Improve Autoimmunity with these Three Paleo Hacks
Getting quality sleep can reduce the risk chronic disease processes such as autoimmunity. Lack of sleep interferes with our ability to function, contributes to an imbalance in hormones, and can contribute to inflammation. Sleep, really is much more important than we realize! However, many of us are not getting quality sleep, simply because we are on electronic devices leading up to bedtime. These devices emit blue light, and blue light interferes with our natural internal clock, aka circadian rhythm. Therefore, we don’t get deep sleep, and we wake up more frequently during the night. What can we do to counteract this?
Blue Blocking Glasses
The first thing we are going to discuss is blue blocking glasses. Blue blocking glasses are simply orange hued glasses that block blue light from the eyes. It is important to wear them when you are on electronic devices up to two hours before bedtime. According to this study of 22 subjects in 215 light exposure trials, nocturnal plasma melatonin concentrations were suppressed by short wavelength light in a dose-dependent manner. Maximum suppression of melatonin was observed 30-45 min after the lights were on. This means that when you turn the lights off, the effect of melatonin suppression occurs a half hour later. Do you wake up shortly after falling asleep? This may be why! Another study by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found light elicits acute physiological and alerting responses in humans. Blue light increased body temperature and heart rate as well as suppressing melatonin. Limit screen time 2 hours before bed. However, if you must be on a screen, wearing blue blocking glasses can help block this melatonin suppressing light.
Although most blue light emission comes from i-pads, smartphones, and tv screens, regular light bulbs also emit some blue night that can affect your sleep! One way to fix this is by switching to warmer red lights or hue lights a few hours before bedtime. You can now find a wide array of “smart lights” which make it easier to switch the hue from blue light to a warmer colored hue a few hours before you go to bed. According to Lucid Dreaming App,
“Philips Hue is a new kind of a adjustable LED lightbulb – it’s color (hue), and brightness can be controlled remotely, using an iPhone. The bulb has similar dimensions to standard light bulbs, fits in the same socket, and draws only 8.5 watt of current. Most importantly, the bulb can be adjusted to reduce blue light late in the evening and increase it during the day, helping you sleep and concentrate better.”
Sleep Hacking Takeaway:
- Reduce screen time 2 hours before bed
- Try blue blocking glasses when viewing screens in the evening
- Adjust the lights in your house to hue lights, in order to better regulate your circadian rhythm
Stress Hacking: Restorative Yoga/Yoga Tune-Up
When we are stressed the body releases more cortisol. We face that autonomic “fight or flight” response and this leads to a cascade of reactions within the body. When struggling with autoimmune conditions, it is important to manage stress as much as possible, in a very stressful world. According to this Harvard Review,
“Stress is unpleasant, even when it is transient. A stressful situation — whether something environmental, such as a looming work deadline, or psychological, such as persistent worry about losing a job — can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physiological changes. A stressful incident can make the heart pound and breathing quicken. Muscles tense and beads of sweat appear.”
The researchers suggested that prolonged stress or chronic stress contributes to many health issues including anxiety, depression, heart disease and even metabolic syndrome. Do you know what else chronic stress contributes to? Autoimmune Disease! Stress is actually a big contributing factor to Autoimmunity. According to researchers, there are many factors that contribute to autoimmune diseases, such as genetics, environmental, hormonal, and immunological issues. However, the onset of at least 50% of Autoimmune Diseases has no known specific trigger factor. The researchers suggested that stress has been implicated in the development of autoimmunity, and that numerous studies have proven this effect. Stress does not cause the disease, but it is a trigger for the onset of autoimmunity, as well as a trigger for flare-ups.
Exercise is a great stress reducer, but can also contribute to stress on the body. This is especially true for individuals who are already struggle with autoimmune disease. The stress of the exercise on the body can actually make the condition worse, not better. Restorative yoga is a great option for getting your body moving, relieving stress, and not putting too much of a physical stress on the body. According to Mickey Trescott:
“All yoga poses are considered restorative in some fashion, simply due to the varied benefits of doing them; stretching and strengthening your body; improving breathing; inverting the body to help with lymph drainage; hormone regulation; immune system strengthening, and the list goes on. There are a select group, however, that receive the name Restorative, due to their profoundly restful and regenerative effect on the body, mind and spirit. And what stressed out, depleted, autoimmune-fighting, recovering body doesn’t need more of that?”
Restorative yoga uses props such as blocks and blankets. It involves getting in comfortable positions and holding these positions for periods of time. The idea is that you are relieving stress, and quieting the body! For more information on restorative yoga and some poses to try it home, click here.
Another way to hack stress gently is called Yoga Tune-Up. Yoga tune-up is a program designed by Jill Miller, that provides gentle myofascial release, relaxes contracted muscles, improves blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulates the stretch reflex in muscles. This method can be done at home, and involve the use of tune up therapy balls or massage balls. Yoga tune up involves easy, gentle, do-it-yourself massage techniques for pain relief and stress reduction.
Stress Hacking Takeaway:
- Try gentle restorative yoga poses
- Try Yoga-Tune Up
Immune Health Hacking: Psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI)
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the study of the immune system and it’s connectedness to the mind and the body. It’s a fairly new field, even being called “the new psychiatry.” According to Dr. Kelly Brogan,
“In the practice of functional medicine, the diagnosis becomes secondary to the individual’s personalized interplay of factors and the “biomarkers” that can light the way toward healing. Cytokines in the blood, or inflammatory messengers, such as CRP, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha have taken the stage as predictive and linearly correlative with depression. Researchers have validated that, in melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression, white blood cells called monocytes express pro-inflammatory genes leading to secretion of cytokines, while simultaneously leading to decreased cortisol sensitivity, the body’s stress hormone and inflammatory buffer – a feedforward cycle.”
According to Dr Brogan there are many triggers that drive the inflammation leading to depression. Many are related to an imbalance in our gut microbiome, such as not being born vaginally, not breastfeeding, consuming gluten, GMO’s, and NSAIDS (like Ibruprofen). Stress and nutrition also play a big role in psycho-neuro immune health. We now know there are many contributing factors to immune health. What we want to know is…
Are there ways to hack this process by suppressing the production of these inflammatory cytokines?
The answer to this question lies in the vagus nerve! What is the vagus nerve? The vagus nerve is perhaps the most important nerve for the parasympathetic (rest and digest area) of the nervous system. The vagus nerve connects the brain to the gut, and helps control mood, behavior, anxiety, and depression. The vagus nerve plays an important role in gut health and digestion. It connects the gut with the mind. According to selfhacked,
“In people with fatigue, food sensitivities, anxiety and gut problems, brain fog and depersonalization, the vagus nerve is almost always at play. These people have lower vagal tone, which means a lower ability of the vagus nerve to activate.”
How does vagus nerve stimulation play into PNI and inflammatory cytokines?
Reading through various studies, I came to realize that vagus nerve stimulation actually helps to balance the activity of proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways in the body. According to this research, activation of afferent vagus nerve fibres by endotoxin or cytokines stimulates hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal anti-inflammatory responses. What does that mean? It means that through stimulating the vagus nerve, we can help control inflammatory responses in the brain and gut!
When you stimulate your vagus nerve, it releases an array of anti-stress enzymes and hormones such as acetylcholine, prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin. Vagus nerve stimulation has been associated with many benefits such as improved mood, decreased anxiety, increased memory, less brain fog, better immune function, and even better sleep. Vagus nerve stimulation helps to balance inflammation, may decrease allergic responses, and tension headaches.
There are ways you can indirectly stimulate your vagus nerve to suppress inflammatory cytokines and relieve anxiety and depression:
One way is a pulsed magnetic stimulator that actually stimulates the vagus nerve. According to selfhacked,
“Out of everything I’ve tried, the micropulse or ICES device has been the single most effective solution to brain fog, fatigue, inflammation and oxidative stress to date. It’s also supposedly amazing for chronic pain and wound healing. It’s not a miracle or cure, but then again, nothing is. I believe that chronic health issues are almost never fixed by any single intervention unless the issue is extremely mild to begin with. But ICES – so far – is the best single intervention I’ve tried and I’ve tried quite a lot of stuff.”
What are some other easy and free ways to stimulate the vagus nerve?
- Relax and take 3 deep breaths several times throughout the day. Make sure these breaths are deep diaphragmatic breaths.
- Singing loudly! The vagus nerve extends down into the vocal cords. Singing helps to stimulate this nerve, and relieve anxiety. So go ahead and sing loud and off key…try to hit those high notes!
- cold water immersion. According to Newsmax Health, “Cold water facial immersion, especially after exercise, can quickly stimulate the vagus nerve and help reduce the heart rate while activating the digestive and immune systems. The area behind the eyeballs is a particularly accessible zone for stimulation.The best way to practice this technique is, while seated, bend your head forward into a basin of cold water, and submerge your forehead, eyes, and at least two-thirds of your cheeks. During studies of this technique, the water temperature was kept at about 50-53 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Immune Hacking Takeaway:
- Take time each day to take several deep breaths
- Sing loudly whenever you can
- Try a magnetic vagus nerve stimulator
- Try cold water immersion
We hope that you are able to incorporate some of these Autoimmune hacking techniques into your daily routine, and reap the benefits of increased immune health as well as overall better brain and gut health. Keep on the lookout for part 2 of this series, where we will explore even more ways to hack autoimmunity! Happy hacking!