The digestive tract is responsible for breaking down food into nutrients that can be absorbed and utilized by the body. The intestinal lining is where this absorption takes place. The gut lining also acts as a protective barrier to protect the body from toxins produced by gut bacteria. There are many factors that can damage this protective barrier, including bacterial and fungal overgrowths, medications and toxins. When this gut barrier becomes damaged, it leads to poor digestive enzyme secretion, GI inflammation, food sensitivities and endotoxins entering the body resulting in systemic inflammation (leaky gut).
The immune system is the body’s primary defense against a wide variety of pathogens and foreign invaders that pose a threat to our bodies. It is composed of various lymphoid organs, gut immune cells, white blood cells and their products, which circulate throughout our bloodstream looking for foreign invaders. When this defense system becomes upregulated or polarized via a number of different ways, it can lead to inflammatory conditions affecting the skin, sinuses, respiratory tract, urinary tract, blood vessels, intestinal tract or joints.
A hallmark of a healthy immune system is the ability to differentiate between self and non-self proteins and tolerate self-tissue. Autoimmune (AI) disease occurs when the immune system loses self-tolerance and begins targeting self-tissue of the body causing destruction of that tissue and related organ. This often involves immune polarization with upregulation of certain immune responses and downregulation of other immune responses.
Metabolic disorders include problems with glucose and fat metabolism and storage which are regulated by insulin, an important hormone produced by the pancreas. These problems are often related to inadequate responses to insulin, known as ‘insulin resistance’ which is driven by chronic inflammation in the body related to chronic infection, toxicity, improper physical activity and poor diet. As this condition progresses, it can lead to increased cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood glucose, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and obesity.
Energy is produced in the mitochondria and stored as ATP which can be used by the cells as needed and drive numerous cellular processes. Anything that disrupts mitochondrial function can impact the production of ATP, including hypoxia (inadequate oxygenation of tissue), anemia, oxidative stress, toxicity and nutritional deficiencies. There are a wide range of environmental toxins that have been shown to disrupt mitochondrial function, including some medications.
Sleep is crucial for maintaining many aspects of our neurologic and immune health. It allows our nervous and immune systems to reset and rejuvenate and allows cells to be broken down and recycled (autophagy) as well as our mitochondria (mitophagy). These processes allow our bodies to maintain and protect healthy cells and mitochondria. Inadequate sleep has been associated with many chronic diseases, including heart disease, inflammatory disease and cancer. Finding and addressing the underlying causes of sleep disorders are crucial for overall health and well-being.
There are numerous ways that toxins can interact with normal physiology causing disruptions in cellular metabolism, hormone metabolism, neurologic health, ox-redox reactions (excess oxidative stress) and inflammation/immune dysregulation. Toxins have been implicated in the development of a wide range of health conditions including neurologic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine and, immune disorders, including autoimmune disease and cancers. Biotoxins, such as mold and the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, can lead to Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS).
The human immune system is normally able to tolerate foods, medications, nutritional supplements and most environmental chemicals and air-borne compounds. However, immune dysregulation resulting from gut permeability or toxic exposures can lead to inappropriate immune activation and inability to tolerate harmless compounds. An important part of immune tolerance are functional barriers that protect us from these potentially harmful compounds or toxins. Loss of tolerance due to dysbiosis and compromised barrier systems can lead to multiple food and chemical sensitivities, immune polarizations and mast cell activation.
Chronic pain can arise from a number of dysfunctions in the body, including chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, toxicity, nutritional deficiencies (ie: essential fatty acids, vitamin D), oxalates and central or peripheral sensitization. It is important to identify the specific dysfunction leading to chronic pain and address this accordingly.
There are numerous factors that can impact thyroid hormone production and thyroid receptor site responses, including toxins, nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances and glucose dysregulation. The thyroid is also prone to autoimmunity which can lead to autoimmune attacks and destruction of thyroid tissue, leading to hypothyroid states. In fact, autoimmune thyroid is the number one cause of hypothyroidism and should always be assessed in hypothyroid conditions.
There are numerous health conditions that can arise from sex hormone imbalances in both males and females. Young women are prone to uncomfortable symptoms around period time, bleeding abnormalities, endometriosis and infertility while middle aged females can suffer from symptoms related to menopause. Males can also develop symptoms related to a decline in androgens (male hormones) known as Andropause.
There are a number of metabolic disturbances that can impact normal neuronal function, including systemic inflammation (via the brain-immune axis), gut barrier dysfunction, dysbiosis (via the gut-brain axis), toxicity and hormonal imbalances. Inflammation in the body can lead to inflammation in the brain (neuroinflammation) which can manifest in a number of brain-based symptoms and promote neurodegeneration. Toxicity is a common cause of neurologic dysfunction and has been implicated in numerous neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
There are many negative impacts of mental/psychological stress or physical stress on the nervous system. The stress response involves upregulation of the limbic system (amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus) and sympathetic nervous system and suppression of the parasympathetic system, in which the vagus nerve plays a critical role. This can lead to a state of sympathetic dominance and autonomic nervous dysfunction (dysautonomia), which can have profound impacts on sleep and neurologic health as well as the gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system (hormones), immune system and cardiovascular health.