June is national Scleroderma month. Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that attacks the connective tissue of the body. It especially attacks the skin, lungs, esophagus and gastrointesitnal tract. Similar to Lupus this condition can be detrimental, where most patients withint 5 years will have major nutrient deficiencies and gastrointestinal symptoms due to the effect of Scleroderma on the whoel gut. Ironically, even the medications like acid blockers these patients are put on, further contribute to nutrient deficiencies and worsening of the gut. While there is no cure or known cause to scleorderma, today’s doctors and scientists have a more sophisticated understanding of how the immune system can go awry and is applied to scleroderma. While functional- and integrative-health practitioners have long said gut permeability is the crux of chronic ills, including autoimmune disorders, many conventional physicians distanced themselves from the idea. The science behind gut permeability, however, is now too convincing to ignore. The finding of a protein called zonulin is a key and measurable protein that is highly connected to most auotimmune conditons. Zonulin works like the traffic cop of our bodies tissue. It opens the spaces between cells, allowing some substances to pass through while keeping harmful substances out. Some people produce excess amounts of zonulin, which pries apart the cells of the intestinal lining and allows toxins, bacteria, and undigested bits of food into the bloodstream — hence the term “leaky gut.”
With Scleroderma, the earlier to start on alternative treatments the better. The ability to focus on the gut can be key to halting or slowing down progression. The most bothersome symptoms with a Scleroderma patient can be heartburn and consitpation which comes from a lack of motility from the hardening of the tissue aroud the gut. It almost acts like scarring where the tussIe can't flex and move as easily. This in turn allows bacteria and food to stagnate creating bacterial overgrowth and inflammation that creates further immune stress.
Symptoms of autoimmune diseases likely most start with a perfect storm of genetics, leaky gut and environment. There are plenty of tests out there for all of these things know that will also be partially covered by PPO insurances. However, if you don't have good insurance it will be harder to get these tests done so you may start with these few things:
1. ELIMINATE FOOD INTOLERANCES. A food eliminatiion diet can help identify these triggers, visit here for more info. I like the Autoimmune Paleo Diet as a good starting hypoallergenic diet.
2. EAT ORGANIC, REMOVE ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS. Remove chemicals from your home, from your shampoos and soap, to your laundry detergents and cleaning products.
3. Get tested for small intetinal bacteria overgrowth and treat accordingly with prescription or natural antibiotics
- the few great natural antibiotics are oregano oil ,allicin, and grapefruit seed extract. Start small and move up in dose .
4. Digestive Enzymes - often hydrochloric acid and brush border enzymes help break down food better for assimilation and trigger moving of the gastrointestinal tract, called peristalsis. This is an essential process and should not be blocked by medications that block acid. However, make sure if you are on a prescription PPI or acid blocker that you work with a doctor as you MUST SLOWLY WITHDRAWL OF THESE MEDICATIONS. Also, if your disease is highly progressed, this medicaiton may be neccessary at this point in disease stage.
5. Genetic Testing - www.23andme.com is a simple saliva test for $199. This can tell you how you process and use vitamins, drugs, and toxins.
6. Lastly ask your naturopathic doctor about motility medications like low dose naltroxone. Motility medications are different from laxatives as they work more with your bodies natural rythym instead of just masking it and pushing things through like laxatives do. There are many new motility drugs out there but can only be ordered through a compounding pharmacy as they are not used at conventional dosing for these conditions. At lower doses many medications are more well tolerated and can act completely different. Call your local compoudning pharmacy for a doctor or call a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor to get a prescription. These medications are also not commonly covered by insurances.
Visit www.scleroderma.org for more information. Dr. Preston is a naturopathic doctor that speaks for the National Scleroderma Foundation and will be speaking July 22nd at the conferene in Phoeniz, Arizona.