by: Dr George Savastio
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, you may know that diseases that fall into this category can be debilitating and frustrating to live with. Common examples of this class of illness include Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Crohn’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis and, less common, Sjogren’s syndrome, Lupus, and various forms of joint and muscle maladies. While all of these conditions have their own unique pattern of symptoms, they are all branches from a common root. In all of the above diseases, the immune system, whose responsibility it is to protect the body from illness, becomes instead an agent of destruction.
In a way, the immune system functions like a portable digestion, with the ability to go anywhere in the body and dissolve promoters of infection such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In an autoimmune disease, this digestive process is focused instead on a particular organ or system. In the case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the immune system digests the thyroid. If it’s rheumatoid arthritis, then the joints become the target of digestion. The different names for the various conditions are based on which organ system is primarily affected.
Autoimmune diseases are a very puzzling turn of events, to be sure. The immune system is quite complicated, and an honest doctor will tell you that it’s not really very well understood. We do know that the White Blood Cells (WBC’s) form the core of the system. They’re normally very well schooled in identifying which tissues belong to the body, and which tissues do not. They fan out throughout the blood, lymphatic system and spaces around cells looking for microbes that don’t belong to the body and that might cause illness.
No one really understands why the immune system turns on certain parts of the body in an autoimmune disease, although theories abound. The most common one that I hear from colleagues in alternative medicine has to do with something called “molecular mimicry”. The story is that large molecules from the digestion find their way into the blood due to a problem identified as “leaky gut”. These theoretical molecules are spotted by the immune system, which proceeds to sound the alarm. The WBC’s then spread throughout the body in response to the alarm in search of more of the foreign molecules. The theory then proposes that molecules similar to those allowed in by the leaky gut are found on the surface of whatever organ is involved in the autoimmune disease, and the confused WBC’s proceed to orchestrate the attack on the organ that ultimately results in the painful symptoms experienced by the person with the condition.
This theory of disease origin assumes that the body is a sort of grand machine. There was a time when the entire universe was viewed as a machine, so at least this sort of theory fit in with the science of the times. It’s been a long time since physicists held this view. In his 1938 book “The Mysterious Universe”, the noted physicist Sir James Jean pronounced, “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine”. That was 1938, folks. It’s high time that biology and medicine caught up with the 20th century.
My experience in medicine has taught me to avoid making sweeping statements as to the cause of illness. Each case is unique, and needs to be looked into before we make theories about causes. But, if we can liberate our minds from 19th century concepts, perhaps we can begin to understand all illness, including autoimmune disease, in a different light.
If medicine is a science, then it should accord with modern physics and its understanding of the “great thought” that is our world.
In holistic science, what we habitually separate into the body and mind are considered two sides of the same coin. If we look into the mind, which is no more than a collection of thoughts and feelings that we assemble into a whole, we see how often conflict arises. We say strange things such as, “I’m so mad at myself”, “How could I be so stupid?” or, “I hate my thighs”. The mind experiences cravings, which are then inflicted on the body. We punish the body with drugs, alcohol, sugar or potato chips. We all experience this discord to some degree. All of this is considered normal, strange as it is when you stop to look at it.
Under normal circumstances, the immune system operates with brilliance and wisdom in defending the body without causing harm. It’s hard to imagine it working with the blind stupidity of the “molecular mimicry” model. Is it possible that the above sort of conflict may lie at the heart of an autoimmune condition? Again, I would never paint all who have autoimmune diseases, or any named diseases, with the same brush. But this avenue is often worth exploring in these cases. Could it be that sometimes the immune system is acting in accord with the mind’s tendency to judge itself and the body harshly? Might there be an element of self-loathing at work, with the immune system acting as an agent of the judging mind? This certainly seems to be the case in some patients I’ve worked with over the years.
Regardless of whether inner conflict is the main cause of disease in a particular case, I find it worthwhile to explore aligning the body and mind to set the stage for healing. I think it’s worthwhile to treat the body like a beloved child, or even a pet. It’s always helpful to learn to listen to the language of the body, which is whatever symptom you may be dealing with. Learning to honor the body, to pay attention in a loving way to it, to speak to it in a loving way, is always a good first step. When you are feeding, bathing and clothing it, do so in a loving and nurturing way. It really works, and it’s perfectly in keeping with the modern scientific vision of the universe as a great thought.