Autoimmune conditions such as MS, Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis and others are increasing rapidly in the developed world. Recent studies show the incidence of autoimmunity is increasing by 5-10% per year. The immunology community blames this increase on various factors that come with living in an industrialized society including higher stress, exposure to certain chemicals, and poor sleep.
Autoimmune processes require three things:
1. A genetic predisposition. In most cases you must have the underlying genes specifically substitutions in the genes that relate to immune function. Most of these substitutions are found on the HLA (human lymphocyte Antigen) gene and the MHC (major histocompatibility complex). These are genes that determine the shape of the proteins used in the interaction of the immune cells with our own tissue and with invading pathogens. A little like a key can sometimes work on more than one lock, these substitutions allow for the immune system to mistakenly bind to and attack self tissue.
2. A trigger. Many people with the genetic predisposition may never go on to develop an autoimmune condition. It's a complex process and while we don't understand everything, we do know that most autoimmune conditions require a trigger. In celiac patients this trigger comes in the form of gluten. In some cases, the trigger might be a pathogen such as Yersinia or Klebselia that tricks the immune system through a process called Molecular Mimicry into attacking itself (more on this in the video below).
3. But even with a trigger and the genetic predisposition, autoimmunity is not a sure thing. You have a lot more influence over this process than you think. The immune system works actively to prevent this by maintaining a process called self-tolerance. When things go awry and the immune system loses this protection, damage begins to accumulate. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms begin to show the process has been building for quite some time. The immune system can be pushed out of balance by the presence of certain toxins such as aluminum, mercury, cadmium, lead, and organic pollutants such as pesticides and plasticizers. The immune system also requires the presence of specific nutrients. A lack of selenium makes Hashimoto's more likely to occur. A lack of silica leads to accumulation of aluminum and more more immune system activation. Sufficient fiber intake is necessary for proper detoxification of potentially damaging chemicals and so on. Lifestyle also plays a bigger part than is often realized. It is very common for a patient to have the initial onset of their autoimmune condition following a period of severe emotional stress. Attention to sleep, diet, stress regulation, and community all play a vital part in prevention and treatment of auto-immune conditions.
Another often overlooked area of focus in auto-immunity is the health of the health of the digestive system and more specifically the integrity of the intestinal membrane. The overwhelming majority of the immune tissue is located at the border of the intestines. When the lining, the membrane at the intestinal border, is compromised larger proteins can leak into the blood stream and lymphatic circulation causing an upregulation in immune activity. This leads in turn to more exposure to proteins capable of driving molecular mimicry, and as a result an increased risk of developing or exacerbating auto-immune conditions. The immune system as a whole is also more active, causing the differentiation of new immune cells into highly reactive cells called Th17 cells rather than the peace-keeper T regulatory cells that support self-tolerance.
The important take home is that if you're worried about auto-immune conditions then you have more power over the situation than you think. Just because it's in your family doesn't mean you have to get it, and if you have an autoimmune condition there are probably quite a few actionable steps left to reduce your symptoms and improve your long term quality of life.
For a comprehensive deep dive into this material, watch our video below.
It's been a ride, now what?Covid: where we go from here.
Covid has redefined how we live, how we interact, and how we raise our kids. But at the same time, even though the way we connected has changed, the content of those interactions has stayed the same. The fundamentals about what our society, our culture, and our community means has remained and in the process of conveying that meaning through new channels, we have solidified the core truths about our oneness.
We thrive on love. The more connections we make, the more people we hold in our hearts, the richer our lives are. We’ve felt the missing connections and the skipped visits. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, our absence from one another’s physical space has reminded us of the value of closeness.
We talk with so much more than our voices. The mass masking of society has revealed the importance of those random smiles as we’re out and about. We’ve all been dialing in our eye smiles and experiencing the vast amounts of important information our expressions pass out into the world. So many people realize now that they have worked silently to soothe the world around them by simply smiling at it. They look forward to being able to share that again.
What Can Chinese Medicine tell us about Our Divided Culture?We are divided. In Chinese Medicine we talk a great deal about the interaction of opposing forces. The belief that everything, at its core, can be viewed as an interaction of yin and yang is the central truth that allows the complexity and nuance of Chinese Medicine to exist. With an elegance and a subtly that can comprehend and address symptoms from the psyche to the psoas, Chinese Medicine starts at this simple truth. At its most basic, yang represents fire/heat/dynamic movement while yin represents cold/ice/stability/stillness. Our natural world, our bodies and even our society consists of myriad interactions, exchanges and transformations between these two forces. The Taoist philosophers that laid the foundations for this medicine observed these two forces at work in all things and established basic rules for how they interact. Certain general observations can be made. For example, when a yang or yin nature pushes to an extreme, it turns into its opposite. When yang burns too bright and hot it turns cold (for example when a fire exhausts all the available fuel). Yin can consume yang and vice versa. In a medical sense this is represented by someone driven by stress and anxiety to movement and action (yang) that depletes their hormone synthesis capacity (yin) leading to the tell tale symptoms of HPA axis disruption (insomnia, fatigue, irritability, systemic symptoms of disfunction). Yin/yang is one way to talk about the self regulating systems that are present in all biological systems and in all complex metasystems. The interaction and depletion of yin and yang cause changes in a complex system that ultimately results in a correction of the imbalance. The sticking point though is that yin and yang need to interact for this self-correction to occur. When yin and yang no longer interact and work to self correct that is known as “separation of yin and yang”. It means the dynamic principles of life are no longer active. It means death.
Considering our society and the division that exists within us now, that’s the concern. As division and separation increases, the capacity for the self-correcting interplay of opposing ideas and forces gets less traction. Dialogue and the exchange of ideas is what allows for the interplay of yin and yang. The interaction doesn’t have to be about the issues that are dividing us. Simple exchange is a place to start. It’s up to all of us to keep the conversations going.
What’s New at Cotati Community Acupuncture?
We’re comfortably established in our new location right next to La Plaza park in downtown Cotati. There have been countless woodworking projects to make it our own and more still to come. It’s a beautiful, peaceful and healing space with dedicated space for community acupuncture, private treatments, massage, consultations, and our custom herbal pharmacy.
50% off Vitamin D Testing.Studies have been fairly consistent that Vitamin D status is an important factor in Covid response. Studies show the severity of a covid infection is influenced by the patients’ covid status:
This may be related to the function vitamin D performs as a messaging hormone regulating immune response. In one study vitamin D was found to regulate the rampant inflammation and damage the immune system inflicts on the lung tissue in a covid infection:
In another study vitamin D eliminated the risk of death from covid and nearly eliminated the chances of being sent to the ICU:
Like all nutrients in the body, more isn’t always better. In patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D or even above the target levels, supplementation with vitamin D is NOT ADVISED. In order to identify your vitamin D status we are offering half off vitamin D testing from today through February 14th. Stop in or call to set yourself up.
8099 La Plaza Suite H Cotati, CA 94931
Kieran Jones MTCM L.Ac.
I'm Kieran, clinician and owner of Cotati Community Acupuncture. I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner for the past 14 years. I have a deep curiosity in health, biology, culture, medicine, history, and a healthy obsession with the pursuit of the perfect state of health.