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Inner War, Inner Peace
Thankfully, genes are not the whole story: Certain diet and lifestyle changes can help to ease the impact of autoimmune disease. "You can't control your genes, but you need to be aware of them," says Bock. "Then you can be more preventive in your family about things that may contribute to the autoimmunity." Depending on the disorder, one treatment approach might involve identifying and eliminating a toxin—whether it be a dietary allergen contributing to inflammation such as wheat or dairy, heavy metals from fish, or even a virus or bacterial infection such as strep throat. Then there are proactive measures, such as adhering to a regimen of supplements that are known to help regulate the immune system. "I call it the holy trinity: probiotics, omega 3s, and vitamin D," says Dr. Bock. "This combination enhances a beneficial group of lymphocytes in the blood called T-regs, which can reduce inflammation." In Kunkel's house, supplements like these, along with mindfulness in the kitchen, have had a visible impact on the family's health. "We've been strictly organic, and we stay away from processed foods," she says. "I do a lot of cooking—fresh meals, nothing from a box." Despite their autoimmune diagnoses, Kunkel is pleased to find that her children are otherwise extremely healthy.
Yet more research, and a much more integrative approach to health care, are essential to ending the wartime state that prevails in so many of our bodies. "We have cancer centers all over the country, but not one autoimmune center," says Ladd. With the establishment of a such centers for research, treatment, and diagnostic triage, we could pick up the speed toward making biological peace—and eradicating the insane war that is autoimmune disease.
Kenneth Bock, MD (845)758-0001; Bockintegrative.com
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association Aarda.org