SOULFUL Insights is a regular series featuring expert advice on matters relevant to health and wellness. Specialists, with interests that intersect with our salon topics, will share their respective insights. Our aim is to deliver cutting-edge science and wellness information to you, our reader.
The Six Keys You Control to Beat Autoimmune Disorders, Part Two
by Palmer Kippola, FMCHC
In 2010, I reversed a 26-year course of relapsing-remitting MS, mostly by changing what I ate and healing my gut. Most integrative, functional or naturopathic practitioners observe that their patients with autoimmune conditions heal 60–80%—and sometimes 100%—when they remove triggering foods and heal their guts. For many people, though, there are several additional factors that must be considered.
I found exciting science that reveals that anyone, regardless of genetic predispositions or how long you’ve been sick, can heal from and prevent any of the 150+ autoimmune conditions by addressing six key lifestyle factors, which I call F.I.G.H.T.S.™ for food, infections, gut health, hormone balance, toxins and stress.
In Part One of this series, we examined how food and gut health promote autoimmunity and looked at best practices for optimal nutrition and gut health. Now we’ll shine a light on the other four root cause categories: infections, hormone balance, toxins and, far from least, stress.
F.I.G.H.T.S.™: The Six Keys to Beating Autoimmune Conditions
Many infections can trigger autoimmunity, even when you don’t know they’re there. Viruses like the Herpes family, including Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV), can hide in your body for years, only to re-ignite when your defenses are down. To uncover stealth viruses, get a comprehensive viral panel done with an integrative, functional or naturopathic practitioner. He or she can help you clear the infection as naturally as possible—remedies like monolaurin (derived from coconut), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), lemon balm and L-lysine can be very effective, especially when taken in combination.
To avoid new or reactivated infections, aim to make your body less hospitable to them. Unburden your immune system by eating a lower-carb diet, avoiding sugar, and increasing your vitamin D levels with sunlight or supplements. To further support your immune system, boost your metabolism and ward off infections, you may want to incorporate cold showers into your routine. (A Dutch study found that those who doused themselves with cold water had 29% fewer sick days.)
Our bodies are built to withstand and clear toxins, but too much exposure—courtesy of our modern-day environment—can overwhelm our detoxification systems. Evading every pollutant and harmful chemical is impossible, but if you practice the “precautionary principle,” which focuses on avoiding unnecessary chemicals in your food, home and body-care products, you’ll do a great service to your health.
Eat organic food, including 100% grass-fed meats and wild fish; at the very least, avoid the EWG’s Dirty Dozen produce.
Use chemical-free home and body-care products.
Reduce or eliminate medications (with your doctor’s supervision, of course).
Sweat, with exercise or in a sauna.
Replace plastic water bottles and reusable food containers with glass and stainless-steel options.
Mild stress is normal and can be beneficial to health and personal growth; but toxic stress, the chronic kind, is one of the biggest drivers of autoimmune disorders. Our contemporary go-go-go lifestyles, which require caffeine, reduced sleep and little downtime, have left our stress response in the always-on position. We rarely use the fight-or-flight response the way it was intended—to save us from immediate danger. Instead, many of us live in a perpetual state of anxiety, our adrenal glands working overtime. Chronic stress creates inflammation and a leaky gut, and that’s the fast track to autoimmunity.
Even 10 minutes a day of proactive stress reduction can activate the relaxation response and soothe chronic stress. Simple techniques include slow, conscious breathing; walking (best done in nature) or another gentle exercise like restorative yoga or qigong; or 20-second hugs (pets or even hugging yourself count!). Make restorative sleep a priority by setting a bedtime, ideally by 10 pm.
Balance your hormones
When you address the other F.I.G.H.T.S.™ categories, you also begin to rebalance your hormones. If you’ve removed your trigger foods, healed your gut, attended to infections, minimized toxins and incorporated stress-reduction techniques into your daily life and you still have symptoms, you’ll want to pay closer attention to your hormones.
A vitamin D level check and comprehensive thyroid panel are a good place to start. For most people, especially those with extra weight, imbalanced blood sugar or insulin resistance, I also suggest a periodic ketogenic (keto) diet: dropping your carbs to about 20-50 grams/day, increasing healthy fats to 75% of your daily macronutrients and moderating your protein intake to about 10%. If you try keto, closely monitor your blood sugar levels, your kidney, liver and thyroid function, and markers of inflammation to make sure you stay in the healthy range. If you still believe your hormones are imbalanced, find an integrative practitioner with experience balancing hormones. Under his or her guidance, it may be time to try bioidentical hormones.
Healing is possible
Whatever your health goals, addressing these six categories will help you get on or stay on the path to good health and optimal vitality. I reversed my MS following the F.I.G.H.T.S.™ framework, and I’ve seen many others do the same, regardless of their autoimmune condition or how long they had been ill. Hope is real; healing and staying well is possible.
Beard, Alison. “Cold Showers Lead to Fewer Sick Days, Harvard Business Review,” March-April 2018.
To learn more about the critical connection between gut health and your overall health, check out the science, stories and strategies for healing and sealing your gut HERE.
Palmer Kippola, FMCHC
Palmer Kippola is a #1 Amazon best-selling author, speaker, autoimmune recovery advocate, and Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC). Palmer developed a system called F.I.G.H.T.S.™ (food, infections, gut health, hormone balance, toxins and stress) to help others beat autoimmune conditions based on her 26-year battle to overcome multiple sclerosis. Her new book, with a foreword by Mark Hyman, MD, is Beat Autoimmune, The 6 Keys to Reverse Your Condition and Reclaim Your Health.
Palmer has studied with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the HeartMath® Institute, and the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. In addition, she has completed 100+ hours of neurofeedback brain training and studied under leading experts in nutrition, holistic health, energy and Functional Medicine.
Private Facebook group: Transcend Autoimmune
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