A guest blog post from my friend, Dr. Marisol, N.D., Queen of the Thrones™. This post contains an affiliate link. This means I get a small amount of money if you purchase through my link. This helps support my work and my research and I am grateful for your support.
When you’re sitting in the doctor’s office and you get your diagnosis, you will never forget that moment. “I have a what!!!!!????!? An autoimmune disease? What does that mean?”
The doctor explains, “Your body is working against you, attacking its own cells. For some reason, which we don’t know,” (I have a pretty good idea why – hang tight we will talk about it here) “your body has decided to attack itself. You have ________.” (insert autoimmune condition here)
Whether you’ve been given the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, Sjorgren’s Syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis, Ulcerative Colitis, Parkinson’s, etc.
Hearing this from your doctor is devastating.
Functional Medicine Practitioners and Naturopathic Doctors (me!) look at these conditions from a different perspective as to why they started. We don’t just look at the one organ/system that has gone haywire. If we did, we would treat it as the conventional medical system does, with low dose chemotherapeutic agents 1 (that lead to cancer in the long term!), and monoclonal antibodies, which target the antibodies that are responsible for the attack on itself.2
Does it really serve our greater good to continue the self attack? To further damage our bodies by removing the thymus, the thyroid, or the organ that is the source of devastation right now? Shouldn’t our treatment approach be more about loving our bodies? Feeding them well, treating them well, making sure our daily operations are working well, instead of starting World War III – killing and cutting stuff out?
We, Functional Medicine Practitioners and Naturopathic Doctors, look at the entire eco system of the body.
What are the possible causes, and what can we do to support what has been tweaked in the wrong direction?
Here I will introduce to you my therapeutic go-to tool that I start all of my patients with, especially autoimmune patients. The castor oil pack is a staple in autoimmune conditions because it balances the 5 cardinal catastrophes of foundational functions. These catastrophes happen when things are unbalanced and go berserk! Castor oil packs will become the start of your protocol, along with removing and avoiding what could be the causative factors.
We will examine:
The Possible Root Causes of Autoimmunity
Food Contamination and Autoimmune Disease
Food Modification and Autoimmune Disease
Food Depleted in Nourishment
The Environment We Live In Ain’t Pristine!
We Stuff Our Faces
The Five Foundational Functions: F.A.I.T.H
Castor Oil Packs
The Possible Root Causes of Autoimmunity
Our bodies are genius. I think this is the first thing to remind yourself after getting an autoimmune diagnosis. Our body is so highly intelligent and adaptive that it is has organized a self attack because it thinks our own cells are invading. Why does our body think this way?
What has come into our environment that has tweaked and changed our body’s response?
Why in the last 100 years are autoimmune conditions becoming more and more common? I believe a major factor is our food supply; the quality, modification, and transportation of it.
Combine that with lifestyle factors like stress, stagnation and a less-than-clean environment, and you have the perfect soup to meld an autoimmune condition.
Food Contamination and Autoimmune Disease
Food contamination isn’t something that we aren’t aware of, it is very clear. Organic produce and products are popping up everywhere, even in the limited selection of foodstuff at pharmacies. Food is medicine and organic is better, whether you believe it or not3. My dad will never be a believer. To this day, he maintains that organic produce is just the ‘bruised fruits and vegetables that they slap an organic sticker on and place in the organic section’.
Obviously, this is not the case, but try changing a seventy-year-old’s mind and their beliefs. I say this to remind you to be flexible in your thinking. While reading this, if something resonates and wrings true to you, it likely is. Go with your “gut feelings” as I always say, sometimes you just know.
In general, organic produce has been shown to have significantly less chemicals and pesticides than conventional4. However, since our environment is not clean, there are still chemicals present. Take California red wine, for example. A recent report states that glyphosate (A.K.A. Round up, the well known pesticide brought to fame by Monsanto) was found in 100% of organic red wines that were tested5. It’s in our environment and we can’t run away. But we can avoid and reduce our exposure.
These chemicals tax our antioxidant systems, using more than we need. Our nutrients and antioxidants become depleted in an attempt to clear toxic substances out and protect us6, but some chemicals become stuck in the fatty tissues of our body7. Some of these chemicals may also mimic our bodies’ own cells, which could be a factor in the body attacking itself8.
Food Modification and Autoimmune Disease
You’ve heard it, I’m sure, “Is it GMO? A genetically modified organism?” It’s become the big bad buzz word in the food supply industry. We are modifying our foods so they yield more, and creating super strains that can’t be attacked by pests. Sounds all good and dandy, but playing God with our food is leaving it in a sad state.
Our bodies often cannot recognize our food anymore. Food that once nourished us now enters our temple and our body is not quite sure what to do with it. Evidence suggests that genetically modified foods actually effect our gene expression patterns9. Could this be why our immune system becomes triggered and starts a self attack? This is highly possible, but hard to say exactly. More research is needed.
One genetic modification I want to highlight is the addition of microbial transglutaminase to our food. It closely mimics our own human tissue transglutaminase, which helps to regulate gluten intake. There has been a recent increase in Celiac disease, and one hypothesis is that it is linked to the addition of microbial transglutaminase in so much of our food.
Why do they put this in our food? Because it lengthens the shelf life, makes it look prettier, more uniform and appetizing. It also makes it difficult to digest, which increases the amount of time it is in the intestine10. Amazing new research demonstrates that the longer your transit time is, the more amount of foods you are allergic to11. Ironically, this can be one of the links in terms of why food allergies are on the rise. Because the food we are eating is modified and it takes longer for us to poo! All of this irritation on the immune system sets your body up for an autoimmune response.
Food Depleted in Nourishment
Research shows that the food we have available to us, such as wheat12, is less nutrient dense than it was 160 years ago. This is common among our food supply13. What is extremely interesting is that as the nourishment in our food decreases, the cases of autoimmunity increase. What we are feeding our soil is only nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, however our land needs micro minerals and everything in between. We rape our lands, make them overproduce, all to make North America grow! However she isn’t growing so healthy.
The Environment We Live in Ain’t Pristine!
The sad thing is, on top of being nutrient deficient, our soils contain arsenic and cadmium. Our organic brown rice is now a no-no, because our soils have been infiltrated by high amounts of these heavy metals. Brown rice contains the germ, which is lipophilic (fat-loving) and the fat bioaccumulates toxins like arsenic14. So white basmati rice is actually the best choice and is easier to digest. What was once the healthiest, now no longer is.
In our air, our water, all of the elements, there is evidence of toxins that negatively affect the immune system.
Now I don’t want you to hate on everything that goes into your body! I want you to digest this information and move on. Just have an understanding of it, but do not vilify your food, your air, your water. Always be grateful for these gifts and thank them for what they bring you, after all they are blessings from Mother Nature. The best we can do is to always aim to make the healthiest choice available.
We Stuff Our Faces
First of all, the mainstream dietary recommendation is to eat 6 times per day, multiple small snacks to keep your blood sugar balanced. Now it turns out that it is more ideal to have larger less frequently.15
The migrating motor complex (MMC) functions to produce via the enteric nervous system the pulsations that are peristalsis. It is the movement needed to digest, absorb and move our food through the small intestine. As the brush border fans the food and nourishment enters the intestine, it is coated with mucous that absorbs and digests via enzymes like proteinases. The food particles are broken down and the remainders dance their way to the large intestine. They cause a bit of healthy fermentation, creating short chain fatty acids like butyrate, and make some B vitamins with the bacteria. The food should get compacted into stool and sucked dry of liquids, yet not too dry. Then it should be easily eliminated out.
When you eat, you choke that process off. The intestine pauses, waits, unsure to continue, because will there be more? It’s important to give the body the break in order for it to effectively digest and absorb.
The Five Foundational Functions – F.A.I.T.H.
The solution to this mix of problems? Fix our foundation so it is strong and resilient. There are 5
factors that need to be addressed. If you do not address them, you are leaving your temple to
Think of it like this, would you not take your car in for a regular oil change? Or what about your house, do you not change the air filters, wash your driveway, do regular maintenance? Why then, is it so strange to do maintenance on your one sacred temple? You can’t buy a new one, you can’t simply replace it like you can a car or a house. You only get one baby, you need to make the most of it.
These are the basics of health. If you observe these, you can reset your body and make it even more amazing than it already is.
I often refer to our digestion like the assembly line of a factory. It’s important to have the right raw materials going in (of course our food and drink choices), but in order to digest, absorb and eliminate properly we need the right workers, in the right place, at the right time.
Digestion is an incredible orchestration guided by both the brain and the digestive tract itself. It is the sole organ that doesn’t require the brain to work. In fact, it has its own nervous system, known as the enteric nervous system. This is because there are so many complex jobs to be done. Stomach acid, enzymes, bile, sodium bicarbonate, mucous, bacteria, fatty acids, nitric oxide, electrolytes… all of these ‘workers’ make the assembly line function. If one thing is off, then everything gets backed up.
Back up or bottlenecking is the worst thing for any operation. For us, it means if we don’t go to the bathroom frequently or we are backed up, it is linked to increased food allergies, sensitivities and many more problems16. Our optimal operation depends on the optimized operations of our digestion, absorption and elimination.
Every system and environment makes byproducts that need to be sanitized. What protects our body from natural disasters are antioxidants like glutathione, essential fats like omega 3 (linolenic acid), omega 6 (linoleic acid), omega 9 (oleic acid), and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, K). They are all part of the clean-up crew in the body.
Fats are foundational and very important because many toxins and byproducts are fat-loving, so they stick to fat molecules. An example of this is the environmental chemicals known as obesogens17. These are fat-loving toxins that help us to accumulate more fat. This is also why it is incredibly important to only purchase oils in glass bottles because fat accumulates and stores toxins. If you purchase fat products bottled in plastic, like castor oil, for example, it has the potential to absorb much of the chemicals in the plastic.
Fats, such as those that are polyunsaturated, also function to improve cell signaling in terms of proper response to immune system function. They are derived by-products that keep the tissues in homeostasis (a fancy word for internal balance) during periods of inflammation18.
Fats are essential to execute a variety of metabolic regulation processes and are needed for an overall balanced system19.
So, clean-up of the body begins with strong protective antioxidants that package and prepare toxins for removal. Then fats bind to the toxins to carry them out of the system, and byproducts of these healing fats signal proper functioning and clean-up. Then it’s what comes out of your pipes, your urine and most importantly, your poo. Since this is my area of specialty, I often joke, that really I’m not a doctor but a sanitation engineer, I fix your pipes!
What goes in must come out, that is the basis of life, and I’m sure a law of physics that I forgot to pay attention to in high school.
We are hosts to bacteria, yeasts, parasites and the protective mechanism they create called a biofilm. There isn’t a part of our bodies exposed to the outside world that does not have what is known as a microbiome. It is everywhere and we catch it from our environments, the people we encounter, the foods that we take into our bodies and everything else that we come into contact with. We are a product of our environment and there is no way around this.
When the microbiome is populated with beneficial bacteria (probiotics), they create goodness in our bodies like B vitamins20. They ferment portions of our food to create wonderful short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate, which is well known for its affects on healing the gut21. The good bacteria work in cooperation with us, normally. However, if the spectrum of bacteria is overpopulated with what I have termed “conbiotics”, rather than supporting our health they wreak havoc. It’s a totally different situation. By havoc, I mean they don’t produce any vitamins that we so desperately need. Their byproducts are nauseating toxic substances that usually produce the smell of methane or hydrogen sulphide22and affect the gut negatively. They take up precious space from the good bacteria that could be making us healthier.
All these bugs in our lives create a biofilm. It is a protective barrier, a matrix that supports the bacteria in their place. This makes a beautiful home for them to thrive. Biofilm is good when it’s created by probiotics, but when produced by conbiotics it is difficult, if not impossible in many cases, to break down. Biofilm needs to be broken down in order to clear out the conbiotics, to reset the microbiome to a healthy balance.23
Finding balance is a constant struggle, but it is doable with the right tools. These tools are the right foods, a clean environment, and supporting health practices, like the castor oil pack, which we will talk about shortly.
Every smart system or environment has alarms. These alarms, or feedback mechanisms, tell you when things are going awry or when there is too much pressure. Your nervous system, and most importantly the autonomic, or automatic nervous system, does this for you. It senses stress and dangers, and when it does it goes into fight or flight mode. We are all stressed in this day and age and our alarm systems are going crazy. They are in constant flux, ringing all the time because we are constantly bombarded with stress. And it isn’t just the emotional things that you are used to24, but also physical stressors like injury, as an example25. When any of the other foundational functions are off, it causes stress. So if there is too much inflammation, stress. Bad bacteria, stress. Lack of digestive factors, stress. Lack of antioxidants and good fats, inability to move wastes out, all of that equals stress.
This is the reality. When a patient walks into my clinic, I know two things for sure. They are stressed and they are toxic. Done deal. Every single time, I know this for a fact. Living in today’s society there is no other way that it could be.
The problem with stress is that its repercussions are far-reaching. It aggravates and depletes all the other foundations, plus it destroys the integrity of the gut lining. If you are stressed, your system is UNABLE to heal. A large part of this is the production of a hormone called cortisol which is stimulated during stress.
One by one, the things that are stressing you need to be avoided, cleared out or managed. That is how you heal a system, by reducing the alarms going off in the body. Your symptoms, no matter what they are, are your body’s alarm bells ringing. We have to work to get your body in good relaxation tone, called parasympathetic tone. Like an Olympian, if you want to win in your health, my dear friends, you will have to practice.
Our body must be able to repair. If it cannot repair, then things simply progressively break down. How do we repair what’s broken? We must first break down that which is disrupting the balance and we do this via inflammation, and it’s sister, fever. Both vital functions of the immune system.
Hippocrates once claimed “give me the power to create fever and I will cure any disease”26. When we have good, healthy inflammation and fever, our body can repair. We break down old broken tissues and kill off bad bacteria via our immune system and the fire that burns. When there is inflammation there is also elevated acidity.27
The problem exists when inflammation or fever goes out of control. Inflammation and fever also bring with them acidity. Our system, in a long term inflammatory or fevered state, is very acidic. In this, our enzymes, bodily functions and balance of electrolytes is destroyed. That’s why it’s always recommended to eat an alkaline diet because you simply aggravate more inflammation with acidic food.
The main priority is to have controlled inflammation and a healthy immune response so we can repair and protect.28
So it comes down to function, antioxidants, infection, tension, and heat. As an acronym to remember these 5 words, spell FAITH. Have FAITH you will heal. Your body knows what to do, it has these mechanisms all ready for you to activate. Work to reset and support these 5 most impactful functions of the human body and you will be on your way to health. I like to refer them as the 5 pillars of feeling great.
In autoimmunity, it isn’t just the immune system that is going haywire, it is the environment that is not supporting a proper immune function. The attention needs to shift from the hyper-focus on the immune system, to support the whole entire body. The FAITH factor.
So now that you have a concept of some of the factors that are majorly affecting your five foundational functions, what can we do to support them?
CASTOR OIL PACKS
My favorite tool in clinical practice is the tool I most avoided, even after being recommended it time and time again for my personal health problems. I avoided it like the plague because no one had really explained to me what it does. Had I known then, what I know now, I would have started treating with this tool A.S.A.P.
One challenge with treatment is actually finding something that supports all five factors simultaneously. Many treatments will provide antioxidants, others will reduce the infection factor, others still reduce the tension or the heat. But when you find one that does it all, and it’s been around since the beginning of time, it’s important to take note and listen to what this treatment is.
Focusing on gut health is the foundation of my successful practice because let’s face it, the greatest wealth is gut health. Heal the gut, heal your life. In turn, this helps with the treatment of autoimmunity, cancer, hormonal problems, the list goes on.
This one treatment works on all of these five factors, which is what makes it stand out from others. It’s an inexpensive treatment that you can do in the privacy of your home, in the privacy of your own bedroom.
This tool is as ancient as man himself and has been a staple of natural medicine since its genesis from Hippocrates. That tool is the castor oil pack.
It is part of the naturopathic history of the evolution of hydrotherapy. What has turned off so many people was the complications to doing this treatment. There were so many steps. But when I started to do them for myself, I made a little invention, that has served myself and my patients more than I could’ve ever imagined. I made it easy to do these castor oil packs, the best tool to balance your five vital functions. How do they do this?
1. Helps the bowels move, improving digestion and absorption . (Function)29,30
2. Improves antioxidants, like glutathione31, essential fats (omega 3, 6, 9) and fat soluble vitamins like vitamin E. (Antioxidants)
3. Breaks down biofilm that creates a hospitable environment for the unhealthy bugs32,33,34.(Infection)
4. Improves parasympathetic tone and enhances your feel good hormones of oxytocin35 and dopamine. All through topical application, without needing to be ingested. (Tension)36
5. Reduces inflammation and increases alkalinization. Helps to support a strong immune response and healthy fever . (Heat)37,38,39
In many circles castor oil packs are referred to as a foundational treatment. When you do them, all aspects of your healing protocol (treatments, organic food, supplements, etc.) will work better. This is simply because castor oil packs help to engage what is known as the “vis”, or the vital life force. That which we cannot see, but stimulates our healing and rebalancing.
It truly is a no brainer, this easy-to-do treatment has so many benefits and will help set straight the five foundational functions of your body.
If you want to get your very own Queen of the Thrones castor oil packs, click here.
So now you have the basis to be able to reset and retrain your body back to vibrant health. All of the other tools you are using in your health care journey will work better. Remember that healing takes time. Rebalancing for long term health is a journey that we must work at every single day, the focus is on constant and consistent improvement. A diagnosis of an autoimmune condition does not need to be a death sentence, it can be something that elevates you to higher levels of health.
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