What Actually Causes Autoimmunity?
If you are familiar with the medical view involving confusing theories relating to T cells, cytokine storms, dodgy HLA genes, unexplained flare-ups and total denial that diet and lifestyle (and much less emotional issues) can have any beneficial effect, you would be forgiven for giving up hope of finding what actually causes autoimmunity. You might also think that I am rather presumptuous, if not downright arrogant, to offer my opinions over and above the “experts” who seem to be employed to tell you there is no hope apart from their nasty drugs.
However, I have one up on those doctors – I have actually reversed a few autoimmune conditions without their help, including crippling arthritis, so over the past few years I have had some experience that might be useful to you and which, I am pleased to say, generally tie in with the opinions of those few forward thinking doctors and therapists who have also had similar success in treating these conditions.
If you have been recently diagnosed and start to research into possible solutions, you will come across a lot on diet. You will find a lot of conflicting information on whether raw vegan, low fat, high fat, high protein etc are best. It can be very confusing. The truth is that if you have autoimmunity your gut is almost certainly leaky and needs to be rebuilt along with your gut flora. This can take some time, and you need to have confidence in the path you take, as results do not come overnight. If you decide on raw veganism for example, the initial benefits you might feel are probably not down to what you’re eating, but what you’re not eating any more – processed food, wheat, nightshades and dairy. Once the gut is compromised all those foods will become irritants. The trouble is that raw veganism or other extreme diets can leave you deficient in a lot of nutrients in the long run.
My advice on diet? First off, fast on water only for as long as you can, preferably at least five days. Only the first two are difficult, believe it or not – after that it becomes a pleasure! This will show you that the doctors are certainly not correct about what you eat having no effect. Fasting brings down inflammation miraculously, and quickly too. As soon as you start eating again you will probably experience the return of symptoms. This should give you a big clue from the start that the gut needs to be addressed through dietary changes, no matter what the doctors say.
But is diet the cause? Well, probably not. Maybe in some cases it’s the main factor – we are all different – and although I have read many accounts of curing autoimmunity by diet alone, I was not so lucky; I had to look further. It’s certainly one of the areas that must be addressed, but be prepared that it might be no more than symptom control until you can unearth the deeper causes. With the gut compromised it’s imperative that you understand how to rebuild the gut flora and eat foods that do not inflame the body.
Also, please go and see a good naturopath. You will not believe the care and attention that you get in contrast to the huge queues and five-minute drug-peddling consultations you might be used to with the NHS. A good naturopath will give you confidence in the magic of natural treatments and also be able to diagnose imbalances and deficiencies that doctors never consider, which when addressed can be incredibly useful in putting the puzzle together.
Actually the causes are many and varied these days as the modern world gets further and further away from the environment that our Paleolithic genetics can thrive in. We need to look at the electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) that are radiated by mobile phones etc; we need to look at hydration with good water; we need to get rid of or limit artificial light, and perhaps most importantly we need to look at emotional issues. I won’t expand too much on these individual issues here, but I did a blog post called Why Diet Isn’t Enough – The Five Big Triggers For Disease And What To Do About Them. I would advise you to read that and then look at our Resources page to find links to the real experts in those fields for a full understanding.
Right then, we’ve established that no one thing can cure autoimmunity, so what is the exact process that leads to the body attacking itself? What follows here is just my own opinion and what my intuition has led me to believe as I’ve gone through the process myself. I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that autoimmunity is caused by attacks on any level of our beings – spiritual, emotional, physical, and most of these attacks are self-inflicted. This might sound very simplistic, but I totally believe now that all physical ailments begin in the subtler levels of our existence – for example, if anyone doubts this process, just think about how embarrassment results in blushing. Nobody can explain this nor the purpose of it, so how can they explain something as complex as autoimmunity?
So, let’s look at a few examples of attacks – wheat attacking the gut, stress about money attacking our happiness, doubts about our looks/personalities preventing us loving ourselves, eating cakes when we know we shouldn’t etc etc. These are all attacks, but some are so subtle that they take us a long time to identify. For example, a big one for me was really caring too much about whether people know that certain foods are harmful. I thought this was a virtue, but it was actually causing me a great deal of stress and pain as I saw my friends and loved ones hurting themselves. When I realised that it was none of my business and I could still love and accept them as they are “even if they ate pizza” my whole world changed. Now I could still help people, but only if they asked. So, you see it can be a lot subtler than just, say, drinking until your liver explodes, which is a very gross and obvious form of self-attack.
Other examples of subtle attacks are: living in the past, blaming others (and yourself), not being grateful for your blessings, complaining, not following your heart, doing a job you hate etc etc. There are so many ways we attack ourselves, and the only way to find them is actually very simple – just watch and listen for any thought that is uncomfortable, and that will lead you back to some way that you might be attacking yourself. It all comes down to “not loving what is”… think of it carefully… what does the body do to itself when autoimmunity strikes? It ceases to “love what is” and starts to attack harmless tissues, believing them to be enemies. We spend a lot of our lives believing that various people, situations etc are our “enemies” when a simple shift of perspective can reveal the perfection of all creation, and once that is realised in everyday life, do you think that the body will continue to attack itself for long? No. It may take some time to catch up, just as it took a while to break (flesh and bone is slower to react than thoughts and emotions). Soon though you will feel the relief as the body follows the mind and settles. Please look at The Work of Byron Katie for a very powerful method of unlocking these secrets.
And here’s a real key: you might never get better until you learn to love the fact that you are ill. There is an old saying: “What we resist persists” and this is so true in healing. If we fight illness we may never win, as the illness probably came from us fighting some aspect of ourselves. Now, I know this is a huge leap of faith to make, but if you learn relax and love your illness, quietly listen to your symptoms and decipher them to understand their emotional roots (Inna Segal’s book, “The Secret Language of the Body is wonderful for this), you will find that the body will no longer need to “shout” its warnings and health will be restored. Trust me… this really happens!
Belief is so powerful in dealing with illness, both in a positive and negative way. I even noticed that foods that I believed would hurt me, even if they were physically safe, actually started to hurt me. It took me a while to resolve which foods were actually harmful and which I was just scared of so expected a reaction, as the outcome was the same. Belief pretty much creates our reality. Of course as the gut heals the goalposts move and fewer and fewer foods make us react, so we have to adapt all the time. Nobody said this was easy! To really understand how belief can make or break our health read “The Biology of Belief” by Bruce Lipton, especially if you are still caught up in the pessimistic dogma of modern medicine.
So, to conclude, I see the process like this: we go through our lives with many fears, insecurities and false beliefs. While our body is strong and healthy it protects us physically and we have no symptoms in the body. As our own emotional issues and environmental pollutants make the body weaker, we start to notice symptoms – non-specific niggles at first – which then develop into diagnosable conditions. In modern medicine we are led to believe that we got ill at some definable point when the body gave in, but the truth is that the causes might have been building up for years if not decades beforehand. Once the body is weakened, specifically the gut and gut flora, we become hypersensitive not only to food and external factors but also to our own emotions and psychological imbalances too. Then the body follows what the emotions have been doing for a long time and starts attacking itself. Now we can no longer ignore the fact that we have certain emotional issues that might be contributing to our illness, as it hurts a lot more than somebody with the same issues whose body is stronger and has not as yet developed autoimmunity. They can ignore it for a few more years maybe without hurting too much until their genetics kick in.
When this happens, we are not only facing a staggering amount of work that we have to do on ourselves, but we are facing it at a time when we are at our weakest and most depressed. It is no wonder that so many turn to the medical profession for what they hope, in vain, will be instant relief.
However, if you have faith that it is just a transition period, magic is possible and you are strong enough to succeed, autoimmune conditions can be the greatest gift you could ever experience. You will learn so much about yourself and the world and you will gain confidence that self-healing is possible. As you unwind all the problems you have made for yourself (yes, you made them for yourself – take responsibility!), you will grow happier and more fulfilled every day until you arrive in a place so much better than the “old you” that existed before you got ill. You will actually thank the illness for where it has taken you. This is why my forthcoming book will be called “Arthritis, The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me”, and in that I will expand on these issues at great length.