Exercise may seem like a bad idea when you feel run down, in pain, or fatigued from an autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity, a disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, can make exercise feel like an impossible feat when you’re not feeling good.
However, studies show daily physical activity improves outcomes and helps manage symptoms compared to not exercising at all. This even extends to patients who may stop exercising due to pain, such as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. No matter how small the effort, something is better than nothing when it comes to regular physical activity and autoimmunity.
Exercise guidelines for autoimmunity
Exercise has many general benefits, the best perhaps being that it simply makes you feel better. People who engage in regular physical activity report less depression and better self-esteem, and are happier. These benefits alone support autoimmune management as a positive mindset is more anti-inflammatory compared to a negative one.
However, when it comes to autoimmunity, exercise delivers specific immune benefits. In fact, you’ll never reach your full potential at managing an autoimmune condition unless regular physical activity is part of your protocol.
In studies, regular exercise has been shown to help dampen autoimmunity in patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions. Studies have also shown that sedentary patients have higher incidences of autoimmune diseases than more active patients.
Research also shows that as a trend, patients with autoimmune disease tend to be more sedentary. This is understandable — autoimmune disease can make you feel poorly much of the time and our cultural depictions of exercise make it seem unattainable. The pressure to be a hard-bodied athlete who flips tractor tires and runs up stadium stairs can lead to resignation instead of physical activity.
But the benefits of physical activity for autoimmunity don’t have to come from intense workouts at a CrossFit gym, long runs, or two-hour weightlifting sessions to deliver benefits. Your fitness level, symptoms, and energy levels will determine what is appropriate for you.
To be effective in managing autoimmunity, exercise can be as simple as a short walk around the block if you’re just getting started. If chronic pain is an issue, exercising in water or on a recumbent stationary cycle may be more appropriate. If you’re feeling good and have been building your fitness, daily high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which activates a wide number of anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating mechanisms, can super charge the autoimmune-dampening benefits of your workouts.
While it’s important to exercise regularly, equally important is to not overdo it. Overtraining increases inflammation and can and lead to exercise intolerance, a condition in which exercise makes you feel worse, takes an unusual amount of time to recover from, or triggers a relapse or flare.
Exercise intolerance stems from compromised mitochondria related to chronic inflammation associated with autoimmunity.
Also, for some people with autoimmunity, there are days where they are bedridden with flu-like symptoms and barely able to function, much less exercise. Approach your physical activity habit with common sense and self-compassion — some days it just won’t be appropriate and that’s ok. Ease back into it when you feel better.
If you would like help understanding the Benefits of Exercise for Autoimmunity, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Why exercise is good for autoimmunity
The primary benefit of exercise with autoimmunity is that it lowers inflammation and stabilizes immune function. Because inflammatory flare ups provoke autoimmune relapses and tissue destruction, keeping inflammation down and immune function stable is paramount.
Physical activity increases the activity of regulatory T cells. These cells are critical when it comes to managing autoimmunity. As their name implies, they help regulate the immune system when it comes to increasing or dampening inflammation. Exercise has a profound impact on regulatory T cells.
Exercise also shifts the balance between the pro-inflammatory Th1 system and the anti-inflammatory Th2 system to be less inflammatory and more balanced.
It also promotes the release of messenger immune cells called IL-6, which help dampen inflammation.
A study on the effects of exercise on women with lupus showed that three months of regular aerobic exercise modulated immunity and did not trigger inflammation.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis show milder symptoms and improved joint mobility with regular exercise.
In patients with multiple sclerosis, physical activity enhanced mood and mobility. Exercise lowers the risk of neuropathy in type 1 diabetes patients.
Many people feel they can’t exercise due to pain, but research has shown it reduces pain in patients with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions that cause pain.
If you feel too unwell to exercise, ask yourself what you feel you can reasonably do and start there. Ask my office for more advice on using physical activity to address autoimmunity.
Chronic fatigue syndrome — more correctly called myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) — is one of the more frustrating chronic illnesses because most doctors don’t believe it exists or that it’s a psychiatric issue. Despite symptoms that completely debilitate its victims, ME/CFS is often the butt of jokes or medical ridicule because there is no lab marker to diagnose it even though it has been linked to inflammation of the nervous system.
However, that may change thanks to the invention by a father whose adult son has been bedridden with ME/CFS for the last 10 years.
The father, who is also a Stanford scientist, developed a simple blood test that measures the energy cells expend in order to maintain homeostasis after exposure to salt. Salt stresses cells, which must retain balance in sodium levels in order to function properly.
The researcher passed the cells exposed to salt through a small microchip that uses an electrical current to measure the energy exertion of the cells. Less exertion indicates the cells are able to easily maintain sodium balance, while more exertion meant finding balance required considerable effort.
The test was run on 40 people — 20 of whom suffer from ME/CFS and 20 healthy controls. In all 20 of the ME/CFS group, the cells expended significantly more energy in response to the salt compared to the cells of the 20 healthy people. This indicates the ME/CFS group had cells that were considerably less functional and more stressed.
Poor cellular function leads to poor function of the body and brain. Dysfunctional cells that can’t produce enough energy result in a body that is constantly fatigued and in poor health with multiple symptoms.
Although the test needs to be run on larger groups of people, if the research is able to replicate these results, it means conventional medicine will finally have the biomarker it needs to legitimize ME/CFS as a medical condition in the eyes of ordinary doctors.
Conventional advice for ME/CFS can be debilitating
One mistake many conventional doctors make when they examine a patient with ME/CFS is to assume they are lazy or hypochondriacs. As such, it’s common for doctors to tell ME/CFS patients to exercise to improve their symptoms.
This is bad advice for the ME/CFS patient whose cells are struggling to maintain just basic functions.
In fact, many patients with chronic fatigue are so severely fatigued they cannot work, have normal lives, or even leave their beds. Any exertion exacerbates their symptoms in what is called “post-exertional malaise.” For these individuals, exercise is an extremely inappropriate prescription.
ME/CFS affects several million people in the United States, although it’s estimated that as many as 90 percent of sufferers have not been diagnosed, due to the difficulty of receiving a proper diagnosis. It can take years and visits to multiple doctors to find one who will take the symptoms seriously.
Another difficulty in diagnosis is that patients suffer from multiple symptoms in addition to chronic fatigue, such as chronic pain, difficulties with memory and concentration, gut issues, and extreme sensitivities to light, sound, smell. Poor cellular function affects multiple organs so that symptoms can vary depending on the person.
ME/CFS can be diagnosed though a simple checklist of symptoms, however most primary care doctors are not aware of the list or adhere to the belief the disorder is imaginary. Conventional doctors also don’t like to diagnose ME/CFS because no drugs exist to treat it.
However, should the new testing prove to be accurate, it would give the millions of sufferers a diagnosis, thus eliminating the demoralizing mystery. This would also open the doors to new research into the condition.
Recent research into brain inflammation could also bring hope for ME/CFS
Fortunately, recent research breakthroughs in brain inflammation offer promise in not only validating ME/CFS but also its treatment.
Brain inflammation is more common than previously realized and is increasingly linked to myriad conditions other than ME/CFS, including depression, anxiety, childhood brain development disorders, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Immune cells in the brain outnumber neurons 10 to one and are vastly more important than previously realized. They are responsible for maintaining neuronal health and function and removing debris and plaque from the brain. However, when the brain is impacted by inflammation from dietary or lifestyle factors or a brain injury, the brain’s immune cells must abandon their jobs of supporting neuronal health and instead go into persistent warrior mode, damaging brain tissue in the process. Unlike the body’s immune system, the brain’s has no off switch.
There are no drugs to tame brain inflammation, however, it has been shown to respond to certain botanical compounds and functional medicine protocols that include dietary, lifestyle, and health interventions.
Ask my office for more advice on how we can help you with fatigue.
Although few doctors know how to successfully manage autoimmune disease — a condition in which the immune system attacks the body — researchers say it has become a modern epidemic, affecting more people than heart disease and cancer combined. Conventional medicine also argues autoimmune disease has mysterious origins and is primarily genetic, but again research paints a different picture — autoimmune disease has largely been traced to the tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in our environment.
It takes the average person five years and visiting at least five different doctors before they receive a diagnosis for autoimmunity. Despite many published and peer-reviewed scientific studies about autoimmunity, rare are medical doctors who know how to identify symptoms of autoimmunity, properly screen for it, or appropriately treat it.
Most autoimmune patients are prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, told they need to exercise more or lose weight, or told they are making up their symptoms. More than 75 percent of patients with autoimmunity are women, which suggests the sexism shown to exist in medicine stands in the way of better treatments.
If medical doctors do diagnose autoimmune disease, it is typically only after the disease has almost completely destroyed the targeted tissue, whether it’s parts of the brain, the thyroid gland, or the sheaths that coat the nerves. At this point they can offer invasive treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery.
Examples of popular autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and vitiligo. Although about 100 autoimmune diseases have been identified so far, the truth is the immune system can attack any cell in the body and researchers believe there are probably more than 100.
Autoimmunity rates are skyrocketing. Consider the following:
Type 1 diabetes rose 23 percent between 2001 and 2009 in the US
Crohn’s disease rose 300 percent in 20 years in the UK
Inflammatory bowel disease has risen more than 7 percent every year in Canada
An Israeli study showed autoimmune rates are rising worldwide
Studies show autoimmune rates rise the most in developed nations and in countries that are developing while they are lowest in the least developed countries.
“Developed” has become synonymous with “toxic.”About 80,000 chemicals that haven’t been tested on humans are in our environment in the US and about 5,000 new ones are added every year. Random blood sampling studies show that we all have dozens, if not hundreds (depends on how many they test), of these chemicals in our bloodstream. One study of fetal cord blood found almost 300 different chemicals in newborns around the country.
Other studies link different chemicals to different autoimmune diseases. For instance, mercury has been shown to trigger lupus and pesticides are linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
Rising autoimmune rates are also traced to poor diets high in processed foods and low in plant fiber. This compromises the gut microbiome, or gut bacteria diversity, which has been linked to poor immune function.
Low vitamin D levels, high chronic stress levels, hormonal imbalances, high sugar consumption, and sedentary lifestyles are some of other common reasons for the autoimmune epidemic.
A functional medicine approach to autoimmune disease
When it comes to autoimmunity, functional medicine shines.
For one thing, we listen to you. We know you are not crazy, making up your symptoms, or attention seeking. Autoimmunity is frustrating and confounding in its wide variety of symptoms and mysterious nature. We understand how demoralizing this can be.
Although symptoms vary depending on the tissue being attacked, common symptoms among all autoimmune sufferers include fatigue, malaise, pain, brain fog, depression, and periods where you “crash,” or have such low energy you can’t function.
In functional medicine we use lab tests that screen for multiple autoimmune conditions at once. This allows us to identify an autoimmune reaction taking place that may not be advanced enough yet to cause extreme symptoms. This allows us to halt or slow its progression.
We also can test for the triggers in your environment, such as certain foods you may not be aware are sending your immune system into a tailspin, such as gluten, or specific chemicals, such as benzene. Avoiding these triggers can help you feel better.
Successfully managing autoimmunity is not necessarily about managing the part of your body that is being attacked. Instead, it’s about addressing your hyper zealous and misguided immune system. The immune system is very complex and always in flux, but thankfully new research is continually helping us learn new strategies to balance immunity, dampen inflammation, tame autoimmune flares, and prevent autoimmunity from progressing and devastating the body.
In fact, some autoimmune patients say their autoimmune disease has taught them how to live more balanced and healthy lives than they would have otherwise.
Ask my office for more information about how to manage your autoimmune condition.
If you feel like you have a harder time staying slim than your grandparents did at your age, you are right. We are about 10 percent heavier than people in the 80s, even when we eat the same foods and exercise just as much. This may be due to changes in lifestyle and environmental factors that impact our BMI, or body mass index.
Recent research by York University’s Faculty of Health shows it’s harder to maintain the same weight at a certain age than it was for someone 20 or 30 years ago. Even if you eat exactly the same macros (protein, fat, and carbs) and do the same amount and type of exercise, you are likely to be heavier than they were at your age.
In fact, with all factors accounted for, the predicted BMI has risen 2.3 points between 1988 and 2006.
According to study author Jennifer Kuk, “Our study results suggest that if you are 40 years old now, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than if you were a 40-year-old in 1971, to prevent gaining weight. However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”
Specific factors contribute to our increased BMI
Historically we tend to look only to dietary and exercise habits when we consider our weight or BMI (body mass index).
However, weight management is much more complex than watching what you eat and how much you work out. Our BMI is affected by many factors such as:
Gut bacteria populations
Nighttime light exposure
While the study’s authors admit we need more research to determine exactly how these factors play into the changed BMI picture, they suggest three main players:
Increased environmental toxins. Compared to 30 years ago, we are exposed to a higher level of environmental toxins such as pesticides, air pollution, heavy metals, flame retardants, plastics used for food storage, and more. These toxins put a heavy burden on the endocrine system, altering the hormonal processes that affect metabolism and weight management.
Increased use of prescription drugs. Since the 1970s our use of prescription drugs has risen dramatically. Many antidepressant drugs are linked with weight gain and are the most prescribed drugs in the US for people between 18 and 44.
Our gut microbiome has changed. The gut microbiome, or the community of good and bad bacteria that naturally inhabit the digestive tract, have changed dramatically since the 80’s.
Americans eat differently than they used to. The products we eat are more filled with antibiotics, pesticides, and other toxins; we eat more artificial sweeteners; and we eat more junk food. All of these factors may negatively affect our gut bacteria populations.
A hot topic of research, the gut microbiome is linked to more and more aspects of health and disease. We now know that some gut bacteria are linked with weight gain and obesity. In fact, doctors are even using fecal implantation — insertion of gut bacteria from a healthy slim patient into the gut of an unhealthy obese patient — to reduce chronic obesity.
If you would like help understanding about keeping your weight balanced, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Support your microbiome with SCFA
In functional medicine we consider the gut microbiome to be a foundation of health. An imbalanced gut microbiome can prevent you from healing from many health disorders, so it makes sense to do everything you can to support yours.
One important factor is oral tolerance, or the body’s ability to properly recognize food proteins. When we lose oral tolerance, the immune system mistakenly thinks more and more foods are pathogens, and we begin to have more food sensitivities, increased hormonal issues, increased autoimmunity, and imbalanced metabolism and weigh gain.
You can support oral tolerance by fixing leaky gut, supporting liver function, taming histamine reactions, reducing stress, and balancing blood sugar. But one of the best ways to support it is by providing your body with plenty of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).
SCFA are powerful gut signaling compounds found in fruits and vegetables that affect not only the gut but also the brain and other parts of the body.
Your gut bacteria not only make SCFA, they also need them as fuel to produce more SCFA. The more you eat them, the more your good gut bacteria can outweigh the bad.
Three main SCFAs include:
SCFA bind to cell receptors that control your hunger and appetite, turn off insulin resistance, and burn body fat more efficiently.
When you are low on SCFA you will:
Have a larger appetite
Be prone to insulin resistance (think pre-diabetes)
Store body fat better than you burn it
When gut diversity is ruined, SCFA can’t signal properly and you end up with what we call an “obese microbiome.”
How to support SCFA
To support healthy levels of SCFA, adopt the following habits:
Eat abundant and varied produce. Eat plenty of diverse vegetables so your gut bacteria stay adept at recognizing many different food proteins. Aim for 7 to 9 servings a day. One serving consists of a half cup of chopped vegetable or one cup of shredded greens. Go easy on high-sugar fruits to keep your blood sugar stable.
Supplement with SCFA. You may benefit from also supplementing with butyrate, the main SCFA. Start with one capsule a day and work your way up to two capsules twice a day.
Boost glutathione levels. Glutathione is the master antioxidant that helps dampen inflammation, a main factor in loss of microbiome diversity. Take absorbable glutathione such as s-acetyl glutathione (regular glutathione isn’t absorbed well), or its precursors such as n-acetyl cysteine.
There are many other helpful ways to support a healthy microbiome. Contact my office to determine your microbiome health and how to improve it, so you can maintain a healthy weight.
Asthma is one of the most common diseases in America, affecting nearly 1 in 12 people. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or health condition regardless of whether or not you have a history of respiratory issues or not. Asthma causes the airways to swell up and reduce the surface area available for air to pass through the bronchioles into the bloodstream. This makes it difficult to get enough oxygen into your body and causes shortness of breath, coughing, paleness, and lethargy. While asthma is traditionally associated with either genetics or a permanent condition, functional medicine physicians are finding that the main causes include bad air quality, poor diet and gut health, and food sensitivities – all of which can be addressed with natural remedies. As it turns out, asthma does not have to result in being chained to an inhaler for the rest of your days if you learn to fight the disease at its source.
Recently, functional medicine patients have been able to slowly decrease symptoms and taper off of their inhaler by focusing on improving gut and respiratory health naturally. It is common for patients who suffer from asthma to also have an unbalanced gut microbiome and conditions such as leaky gut. These conditions contribute to an increase in unhealthy inflammation throughout the body, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways – in this case causing inflammation in the sinuses and lungs. If you have ASTHMA and want to know more, schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
In most cases, patients who have undergone a regular dosage of prescription antibiotics can experience damage to the lining of the stomach wall as a result. This causes a variety of side effects that include decreased nutrient absorption, immune response, and also increases the risk of developing leaky gut and inflammation. Asthma is largely a cause of a multitude of physiologic conditions that when all left unattended and out of control, lead to a much greater risk for developing the disease and its symptoms.
How to Naturally Fight Asthma
While there is no known cure for the condition other than an inhaler and prescription medication, there are ways to fight symptoms and reduce your risk of contracting the disease. This is done by targeting the causes of asthma and inflammation, damaged lung tissue, decreased oxygen utilization, and more.
Some of the steps you can take to curb these symptoms naturally and at the source include:
Improve Your Diet
There are various types of foods that can help to improve oxygen absorption, airway health, and also increase the immune response and protect against inflammation and tissue damage. Anti-inflammatory foods include leafy greens, walnuts, grains, and fish. Removing heavy foods that are pro-inflammatory will also aid in reducing asthma risk as well as increasing energy and overall gut health. Start by slowly removing certain foods for a period of time including those that contain gluten, dairy, and soy.
Supplement With Magnesium and Zinc
Magnesium helps the tissues in your airways relax so you can breathe easier and with less effort. Studies show almost half of Americans consume much less than the recommended amounts of this crucial mineral from food alone and is a reason why asthma risk is high for so many people. Whole-food magnesium sources include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. It is also recommended to start supplementing with a multivitamin or targeted specific dietary options. Aim for 400 mg of magnesium daily, preferably as magnesium glycinate. Zinc is another important mineral for your immune system and people with deficiencies are at a higher risk for asthma due to the decreased ability for the body to utilize oxygen and produce red blood cells without it. Zinc-rich foods include beans, nuts, and high-quality animal protein. Aim for 15 mg of zinc daily in your food and supplements.
Engage in Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing and meditation exercises can be an easy and effective way to not only fight against the symptoms of asthma but also improve mood and cognition as well. By performing deep breathing exercises at least 3-4 times a week, you can slowly improve overall lung capacity, increase oxygen absorption, and enhance the overall health of the respiratory system. In addition, deep breathing exercises also help to curb stress which is another asthma-inducing contributor. Stress is terrible for those with asthma as it harms your body’s ability to fight infection and inflammation, making it much more susceptible to a variety of conditions.
If you are suffering from asthma or believe you are beginning to develop symptoms, schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATIONwith Dr. Celaya. By treating the symptoms from the source of the problem, you can improve lung capacity and tissue health naturally without the need for prescription pills or surgery.
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.