Our bodies’ immune systems are designed to protect us from diseases and inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma arthritis and more. In fact, according to Mark Hyman, M.D., autoimmune and chronic diseases affect more than 24 million people in the United States alone. Hyman is the medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center and a 10-time No. 1 New York Times Bestselling author. His blog, “How to Stop Attacking Yourself: 9 Steps to Heal Autoimmune Disease,” says that inflammation is a current “hot topic” in medicine.
Not only is inflammation connected to chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism, dementia and depression, there are also a multitude of inflammatory diseases that afflict us such as allergies, asthma and arthritis. Hyman says that while physicians are trained to “shut off” inflammation with aspirin or anti-inflammatory medication, there is a lack of training in treating underlying causes of inflammation, which include infections, environmental toxins, diet and stress.
Functional medicine, according to Hyman, looks at treating the source of the problem, not just the symptoms. “Functional medicine is a different way of thinking about disease that helps us understand and treat the real causes of inflammation instead of finding clever ways to shut it down,” he said. “Autoimmune conditions are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.”
Hyman shares that he believes the United States is facing an “epidemic” of allergies, asthmatic sufferers and autoimmune disorders. While our immune systems are there to fight against disease, auto-immunity happens when our own tissues fight against themselves in a state of confusion during the attack on infections, toxins, allergens or stress. Hyman says that “functional medicine provides a map to find out which molecule the cells are mimicking” and that conventional treatments to autoimmune disorders can actually make us feel worse and are not long-term solutions. Finding root causes of inflammation can be.
If you want to find the root cause, Hyman shares, you must treat the underlying causes “instead of suppressing symptoms with medications.” Steps in this direction include: checking for hidden infections such as yeast, viruses or bacteria; check for hidden food allergens with IgG food testing or The UltraSimple Diet, which is designed to eliminate most food allergens; get a blood test for celiac disease and heavy metal toxicity; get your gut in order; take nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C and D and probiotics; keep up with a healthy exercise regimen; and practice deep relaxation techniques such as meditation, massage or yoga to alleviate stress, which weakens immune response.
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