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.
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!
Autoimmunity, a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, is one of the most prevalent diseases today, affecting predominantly women. In fact, about 75% of all autoimmune disease occur in women.
Traditionally, autoimmune disease was thought to be primarily a genetic disease, but research increasingly shows that while genetics play a role, intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is also an important factor. This means your diet can determine whether you develop autoimmunity.
A great saying in the the “functional medicine” world is
“genetics load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.”
Examples of common autoimmune diseases include:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Leaky gut triggers autoimmunity
Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines become damaged and overly porous, allowing bacteria, yeast, undigested foods, and other pathogens into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and an over reaction of the immune system.
Leaky gut keeps the immune system in a hyper zealous state. This eventually makes the immune system more likely to start attacking the body tissue it was designed to protect, causing an autoimmune condition. Think of it kind of like the incredible hulk. Once he turns into that raging green beast he is not selective in who and/or what he destroys. He will attack pretty much whatever is in the way.
People can develop leaky gut for a variety of reasons, but the most common is linked to inflammatory foods in the diet. These can include too much sugar, processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods. Also, many people have undiagnosed food sensitivities, such as to gluten, dairy, egg, or other foods. These can damage the gut lining if you have an inflammatory reaction to them.
Gluten, in particular, is notorious for its ability to cause leaky gut and trigger autoimmunity. In people who have a gluten intolerance, gluten triggers inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body every time they eat it. In gluten sensitive individuals, gluten also acts on messenger compounds in the intestinal wall to make it more permeable. This allows more inflammatory factors into the bloodstream, including more gluten, in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.
For some people, simply going gluten-free can repair a leaky gut and dampen autoimmunity.
Other causes of leaky gut that trigger autoimmunity
Knowing why you have leaky gut is an important strategy in not only in repairing it, but also in dampening autoimmunity. Below are some known causes of leaky gut that can, in turn, trigger autoimmunity:
- Gluten sensitivity
- Inflammatory foods (sugars, junk foods, fast foods, etc.)
- Medications (corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, some arthritis medications)
- Infections (poor gut bacteria balance, H. pylori, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, yeast, parasites, and viruses)
- Chronic stress
- Hormone imbalances
- Processed foods, artificial food additives, thickening gums
- Environmental toxins
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Autoimmunity (although leaky gut triggers autoimmunity, autoimmunity can also cause leaky gut, especially if the immune attack is against tissues of the gut)
If you have an autoimmune disease, you have leaky gut. If you have leaky gut, you have or will get an autoimmune disease. It’s just a matter of time.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!
Nitric oxide for autoimmune and chronic disorders
When it comes to autoimmune disease and other chronic health conditions, taming inflammation is the name of the game. This can be difficult because the body creates vicious cycles where inflammation keeps feeding more inflammation. This makes halting the progression of autoimmune disease and chronic health issues difficult…but not impossible.
However, we now know about nutritional ingredients that can boost anti-inflammatory efforts. These ingredients act on two inflammatory immune messengers called “nitrous oxide” and Interluekin 17 or “IL-17.”
IL-17 is a pro-inflammatory immune cell that damages body tissue, such as the thyroid gland in autoimmune Hashimoto’s, the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, or the nerve sheaths in multiple sclerosis.
IL-17 isn’t completely bad—it’s necessary to fight infection. But when the immune system becomes hyper zealous, IL-17 goes out of control and attacks the body it’s designed to protect.
IL-17 destroys tissue by activating a “inducible nitric oxide,” one of three forms of nitric oxide, a gas, involved in various processes in the body. Two other two forms of nitric oxide are beneficial and actually fight inflammation: endothelial nitric oxide and neuronal nitric oxide.
However, inducible nitric oxide is pro-inflammatory and damages body tissue under the orders of IL-17.
Therefore, one way we can stop the vicious cycle of inflammation is to dampen IL-17 and inducible nitric oxide. Luckily, there are nutritional compounds that help the body do this.
But first — perhaps you’ve heard of arginine to boost nitric oxide. Although arginine boosts the anti-inflammatory endothelial and neuronal nitric oxides, it also boosts inducible nitric oxide. So if you are fighting chronic inflammation, taking arginine may work against you.
Arginine is also touted as being good for boosting growth hormone. But, this can have down sides. Check out my previous post on Arginine and cold sores.
It’s safer instead to take nutritional compounds that studies show support endothelial nitric oxide (one of the anti-inflammatory nitric oxides). These include:
Xanthinol niacinate - a form of niacin
These compounds work synergistically taken together in an emulsified liquid form (very hard to find and generally only found in functional medicine offices). But not everybody can or should take a liquid form.
Not only does boosting endothelial nitric oxide tame inflammation, it also helps repair and regenerate body tissue, promote blood flow, dissolve plaques, and dilate blood vessels. Start with small doses to gauge effects and tolerance.
These compounds also support neuronal nitric oxide (the other anti-inflammatory nitric oxide) and thus the health of your brain and nervous system.
Exercise is another excellent way to boost beneficial nitric oxides. In fact, take these endothelial nitric oxide boosting compounds before getting your heart rate to maximum capacity for a few minutes first thing in the morning. This will optimize anti-inflammatory effects and support brain health. Nitric oxide is helpful for those of use that like to lift weights and enjoy that “pumped feeling during and after the workout.
Also, nitric oxide is what is stimulated with certain medications such viagra and heart medications for angina. Taking these supplements can also help men with issues in the bedroom. “Make you strong like oak”
You don’t have to exercise long — just a few minutes of raising your heart rate as high as you can has profound anti-inflammatory and brain supporting effects. Just be sure not to over train as that produces more inflammation. Also, how you get your heart rate up depends on your fitness level and abilities, so keep it safe and doable.
Other tools to tame inflammation include therapeutic doses of vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, absorbable forms of glutathione, and therapeutic doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin. These compounds have been shown to dampen the the inflammatory vicious cycles associated with autoimmune and chronic disorders.
Of course, lifestyle and diet changes are vital too. This includes eliminating pro-inflammatory foods with the autoimmune diet and designing an inflammation-quenching lifestyle.
For help taming your chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorder, ask my office for advice.
Until Next time,
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy.