The Immune System
Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis... all these conditions are chronic, insidious and often degenerative. Anyone who has these conditions will confirm how awful they are. How much they steal your life away from you. How you lose so much of what you loved most in life such as social gatherings, being active and the ability to hike or travel. And sadly, most of what is available through standard care is designed to "manage symptoms." Unfortunately, this still leads to further degeneration, lower quality of life, and even disability.
How Can This Be Helped?
When we are dealing with any complex medical condition ranging from autoimmune disease to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, we must always begin by looking at the immune system. Our immune system is our first line of defense. It is the job of our immune system to deal with invasion by external pathogens (colds, flu, infection), but also to ensure that these pathogens cannot remain in our bodies and cause further problems later on. Our immune system also plays a major role in the management of inflammation in the body.
Very often in chronic diseases, there is a history of initial infection, followed by a progression into chronic pain and fatigue. Sometimes this may feel as simple as a cold, a sinus infection, or maybe strep throat. Normally, our immune system works hard to fight these problems. We develop fever in order kill the infection. We sweat in order or to release peptides such as dermcidin and cathelicidin which the body uses to fight infectious microorganisms. But often we use antibiotics to help us fight these infections. In some cases, these drugs are very beneficial and life saving. However, when overused, they contribute to problems with our digestive systems, which begins to decrease our body's innate immunity. We then use over-the-counter NSAID drugs like ibuprofen to lower our fevers which may make us feel better, but it gives the pathogens more of a chance to embed themselves in our bodies.
These pathogens eventually realize that they cannot survive in the presence of these drugs and our immune system and they start covering themselves with slime and adhere to the inside of our bodies. These are called "biofilms." These biofilms protect the pathogens from both our immune system and the medications we take. This gives the pathogens time to wait for our immune system to calm down and for the drugs to exit our system. Once the coast is clear, these pathogens can again come out and cause infection and chronic disease problems. In traditional medicines, these are referred to as retained pathogens and are known to be a major player in most chronic diseases. In fact, biofilms are now implicated in most chronic diseases including anything from fibromyalgia, diabetes and obesity, all the way to autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, Lupus and many others.
Ever hear of someone having chronic sinus infections? They take an antibiotic and get better, but they constantly deal with chronic mucus and sinus congestion. Then maybe weeks or months later another sinus infection occurs. More antibiotics. More digestive troubles (from the antibiotics), which means more immune troubles, which means an increased likelihood for further infection. Additionally, chronic sinus infection is associated with a poorer quality of life than even those who suffer from significant heart disease. It is also a sign that there may be more severe autoimmune disease at play such as Sarcoidosis, Cystic Fibrosis, or Churg-Strauss Syndrome.
What Can Be Done About This...
In Stage 1, we are first and foremost looking at the possibility of retained pathogens (biofilms) and what part they may be playing in the chronic disease. We also begin to look at how well the immune system is functioning, and can be observed by how our patients symptoms present:
Are you getting sick easily and often?
Do you have pains that seem to wander from place to place? From muscle to muscle or joint to joint?
Do you have increases in pain and fatigue when weather fronts move in or with drastic changes in temperature?
When our body is healthy, changes in weather will cause a slight inflammatory response which is normal and healthy and likely goes unnoticed. However, when our body is already in a state of widespread inflammation, a change in weather will lead to increased inflammation and often profound exacerbations in pain levels.
But why do some pains seem to wander from place to place? It can seem almost maddening! You can have a painful muscle massaged and it finally feels better but then that pain seems to move to another muscle or even to the other side of the body. What gives?! Pains like this, that seem to wander or move, are associated with our immune system attempting to respond to a pathogen. So we develop a widespread inflammatory response (non-specific immunity) which appears to send pain moving from muscle-to-muscle or from joint-to-joint. This is a very common presentation in most fibromyalgia and many autoimmune diseases, but also very common in those suffering from Lyme disease. In this early stage of treatment, we may also observe signs of lymphatic swelling such as swollen lymph nodes or swelling around the neck, armpits or groin. This may often be accompanied by tightness or heavy feelings in these areas.
What other symptoms are often found in this stage?
Stiffness in the neck and upper back or even frozen shoulder
Slight swelling or edema
Alternating feelings of hot and cold or feverishness followed by feelings of cold or chills
Seasonal allergies or chronic nasal allergies, or pains made worse during allergy season (drippy nose, congestion, itchy eyes, etc.)
Easily catching colds or recurrent infections
Colds that seem to last for weeks or months
Pain that increases with weather or temperature changes
Skin itching or skin sensitivity; possibly skin rash
A feeling of even your hair hurts (fairly common in fibromyalgia)
Headaches, especially those that seem to come from the neck
Bell's Palsy and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (shingles in the facial nerve)
In this stage, plant-based medicines are used to simultaneously address the immune system and retained pathogens. These medicines are also useful in removing excessive mucus (the slime layers that house biofilms) and aid in promoting better lymphatic movement.
Additionally, we employ specialized breathing techniques (termed Gasotransmitter Therapy) which further modulate the immune system and aid in combatting pathogens and eliminating pain.
Grandma Style Medicine:
We term this "Grandma style medicine" because it includes basic home care which traditionally would be taught from our parents or grandparents and is something that is unfortunately lost in modern society. In places like China, there are baseline health and longevity strategies that are known and employed by the vast majority of the populace.
Light movement such as walking or Taichi. This aids lymphatics and promotes blood flow and light sweating. Sweat is important because it contains numerous constituents that combat infection including lactoferrin, which aids in preventing biofilms from forming.
Keep the stomach warm. No more cold drinks or "healthy green smoothies." Opt for easily digestible foods that are cooked and easy on the gut. A great way to begin the day is to warm the stomach with freshly grated ginger tea.
Keep a scarf around your neck. Keeping the neck warm and mobile is an easy way to begin loosening the neck and keeping the body feeling better. You can lightly massage back and forth with the scarf as well (very important in fibromyalgia).
The real key is that we are working to both strengthen the body and eliminate pathogens at the same time. This is NOT a cleanse! It's more like taking an old and dilapidated house and fixing the windows and roof so the inside is protected from the harsh, exterior elements. In Stage 2, we will begin repairing the interior of the house (aka, the body).
If you or someone you love and care about suffers from a chronic, debilitating medical condition, please feel free to reach out to us at 720-541-8458 or fill our our contact form here.