Anne Angelone is a licensed acupuncturist and functional medicine practitioner with a history of ankylosing spondylitis. She is registered both in the Paleo Physician’s Network and Primal Docs and is also a wonderful part of The Paleo Mom Consulting. Anne is the author of a series of Paleo e-books which are available as a bundle here.
We are living at a very exciting time where there are many effective DIY treatment options available for autoimmune disease. Throughout years of studying and investigating my own Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), synovitis, iritis, uveitis, eczema and IBS, my training and results have proven that indeed it’s possible to reverse autoimmune reactions by first testing for and removing triggers while healing with nutrition, supplements, Qi, acupuncture, exercise, personalized diet, enough sleep, and meditation.
Having come to a deeper understanding of the common triggers of autoimmune disease expression and effective treatments, my goal has always been to prevent the decades of suffering that go along with untamed autoimmune reactions that you, dear reader, may still be experiencing. Luckily, these days, it’s so much easier to find out what’s causing your immune dysregulation and how to expediently bring yourself back into balance. But 35 years ago, there was not even a semblance of effective means for investigating or halting autoimmune disease…Here’s my story which is likely familiar to many people struggling to reverse autoimmune disease. You start with lots of inflammation and not a lot of answers until you get empowered with tools and knowledge of how to reverse your disease and live a more peaceful and productive life.
At age 12, I emerged from a pool in the tropics with an inflamed left knee. Back in New York, Orthopods aspirated and found no evidence of infection in the fluid.. and my blood work came back rheumatoid factor negative, so I was given a diagnosis of “synovitis” which describes the site of the inflammation in the lining of my joint. The treatment suggested to me was to take 12 aspirin per day and to wear a splint to immobilize the joint. The result of this treatment was no doubt further damage to my gut, plus the embarrassment at junior high school. After peg legging around for a month or so and seeing no change, I remember deciding that this was not a viable option and threw away the splint and eventually stopped mega-dosing on Bayer aspirin. I decided that I would just have to start living like a “normal” teen (with an inflamed knee… that never went away).
Fast forward-a few more years to high school when I was fortunate to consult with a nutrition writer who suggested a tablespoon of cod liver oil/day and going gluten free. This was in 1982 when their was only one health food store in town that had one alternative bread made from potato flour-(which I have long since realized is a nightshade and which is likely my worst inflammatory food). Even though I had no idea that I was replacing one inflammatory food for another, I didn’t last long on this early version of the gluten free diet as I was a weak willed teen constantly tempted by my grandmothers cheescake, my mom’s pasta, and/or my dad’s baked clams with breadcrumbs, to name a few delights. Besides- I had no proof the inflammation in my knee was going away after a month of (not really) trying. At age 19, after exploratory surgery confirmed the suspected diagnosis of synovitis without a change in treatment options, I realized I needed to keep studying to get to the root of what was going on.
In college, at Cornell University, I studied nutrition and took pre-med classes, thinking that I needed to become a doctor to get all the answers I needed. I also studied Chinese language, which led me to live in Taiwan to study more about the culture and language. While there, I had my first acupuncture treatments for my knee- which not only helped to decrease the swelling but also surprisingly left me with the most calm and peaceful feeling I had ever experienced in my 23 year old life at the time. I was intrigued and began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is an intuitive medical system that detects the underlying causes of disease through a patients’ history and patterns of organ disharmony along with tongue and pulse diagnosis. We then treat the underlying causes of imbalance with acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Yet, by the time I was licensed and practicing acupuncture, my autoimmune reactions started spreading to my other knee, my spine, ribs and and to both my eyes (attacking the back of the eye called the uvea and also the iris). Worry set in big time, I knew my TCM tools were not quite enough to tackle this beast. Since halting my autoimmune reactions were a top priority, I kept searching high and low for the best, most efficient way to detect the underlying causes of my autoimmune reactions. I knew I needed more specific testing and a solid plan of action.
First, I read everything I could, found a fantastic Integrative medical doctor ran a gene marker test for HLA B27 and accurately diagnosed me, and I learned how to identify and remove specific triggers and how to heal my leaky gut. I went (seriously) gluten free again, then dairy, soy and nightshade-free. I also started started studying with Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a leader in the field of functional medicine, who trains practitioners to detect and treat the underlying causes of disease expression rather than focusing on the symptoms.
After doing functional medicine stools tests, single nucleotide polymorphisms testing for (vitamin d, mthfr) leaky gut tests, tests for underlying infections, hormone tests and other autoimmune tests, I then went to work on clearing and healing my leaky gut, aiding detoxification, clearing hidden infections, balancing hormones, getting adequate nutrition, and replenishing glutathione. Clearing infections included both botanical and prescription antibiotics. Healing my leaky gut included learning how to nourish the mucosal lining with glutamine and glycine rich broths and probiotics along with several key vitamins and minerals like zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D. I also started using a special form of folate called L-methyl tetra-hydro-folate along with adeno-B12 to correct an enzyme defect for MTHFR.
Over time, and after much additional research, I discovered that a strict no-starch diet was more appropriate for treating AS due to starch being a substrate that feeds a common bacteria that repeatedly showed up on all of my stool tests and that is highly correlated with AS disease expression (Klebsiella pnuemoniae). Understanding that starch was not just in grains, I was drawn to and inspired by the concepts and science in the field of Paleo Nutrition (with its no-grain, no-legume template). I learned from the astute teachings about autoimmunity by Dr. Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf, which went further to suggest the elimination of eggs, nuts, seeds, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes.
This is a similar template to what Dr. Datis Kharrazian, was recommending in his leaky gut repair program. When I used this dietary template, I started to improve dramatically. I recognize now that this template is so effective since it not only removes massive amounts of common starches that feed bacterial and yeast overgrowths, but it also removes many known gut irritants that contribute to leaky gut.
Soon afterwards, I, like everyone else, was relieved by the work of medical researcher Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D., who reported that nightshade- and seed-based spices were also potential leaky gut irritants. When I removed these spices from my diet, I learned how to further control my inflammation. Also based on Dr. Ballantynes’ astute research and encouragement, I began incorporating nutrient dense foods to make sure I prevented the common deficiencies that most people with autoimmune diseases should be aware of: e.g. vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, and selenium, as well as deficiencies of CoQ-10, Omega 3s, glycine, and fiber. I also applied other aspects of Dr. Ballantyne’s Approach by focusing on getting better sleep and strengthening my circadian rhythm integrity
As I started using a strict autoimmune protocol, began to clear and heal my gut, supported methylation, balanced my hormones, kept exercising and tried to restore a normal circadian rhythm, my inflammation decreased and I recovered my flexibility and strength. My flare-ups have also been fewer and farther between. I still must make the decision daily to prioritize my health in terms of diet, exercise and meditation, but am really happy about this simple yet profound equation for halting autoimmune reactions—it’s all about removing triggers, resolving intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and silencing inflammatory gene expression. It may be easier said than done, but I’ve consistently seen the results myself and with patients in my practice and if we all can do it- so can you!
ThePaleoMom Consulting is a mechanism for you to get the support and customization that you need to be successful in your health journey. My nutrition and health consultants see clients from anywhere in the world, and services range from a simple single session (for you to ask questions that don’t require a complete review of your history) all the way to a Six-Month Transitions package geared to support you every step of the way.ThePaleoMom Consulting also offers functional medicine evaluations. If you’ve hit a roadblock and are doing everything right, this can be a very powerful way to figure out what the missing piece is.
For more information or to book a FREE 10-minute informational consult with any consultant, see the bios section of ThePaleoMom Consulting website. Can’t figure out who you want to talk to? Email us at[email protected] and we’ll help you figure that out.