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If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and you’re eager to do whatever it takes to get into remission and feel better, then this post is for you. Rest assured, there is a clear roadmap to remission, with precise steps to take. This is exactly what I did back in 1999 when I came down with an aggressive type of Rheumatoid Arthritis (here’s my story). I wanted to do whatever I could holistically, with diet and supplements, instead of relying solely on what conventional medicine had to offer.
I was extremely fortunate to find the right guides and practitioners at the time. With their help, I followed a nutrition and functional medicine treatment plan that worked. I was able to get control of my symptoms and go into remission. Now, decades later, I know how to stay in remission and maintain my immune resilience, health, and vitality – without obsessing over it! It’s my passion to help other self-motivated women do the same.
In 2000 I started my journey to become a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. I then became certified in nutrition, and double-certified in functional medicine. In my private clinical practice, I specialize in all things related to women’s hormone balance and immune health. I’ve spent over 20 years helping women take charge of their health and go into remission from autoimmune conditions.
In 2023 I created a four-month program called the Road To Remission to guide women through the same steps I took to get my health and my life back. These steps use a functional medicine approach to stop the cycle of immune dysregulation and provide the best path toward remission.
But – the functional medicine approach does not replace good conventional care with a trusted specialist! It’s not conventional OR functional, it’s BOTH. The two combined are the best way to achieve remission, trust your body, and feel your best.
What is remission?
As you probably know, autoimmune disease is not curable, but remission IS possible. Remission means the autoimmune process is dormant, and it’s determined by how you feel, as well as the labs, scans, and exams your specialist provides. There are darn good reasons to work toward remission. One is to feel a whole lot better, and another is to prevent more autoimmune diseases from springing up. (If you have one autoimmune disease, unfortunately, you’re at risk of accumulating more.)
So what do we actually do in our program to help women get into remission? We use a holistic functional medicine and nutrition approach, and we break this down into four concrete steps:
1. Optimize your anti-inflammatory diet & lifestyle
We start with a food-first approach — a must for autoimmune health. It’s absolutely true that you can make or break the inflammation load in your body with what you eat! However, this is highly personal. There are no food rules that apply to every single person with an autoimmune condition. No, gluten and dairy are not off the table for everyone, this is simply not a thing. I was shocked back in 1999 to find out that eggs were a big culprit for me, and I had been eating them daily prior to my diagnosis.
In this step, we use blood tests and a customized elimination diet to figure out the foods that are a problem for YOU. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s critical to identify which foods, if any, are causing inflammation in YOUR system. As you can imagine, this is a highly personalized process, and we are experts at guiding you through this journey.
The flip side of an anti-inflammatory diet is to add nutrient-dense healing foods that control inflammation. There are myriad ways that foods can reduce inflammation, and again, this is personal, not a cookie-cutter recipe. Firstly, it depends on which nutrients you’re deficient in, and we can measure this through blood work. And, it also depends on your particular symptoms.
So, it’s a combination of what to add and what to subtract that creates a personalized anti-inflammatory diet you can rely on. (We talk all about this here in this workshop.)
Step 1 is about more than just your diet. We help you dial in a complete anti-inflammatory lifestyle, too – including reducing stress, improving sleep habits, moving your body, and cultivating connections with supportive communities. These are the pillars of a healthy immune system.
2. Heal your gut
With autoimmunity and inflammation, we always start with the gut! This is the case even if your digestion and elimination seem perfect. The majority of your immune cells exist in your digestive tract, so working with gut health is the most direct and accessible way to improve immune health.
One aspect of gut health is the integrity of the intestinal lining. We know that autoimmune disease is preceded by a hyperpermeable intestinal lining, which we call “leaky gut.” When you have a leaky gut, it means things pass through your gut lining and get into your bloodstream that shouldn’t, from undigested food proteins to toxins to microbial byproducts. These noxious things can overstimulate the immune system and cause systemic inflammation. In this step, we assess and heal leaky gut.
Another aspect of gut health is your gut microbiome. With autoimmune conditions, it’s common to have imbalances in your gut microbiota. You could have low levels of the good bacteria that you need to support and regulate your immune health. Or you may have an overgrowth of pesky microbes, like bacteria, yeast, or parasites, that trigger an inflammatory immune response locally in the gut or systemically in your whole body. When I first got sick, I had an amoeba called blastocystis homonis that was wreaking havoc in my system and causing aches and pains. Once I treated it, my symptoms dramatically improved.
A healthy, robust, and diverse gut microbiome is crucial for immune health. In this step, we use a functional stool test called the G.I. Map to assess your gut microbiome, and create a treatment plan based on these findings. In the future, it’s a good idea to do a G.I. map on an annual basis to keep your gut microbiome in check.
3. Clear your inflammation triggers
Any type of chronic inflammation in your system can create the cytokines that drive autoimmunity. In this step, we assess and clear hidden sources of inflammation. This is called “inflammation hunting,” and culprits include:
- Hormone imbalance
- Blood sugar and insulin dysregulation
- Uncontrolled allergies, asthma, or excessive histamine reactions
- Chronic infections such as Epstein Barr virus, HPV, or UTIs
- Osteoarthritis or osteoporosis
Obviously, these triggers are very individual, and we investigate them on a case-by-case basis.
4. Regulate with supplements
This step comes last because, after the first three steps, the supplements you require are now crystal clear. At this point you’ve already cleared some inflammation, you’ve optimized your gut microbiome, and you’re feeling better. Now it’s time to hone in on a maintenance supplement protocol.
There is no one-size-fits-all supplement protocol for autoimmunity. Supplement protocols need to be customized. Your custom protocol is based on your symptoms, nutrient deficiencies, and the type of immune regulation that you need. Supplement protocols also change as you change. You may have a protocol for “maintenance” and a different protocol for “flares.” You may also have special protocols for when you get sick, travel, or happen to be exposed to a toxin like alcohol.
We don’t use supplements to suppress or “strengthen” the immune system. In an autoimmune condition, the immune system is confused and needs regulation. We can do this with supplements that influence the type of T cells you make (read more). This is the best leverage for reducing autoimmune inflammation on an ongoing basis as well as helping you get out of flares should they occur.
Are you ready to take charge of your immune health, get into remission, and move on with your precious life? If so, join me on the Road To Remission!
I invite you to join the Road To Remission program, where we’ll walk you through these steps at your own comfortable pace. We’ll help you develop a personalized treatment plan for healing your autoimmune disease functional medicine style. You truly don’t have to do this alone. Relief is just around the corner!
Dr. Laura Paris, DACM is an Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner and Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine who specializes in the intersection of hormones, inflammation, and autoimmunity. She helps women balance their hormones, reverse chronic inflammation, and get into remission from autoimmunity.