How to Get an Autoimmune Disease Into Remission

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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!

women's functional medicine autoimmune specialist

Dr. Laura Paris is a Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine and Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner specializing in immune health, inflammation, metabolism, menstrual cycle regulation, fertility, and hormone balance.

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One Comment

  1. Hi Dr. Laura,

    Thank you for keeping me on your contact list. Although I have not seen you as a patient, your blogs and periodic sharing of information have been helpful to me.

    I did sign up for HER and attended two of the sessions. However, the timing of the HER sessions and my commitments to other activities have not been matching. -Woe is me that I can’t do everything I would like to do to help others-. So I have asked to be removed from that contact list.

    I just read your above 4 step process of healing from autoimmune diseases. Perhaps I have already told you how Dr. Deepti Saxena helped me heal (I don’t like the word remission) from the disease Sarcoidosis (Sometimes called an autoimmune disease, but now called an inflammatory disease by the Foundation for Sarcoidosis.) I like to call it a dysfunctional immune system disease.

    I know now that I developed this disease because of many years of a not so good diet, months of a high stress job and the genes I was born with. Oddly enough what “triggered” my first major flair was Morton’s Salt Substitute. (Specifically Potassium Chloride (PC)) PC is poison to me. When I drank it in polyethylene glycol my intestines bloated within 30 minutes and stayed that way for almost 6 months. I hope you are helping your patients identify and avoid triggers.

    I have read a lot of good stuff about turmeric/curcumin and how it has anti-inflammatory properties. However, each time I have used it (or eaten too much in food) I have more inflammation symptoms. So what you wrote about helping your patients with individualized medicine is so very important. Most conventional doctors don’t get this at all.

    Back to my 2012 treatment plan. 1. An elimination diet with slow re-entry of possible offending foods. Dairy, eggs, night shades and red meat are all OK foods for me. Gluten is not OK and I have been 90% gluten free since 2007. It has become a comfortable way of life for me, encouraging me to eat a low carb diet. I also eat a somewhat low mold diet which has also helped. So the first 6 to 12 months was focused on getting my diet under control.

    To immediately reduce the inflammation she had me take Olmesartan which also helped kill microbes. She diagnosed me with Adrenal Fatigue and prescribed a burst and taper of hydrocortisone for a few months. More importantly she had me taking two compound supplements she had formulated called Adrenal Revive and Adrenal Balance. We designed a plan for me to reduce stress. I made a list of everything I did daily. Then I divided it into things that gave me pleasure and things that did not. I methodically reduced the “not pleasure” list and increased the “pleasure” list. The list method was easier for me to comprehend than just reduce stress. I know that you have suggested yoga and meditation, but trying to do both of these stresses me out. Keep in mind that this may happen with others.
    Once we got my adrenals functioning normally again many symptoms resolved. It took about 5 years to get my body functioning normally again.

    An example of how things can affect people differently is. At the retirement home where I live we organized a drum circle session. I was on the committee and it sounded like a great idea. I went to the session and within the first 5 minutes I started to scream. I was so stresses by the rhythm of the drums I became unglued. I left the session before I spoiled it for everyone else. I was very surprised at me own reaction. On the other hand I find balancing check books calming and therapeutic. So what I am suggesting is to help your patients identify what actually makes them happy and calms them than to suggest what works for professionals.

    My treatment included compound supplements such as a quality multi vitamin, GI Revive, Digestzymes, and the adrenal products.

    In 2020 I lost my dear doctor Saxena and contacted a different FM doctor. She was helpful with the mold issue I have, but overdosed me with the supplements zinc, magnesium
    and vitamin B 6. She also prescribed Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidylcholine both of which caused me to have insomnia. I dismissed her as my doctor after a few weeks of serious diarrhea from the magnesium. This is why I am so glad to hear that you are being careful with your patients when it comes to supplements. They can be dangerous as well as helpful. We are so individually different.

    I am now seeing an FM cardiologist (Dr. Daniel Rieders) and a naturopath Dr. Thalia Hale. Dr. Thalia has referred me to Donna Alderman DO who is using PRP therapy to heal my knee tendons a ligaments. Although I was diagnosed by the kind capable Orthopedic doctors at Palo Alto Medical, Stanford and the Sah Clinic with OA, Dr. Alderman did an ultra sound of my knees and said my real problem was damaged soft tissues and not calcium deposits. After 3 treatments my knees are 80% better and I expect full recovery after my 4th and final treatment in October. Dr. Rieders has released me (well maybe an annual visit) because we have reduced by high BP with out the standard harsh drugs.

    What I am trying to say here dear Dr. Laura, is that I have found such a restored level of health through alternative medicine I am willing to give a real testimony to any of your patients who are in doubt about what your treatment methods can accomplish.

    BTW I also have an acupuncturist who provides treatments every Thursday here at our retirement home, and a reflexologist who has solved a couple problems with hip and leg joint pain that were not solved by my trusty Chiropractor and the acupuncturist.

    Thank you for spending your precious time to listen to my story.

    Jeanne Benedict

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