The Role of Food
I had the experience of a lifetime attending “Gut, Brain and Autoimmune Disorders: The Role of Food,“ a conference sponsored by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Los Angeles.
I felt very lucky to be among the group of 150 or so attendees that consisted of health care professionals from a wide variety of disciplines, including nutritionists, medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists.
I had a chance to meet many of the attendees, and most of them were drawn to functional medicine as a result of having personal or family health crises. They turned to functional medicine to find answers they couldn’t get from traditional medicine.
During the two days of the conference, I heard amazing stories of people recovering from Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, movement disorders, chronic fatigue, and other conditions. I was amazed and humbled, at the same time glad to share my personal story of my recovery from Hashimoto’s.
The panel of amazing speakers included: Dr. David Brady (Naturopathic physician with expertise in autoimmune disorders, integrative lab testing and integrative gastroenterology), Dr. William Davis (cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly), Dr. Tania Dempsey (NY physician and expert in thyroid dysfunction, hormone imbalance, vitamin deficiencies and food sensitivities), Dr. Alessio Fasano (world-renowned gastroenterologist, celiac disease expert and researcher), Dr. Joel Kahn, Dr. David Perlmutter (neurologist and author of the book Grain Brain).
I was pleased to find that all of the science shared and approaches to eliminating symptoms, reducing and reversing autoimmunity described by the faculty aligned perfectly with my research and journey that I share on this blog and in my book for overcoming Hashimoto’s.
I also learned a great deal about additional treatments, theories, emerging therapies, the history of wheat, as well as new types of tests that may soon become available.
The speakers are at the forefront of research in autoimmunity and nutrition and shared a wonderful amount of information that will help more people with autoimmune conditions get better. I took a whopping total of 56 pages in notes!
Dr. Brady set the tone of the presentation with a very appropriate quote “Death begins in the colon.”
Our colon and intestine is home to trillions of bacteria that determine which of our genes will be turned on and off. Dr. Fasano gave a beautiful analogy of our genes as a piano and our intestinal bacteria as the piano player who determines what type of song the piano will play? Will it be a happy, healthy song or a sad, sick song? At one point in the future, we may be able to test our genome, our bacterial genome and figure out how they interplay, who is at risk for disease, and how the bacterial genome could be modified to prevent or stop the disease.
Dr. Brady has been collecting information on the types of bacteria present in those with autoimmune conditions. Dysbiosis is always a factor (an imbalance of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut). He shared studies of how autoimmune disease can be induced by one type of gut bacteria and erased by the introduction of another type. Individuals in remission were found to have the right balance of normal bacterial flora, and those that were sick and experiencing a multitude of symptoms had an abnormal balance. This is why I am a huge proponent of probiotics and fermented foods.
Dr. Davis, the author of Wheat Belly, was extremely captivating with his dissertation on the origin of wheat and theory that humans should not eat any grains. According to Dr. Davis, human beings did not evolve to eat grasses such as wheat, corn, or rice. He believes that most of the modern diseases are due to grain consumption and that gluten free is a sliver of what we need to do to restore the gut and our health. Personally, I feel that a grain free diet is the best option for those with autoimmune conditions!
Dr. Fasano elaborated on his groundbreaking research on autoimmunity. As those of you that have been reading this blog and my book will remember, Dr. Fasano has determined that…
Three things MUST be present for autoimmunity to occur…
- Genetic predisposition
- Environmental triggers
- Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
Dr. Fasano describes that developing autoimmunity is like a three-legged stool, all of these factors must be present for autoimmunity to occur! When you remove one of these, you can prevent or stop autoimmune disease. He is the first researcher to prove that autoimmunity can be reversible, and thanks to this assertion, I kept digging for my root cause. That’s because while we can’t change genes if we know the trigger, we can remove it.
Dr. Fasano estimates that up to 20% of people with autoimmune conditions, the trigger may be gluten, and removing gluten will reverse the autoimmunity. Other panelists also discussed other contributing foods, such as grains, dairy, and lectins. Dr. Tanya Dempsey discussed the role of food sensitivities that may be unique to each person and her success with autoimmune conditions through addressing food intolerances.
Infections may act as additional triggers. Some of these infections can be treated; others can be managed.
In some cases, the triggers may be difficult to identify, or may not be modifiable. Another target is intestinal permeability, which is largely determined by the foods we eat and the state of our intestinal bacteria. If we can reverse intestinal permeability, we can prevent or stop autoimmunity!
Dr. Fasano has also provided an update on a new drug his team is developing to address intestinal permeability. This medication is currently being studied for celiac disease and has shown positive results in animal models of other autoimmune conditions. The name of the compound is larazotide, and as a pharmacist, I am very excited about it so far. It may be an option for those that have not been able to identify their triggers or may not be able to implement lifestyle interventions that can address intestinal permeability. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Fasano and thanked him for the work that he is doing for the autoimmune community!
- Food can be your friend or your enemy.
- Make your gut as healthy as possible. It truly holds the key to your overall health.
- If we can remove the triggers or the intestinal permeability, we can prevent, stop or reverse autoimmunity!!!
I wish you all the best in your healing journey!
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 Thyroid friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter for free by going to www.thyroidpharmacist.com/gift. You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.
For future updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook!