Autoimmunity & Ayurveda
by Monica Yearwood
A healthy immune system is composed of several dualistic functions; the most important of which is self and non-self recognition. In ayurveda, this knowing is called “smriti.” The loss of smriti is the cause of many autoimmune disorders; when the ability to discern self and non-self has dissolved and a confused system launches attack on itself
Faulty Digestion & Autoimmunity
80% of our immune system exists in the gut. The GI tract is lined with a special cell wall and bacteria that determines what is allowed to enter the body. When the mucosal wall and bacteria is compromised through chronic stress, poor diet, over exposure to antibiotics, low probitioic intake or exposure to pathogenic bacteria strains, our GI tract can be negatively impacted by inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation in the gut leads to degradation of the cell wall. The once tightly knitted cells that protected the GI tract began to seperate allowing proteins and other foreign entities that would be kept out in healthy digestive systems, into the body. This creates inflammation through the entire body which inevitably leads to a hyper reactive immune system, allergies and autoimmune disorders.
Ayurveda teaches that digestion is the epicenter of the immune system. In cases of disease or severe convalescence, where digestion has been significantly impacted as commonly seen in Crohn’s disease, Colitis, some forms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), multiple food allergies, major forms of depression, anxiety disorders, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, and many autoimmune disorders, a gut healing regimen should be undertaken to build up the intestinal cell wall and replenish gut flora. This will help reduce symptoms, protect immunity, and resist further damage.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Autoimmunity
- Get an assessment to understand what your current constitution and imbalance type is.
- Cleanse the body to rest digestion.
- Cleanse the liver, blood and small intestine.
- Use manual lymphatic techniques to release toxic lymph.
- Consume proper fats to help heal the cell wall.
- Use herbal antibiotics to destroy pathogenic bacteria.
- Consume food sourced probiotic materials to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.
- Use mucosal healers such as licorice root to help repair the mucosal lining.
- Strictly avoid all provoking food items until digestion is healed.
Beneficial Foods for the Immune System
Include these in your grocery lists, cook with them often, and make them staples in your diet. These help the immune system heal, are anti-inflammatory, scavenge the body for free radicals, help repair tissues, help restore MEMORY of immune system for proper functioning. It is good to eat as many food sources that have these things, rather than relying on supplements alone. In Ayurveda, we believe the intelligence of the plant is lost in supplements. Supplements may be helpful in pain reduction and healing, but whole plants restore the body’s memory of normal functioning. This is the true gift of food as medicine.
- Brazil Nuts (modulator)(1 brazil nut a day will provide you with all the selenium you need)
- Mushrooms: shitake, maitake, reshi (immune modulator, anti-inflammatory) (see some recipes below)
- Green Tea (immune modulator, bioflavonoid)
- Turmeric (inflammation) high quality sources: Tattvas Herbs, Chandika.com, Banyan Botanicals
- Fatty Fish (salmon, tuna) sustainably caught
- Purple & Red Berries & Pineapple
- Leafy Greens (kale, chard, spinach for antioxidants)
Speak to health practitioner regarding which supplements are appropriate for you.
- Krill Oil
- Plant Sterols
- Glutathione, NAC
Important Lifestyle Practices for the Immune System
- Engage in daily rejuvenation (meditation, stress reduction & rest)
- Avoid dietary triggers and allergens
- Nurture harmonious relationships, love, touch and joy
- Reduce negativity, arguing, fighting, competing and criticism
- Cleanse the body regularly
- Keep your digestive system strong