Archives for May 2018 | Integrative functional medicine blog

Is Heart autoimmune disease possible?




Any autoimmune disease is NOT a disease of the tissues that are being attacked. For example hashimotos is NOT a disease of the thyroid. It is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. They same goes with any other tissue of the body.

Sometimes autoimmunity, a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissues, can attack the heart and cause heart disease. People with autoimmune heart disease may not have typical markers of cardiovascular risk, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

Autoimmunity is one of the most common diseases today and a leading cause of disability and death. It can affect any tissue or compound in the body, including the heart. The more commonly known autoimmune diseases are Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis (nervous system), type 1 diabetes(pancreas), celiac disease(gut), rheumatoid arthritis (joints), and psoriasis(skin).

In all these diseases, the disorder doesn’t lie in the tissue being attacked, but instead in an imbalanced and hyper zealous or over active immune system attacking the tissue it was meant to protect. It has gone haywire.

Autoimmunity in the heart
You can screen for an autoimmune reaction in the heart with a blood serum antibody panel that checks for antibodies to myocardial peptide or alpha-myosin. If they come back positive, it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of myocarditis (heart inflammation) or cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart).

If the autoimmunity is in its early stages, there may be no signs or symptoms. Which can be a little difficult to know if there is a possible problem unless you test.

Symptoms to watch out for include shortness of breath, chest pain, decreased ability to exercise, fluid retention, tiring easily, and an irregular heartbeat.

Other autoimmune diseases that affect the heart
An unmanaged autoimmune disease raises the risk of heart disease significantly. People with lupus are up to eight times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in patients with lupus and the disease most commonly inflames the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart. 

Additionally, Sjögren’s syndrome and psoriasis have been shown to more than double heart attack risk.

Other cardiovascular risk factors of unmanaged autoimmunity include chronic inflammation and steroid use (which are commonly used to treat the symptoms of autoimmune diseases). Talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Failing to manage an autoimmune reaction to the heart can cause inflammation, scarring, and, in rare cases, sudden death. It may also affect the lungs, liver, and other organs in the body.

Typically, doctors in the standard health care model do not screen for autoimmunity until the end stages of disease when symptoms are severe. However, you can identify an autoimmune reaction before it’s too late with a blood serum 
antibody panel.

This panel screens for autoimmunity against heart tissue by checking for myocardial (a protein the heart releases in response to stress) or alpha-myosin (cardiac tissue) antibodies. If these come back positive it’s an indication the immune system is attacking heart tissue. If the condition is more advanced, you may be given a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, or disease of the heart muscle.

Heart autoimmunity
If you have an autoimmune condition, you can use functional medicine to potentially slow or halt its progression through proven diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy strategies. You should also regularly monitor your heart health.

Gluten also linked with heart autoimmunity
Sometimes a gluten intolerance and celiac disease are associated with cardiomyopathy(which we have talked about repeatedly on my blogs) Many people have seen a gluten-free diet improve the condition, sometimes profoundly. People with heart symptoms should screen for gluten sensitivity with advanced testing.

Ask about my office about functional medicine strategies to manage heart autoimmunity.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!


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Gluten, Dairy and other foods are addictive




Scientists have proven what many of us have learned the hard way: Gluten, dairy, and processed foods trigger addictive responses in the same way commonly abused drugs do. The more processed (i.e., high carb) and fatty a food is, the more likely it is to cause addiction, and the most addictive foods contain cheese, with pizza taking top honors.

This is due in part to the high-glycemic load of these foods — processed carbs, like pizza crust or a donut, are rapidly absorbed by the body and quickly spike blood sugar before causing it to crash. This triggers areas of the brain as well as hormonal responses that stimulate cravings.

In fact, in a 2013
study, scientists used brain scans to observe brain function after subjects ate foods high in processed carbohydrates as well as foods low on the glycemic index, such as vegetables.

They observed that the subjects who ate the processed foods were hungrier and experienced surges and crashes in blood sugar in contrast to the low-glycemic eaters. They were also more prone to overeating and to choosing more high-glycemic foods compared to the low-glycemic eaters, whose blood sugar remained stable. Creating a vicious cycle.

Brain scans showed the subjects eating the starchy foods also exhibited more blood flow to the right side of the brain in areas associated with reward, pleasure, and cravings in the high-glycemic eaters. This can drive people to overeat and indulge in yet more starchy foods, perpetuating a vicious cycle even further

We also know high-carb foods cause imbalances in the hormones insulin and leptin, which increase hunger and promote fat storage over fat burning.
Gluten and dairy cause opioid responses
Gluten and dairy can be addictive for additional reasons — they trigger an opioid response in the brains of some people. In fact, these people may go through very uncomfortable withdrawls when they go cold turkey off these foods. I have had patients that have had a really hard time with this. I mean really hard!

The opioid created by the digestion of milk protein is called casopmorphin while the gluten opioid is called gluteomorphin. The key root being morphin, as in Morphine.

These food-derived opioids activate the same opioid receptors in the brain that respond to prescription pain pills and heroin.

The effect is compounded in processed cheese and processed gluten products. And what cheese or gluten product is not processed? All of them.

The worst part of a food-based opioid sensitivity is that going gluten-free or dairy-free can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. These can include depression, mood swings, or worsened gut problems. All things that are supposed to get better when you stop eating those things. FYI - it takes time to make a difference and get through the tough part.

It is similar to heroin or pain pill withdrawals, only not as severe.

Because gluten and dairy are among the most common causes of food sensitivities, many people have to eliminate them from their diet. Although this is difficult for most everyone, for the person who also experiences opioid responses to them, going gluten-free and dairy-free can mean a couple of weeks (or more) of misery.

If this occurs, plan ahead and know you have to weather the withdrawal symptoms until you’ve kicked the addiction.

It’s important to further support yourself by avoiding high-glycemic processed foods so you don’t trigger your brain’s craving mechanisms. You also need to make sure the rest of your body if functioning correctly and you have optimal nutritional levels.

Kick the addiction!

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy.

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