfully manage through functional medicine protocols that include dietary and lifestyle strategies as well as helpful nutraceuticals.
Regular exercise is paramount in managing an autoimmune condition for the following reasons:
It improves circulation, which helps oxygenate body tissue, deliver nutrients to tissues, remove debris, and facilitate detoxification.
It produces chemicals that enhance brain function, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor; a healthy brain facilitates a healthy body.
How exercise may be different for the person managing autoimmune disease
Although autoimmune disease can feel like a burden, especially when you’re having a flare, many people report it has also forced them to live more balanced, healthy lives.
With autoimmune disease you typically don’t have the privilege of abusing your body to be more productive, to sleep less, to give too much, to say yes too often, and so on.
This also means you don’t always have the option of pushing yourself as hard as you’d like when you exercise. This can be hard on the ego, especially when it comes to exercising in a group situation. For instance, if you are involved in a team sport, group exercise class, or other situation that invites a competitive drive, your ego may want to do more than your body can deliver.
It’s important to pay attention to your body because while exercise has profound anti-inflammatory potential, over exercising will make inflammation worse and could trigger an autoimmune flare.
Likewise, if you’re new to exercise and afraid of triggering a flare, you may feel too intimidated by a group exercise class and looking “weak” or “lazy.”
Rest assured that’s just your ego talking and it’s best not to take orders from it if you want to prevent an autoimmune flare or excessive inflammation. Also, other people are too absorbed in their own workouts to notice yours.
If you would like help understanding Exercise and Autoimmunity disease, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Challenge yourself enough to release anti-inflammatory compounds but not so much you can’t comfortably return the next day
Many people with autoimmune disease find optimal results managing their autoimmunity by maintaining a consistent exercise schedule most days of the week.
Pulling this off means tuning in to your body to find the exercise sweet spot for autoimmune management — not too little and not too much.
Science shows using high-intensity interval training (HIIT) provides the most benefits for managing inflammation, boosting circulation and oxygenation, and improving brain function.
HIIT involves exercising at your maximum heart rate for short bursts of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, followed by a rest and recover phase, and then repeating.
If you’re new to exercise, even just a few minutes a day can start to deliver HIIT’s benefits. If you’d like to improve your fitness level, incorporate HIIT into a longer workout that also includes weight training and some endurance training.
It can be confusing knowing how to safely exercise to maximize its anti-inflammatory effects without going too far. Some great online resources exist that can help you figure out safe ranges using a heart rate monitor. Gyms such as Orange Theory Fitness also use heart-rate tracking, in addition to motivational coaching, to help you dial in your sweet spot.
The beauty of HIIT is that you can adjust it to your fitness level. One person’s HIIT may be sprinting up some stadium stairs while another person’s HIIT may be doing some push-ups from the knees. Both people benefit.
Keep these tips in mind when exercising with autoimmunity:
Find an exercise that is fun and enjoyable. Positivity is anti-inflammatory while dread and negativity are pro-inflammatory. Making it fun will be part of the health benefits. A group class or social setting may be healthy for the same reason.
Challenge yourself enough to get your heart rate up.
Don’t challenge yourself so much you trigger a flare. The key is to be able to do it again the next day. A consistent exercise schedule will deliver the most health benefits.
Pay attention to your body. If you are feeling so run down you can hardly get out of bed, that is probably not a good day to go work out. If you are feeling a little run down but can function, dial back the intensity of your exercise but see if you can still perform. Sometimes a light workout helps you recover faster than not working out.
If you are feeling really run down while working out, it may be better to quit early than to push through.
Capitalize on the days you feel good to challenge yourself a little more than normal, being cautious not to overdo it.
Remember, this is a lifelong condition that requires lifelong attention. Make each day of exercise about the long-range journey as much as that day’s session.
Ask my office for more information on managing autoimmune disease and chronic health symptoms.
How can the 6 R’s help your digestion and autoimmunity?
Do you have autoimmunity and have tried everything to heal your gut? Maybe you’ve “gone Paleo,” made barrels of bone broth, stopped sugar and gluten and eaten lots of probiotic foods. You might have even taken tons of supplements, and it seems like it’s not working.
It turns out when it comes to healing the gut or recovering from chronic conditions, you have to do things in the right order to get well.
That is where the 4, 5, or 6 “R” Program comes in. This program first started as a 4 “R” program (Jeffrey Bland), then grew into a 5 “R” program, and now is a 6 “R” program.
The “R” Program is a systematic, comprehensive approach for restoring your gastrointestinal function. It can help people with:
Food allergies and intolerances (gluten, dairy)
SIBO, candida, and dysbiosis
Gut inflammation like Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disorder
This program is not just for digestive issues though. It can also help chronic health conditions that seem unrelated to the digestive system, such as:
Lung issues like asthma, environmental allergies, bronchial problems
Sensitivity to odors and fragrances
Adrenal dysfunction, night sweats, hormonal imbalances
Compromised immune system, frequent infections
Autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
The overall health of the gut depends on three things:
1 – Digestion (break down food)
2 – Absorption of nutrients
3 – Elimination of waste
The “R” Program also helps the following:
“Resets” your GI tract by normalizing digestion, absorption, and assimilation of your food. It reduces gas, stomach pain and bloating.
Populates your microbiome with the right bacteria. A healthy microbiome can produce vitamins like folic acid and others. It can also produce short chain fatty acids which feed your intestinal cells. It can regulate bowel movements (too fast or too slow is a problem), and influence your weight, nervous system, and even keep the bad bacteria at bay.
Heal’s leaky gut. This step can make a big difference in chronic related conditions like autoimmunity and immune issues and food allergies or intolerances, which can create inflammation.
Detoxifies your body from the inside out by reducing the toxins your gut flora produces from inadequately digested foods or the byproducts from bad bacteria.
Prevents diseases in the gut, like SIBO, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease, not to mention autoimmunity.
Think of your gut as a garden. You must have a good starting point – healthy nourishment for the plants to grow.
You must have water.
Good fertilizer – you must eat the right foods to nourish your microbiome.
Weed and bug control – a healthy microbiome of the good guys helps control the bad.
Maintenance – sometimes we need to help the system with extra nourishment like Glutamine or bug eradication herbs. You even have to control your stress regularly which controls your hormones.
Harvesting – what goes in must come out in a timely manner. If it doesn’t, things can go bad – exercise, fresh juices, and fiber intake can help.
Your intestinal cells are always replenishing, and most conditions will see a benefit in 3 to 6 months. Autoimmunity like Crohn’s disease may take longer.
Here are the 6 R’s
1 – Remove – inflammatory foods. This can be done with the AIP, FODMAP, Paleo, or rotation diet. The goal is to reduce the burden of irritants and poorly digested foods in your GI tract and as a result of lower inflammation, dampen food allergies and intolerances.
2 – Replace – digestive support.
HCL – secreted by the stomach for protein digestion and to provide protection from various pathogens. It also helps stimulate other digestive processes.
Enzymes – proteases, cellulases, and lipases that break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Bile Salts – helps support bile which is normally secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder for use when digesting and utilizing fats.
If things don’t digest well, you won’t get your nutrients and then everything goes downhill from there. In addition, food that doesn’t digest can putrify in the gut and can cause inflammation.
3 – Repair – You need to add additional nutritional supplements to promote proper repair of the intestinal lining and hormones. Glutamine and glycine are important amino acids for repair of the gut wall. Glutamine serves as a source of fuel for the cells that line the intestines. Good support includes DLG, aloe, slippery elm, marshmallow root, and even ginger. B5, zinc, omega 3 fish oil, vitamin A, C, E, and D. Cabbage juice, collagen or bone broth can help as well. NAC or glutathione can be beneficial also.
4 – Remove infections – Test and treat for h pylori, parasites, fungus (candida), and other dysbiosis. So many other “R” plans, try to do this in the first step, which is very tough on the system. It makes a big difference to do it in this order when things are calmed down and your body can fight the infections effectively.
5 – Repopulate and Reinoculate – pre and probiotics. You need to take in the right foods for the probiotics to eat so they can thrive. They can include different fibers such as inulin, fructooligosaccharides or arabinogalactans. They can include berries, Jerusalem artichoke, flax seed, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and the cruciferous veggies.
Probiotics should be designed to support the proliferation of beneficial bacteria throughout the small and large intestines. They also need to have the right designed delivery mechanism so that the microbiome gets to where it needs to go, and avoids the stomach digestion. There is so much positive research on probiotics and the benefit to your health.
6 – Retain and Retest – You must maintain that healthy GI environment: diet, vitamins, minerals, protein, in addition to everything you learned earlier with the other R’s. Retesting is important to make sure you have achieved your goal. Occasional testing may be important to make sure you remain on the right track.
Autoimmune disease is a modern epidemic in which your body’s immune system, which normally helps defend you from pathogens, mistakenly attacks your own organs and tissues. Current research tells us multiple factors can play a role in causing autoimmunity, including viruses. More recently, a virus has been linked with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which symptoms are triggered by eating gluten.
Celiac disease linked with normally harmless virus in humans
Celiac disease affects one in 133 people in the United States, however only 17 percent have been diagnosed.
While former research has focused on genetic factors underlying celiac disease, a recent study found a link between celiac disease and reovirus, a normally harmless virus in humans.
The study found that mouse subjects with celiac-like disease have higher levels of reovirus antibodies than those without the disease. Those with reovirus antibodies also had high levels of a gene regulator that plays a role in loss of oral tolerance to gluten protein.
In the study, researchers took two different reovirus strains that infect humans (T1L and T3D), and tested them on mice. Both types triggered a protective immune response, but only the T1L caused the mice’s immune systems to act against gluten. This triggered a celiac-like condition in the mice.
The immune response triggered by the T1L virus was dependent on a molecule called interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1), which has been found in higher than normal levels in the small intestine of human children with celiac disease.
This suggests that early reovirus infection might raise the risk for developing gluten-related autoimmunity.
According to lead researcher author Bana Jabri, MD, PhD, director of research at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, “During the first year of life, the immune system is still maturing, so for a child with a particular genetic background, getting a particular virus at that time can leave a kind of scar that then has long term consequences.”
Along with other researchers, Jabri is investigating the possibility that other viruses can play a similar role in autoimmunity.
If you would like help understanding the Viruses that trigger celiac disease and other autoimmunities, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Chronic viral infection makes the short list for autoimmune factors
Research increasingly indicates viruses and bacteria may play a role in the development of autoimmunity.
Viruses and bacteria trigger an immune response in the body. Some researchers suggest that the antibodies we produce in response may also attack our body’s cells. This may be because they resemble the virus or bacteria, confusing the immune system into the attack.
If you already experience lifestyle-induced chronic inflammation, this makes the immune system hyper zealous and thus more likely to erroneously attack self-tissue.
The viruses suspected in connection with autoimmunity are varied, and some are linked to multiple conditions:
Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis is associated with Epstein Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex 1 and 2, hepatitis C, and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Multiple Sclerosis is associated with EBV and measles virus.
Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with EBV, hepatitis C, E-coli bacteria, and mycobacteria.
Lupus is associated with EBV.
Type 1 diabetes is associated with coxsackievirus B4, cytomegalovirus, mumps virus, and rubella virus.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is associated with EBV, CMV, and campylobacter bacteria.
Know your viral exposure
Having a viral or bacterial infection is not a guarantee of developing autoimmunity, because other factors must come together for it to occur. However, it’s a good idea to take viral exposure into account when looking for the root causes and treatment of your autoimmune condition.
Some practitioners say regardless of other medical protocols, patients with autoimmunity do not go into remission unless they also address their chronic viral and bacterial infections.
Because viral infections usually occur well before any autoimmune symptoms develop, it can be difficult to make a definitive link between a specific infection and a your autoimmune disorder.
Therefore, if you are seeing your doctor about your autoimmune condition, remember to mention any infections you know you’ve had, even back in your childhood; some viruses such as Epstein Barr can persist in the body for decades without obvious symptoms. Lastly, if you don’t seem to be able to heal, ask about testing for hidden chronic viral infections as well as bacterial gut infections.
Other autoimmunity risk factors
Although there is a genetic component to autoimmunity, the following factors are linked to an increased risk of develop an autoimmune condition:
Females. Women represent about 75 percent of autoimmune cases. Researchers speculate women’s hormones or their active immune systems make them more vulnerable to developing autoimmunity.
Young to middle-aged. While the elderly can develop autoimmunity such as rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions more frequently show up in youth or middle age.
African American, Native American, or Latinx heritage. These ethic groups represent higher rates of autoimmunity than others.
Family history of autoimmunity. If your family members have had autoimmunity, you are at higher risk.
Environmental exposure to toxins or heavy metals. There is evidence relating toxic exposure to higher rates of autoimmunity.
Intestinal hyper-permeability (leaky gut). Leaky gut is present not only in all autoimmune diseases, but in other chronic illnesses such as heart disease, depression, and more.
When it comes to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, dampening inflammation and immune attacks on the thyroid is the primary goal. One of the most powerful allies in this quest is to support your regulatory T cells (T reg cells). These are immune cells that do what their name implies — they help regulate the immune system. This means they play a role in either activating or dampening inflammation. The good news is that when it comes to Hashimoto’s, we can do many things to influence the T reg cells to dampen inflammation and quell Hashimoto’s flare ups and attacks so you can have more good days.
Ways to support T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s
If you would like help understanding ways to support T Reg Cells to manage Hashimoto’s, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Following are some proven ways we can support our T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s.
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol). Fat soluble vitamin D is a powerful supporter of the T reg cells, especially at therapeutic doses (around 10,000 IU a day).
Vitamin D is also important because studies show many people with Hashimoto’s have a genetic defect hindering their ability to process vitamin D. Therefore, they need higher amounts of vitamin D to maintain health. This can be the case even if a blood test shows sufficient levels of serum vitamin D. That’s because the defect is at the cellular receptor site, preventing vitamin D from getting into the cells.
Omega 3 fatty acids. The EPA and DHA in fish oil support T-reg cells. It’s important to make sure you take enough; it’s estimated 80 percent of the population are deficient in essential fatty acids.
Research shows a healthy dietary intake of supplemental omga-3 is 3,500 mg if you eat 2,000 calories per day.
The average EFA capsule is 1,000 mg. Most people in the US eat between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day and therefore should take 4 to 6 capsules of fish oil a day. Dietary sources of omega 3 include cold water fish, nuts, and seeds.
Glutathione. Glutathione, also known as the master antioxidant, supports T reg cells and is a powerful support in dampening inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. Straight glutathione cannot be absorbed well but there are other ways to take it, including reduced glutathione, s-acetyl-glutathione, liposomal glutathione, and glutathione precursors.
Glutathione precursors make glutathione inside the cells and include n-acetyl cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, and alpha lipoic acid. Don’t be shy to take large amounts of glutathione support to dampen inflammation.
Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are powerful signaling compounds that influence the health of the body and brain. They are produced by healthy gut bacteria that come from eating a diet abundant in a diverse array of vegetables. The more abundant and diverse your gut bacteria the better your SCFA production.
This helps many functions in your body, including proper T reg cell function and dampening of inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. You can also take the SCFA butyrate to support your SCFA levels, however, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating plenty of vegetables throughout the day too for this strategy to be effective.
Endorphins. Saving the best for last, did you know a powerful way to support anti-inflammatory function of T reg cells is to experience joy, happiness, love, and playfulness? All of these things produce endorphins, feel good chemicals that reduce inflammation. Methods for increasing endorphins include:
Socializing regularly with healthy people
Meditation and breath work
Massage and other forms of body work
Doing something playful regularly
Daily expression of gratitude via a journal or verbal affirmation
Regular exercise that gives you a “natural high” but doesn’t wear you out
These are some of the ways you can manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Ask my office for more information.
Have you ever wanted to know everything there is to know about your thyroid? This 7-part video series will cover thyroid lab testing, nutrition and infections that affect the thyroid, toxins, thyroid hormone conversion, lifestyle, and adrenal interplay.