embracing nutrition and functional medicine

How Functional Medicine may help with Autoimmunity

Auto Immunity affects 6% of the UK population. Read below how Functional Medicine may be able to help you.

How Functional Medicine may Help with Autoimmunity?

Autoimmune disease occurs when your body’s immune system mistakes some part of yourself for an enemy and mounts an attack.

It’s the job of your immune system to seek out and destroy invaders such as bacteria and viruses. To do this it must be able to distinguish between what is a threat and what is not. When the selectivity of your immune system isn’t working as it should, autoimmune diseases can develop.

There are over 80 diseases classed as autoimmune and they’re estimated to affect around four million people in the UK, meaning more than 6% of the population is suffering. Autoimmune diseases affect more women than men.

Autoimmune Disease Conditions

Some autoimmune diseases target one single organ, with others attacking multiple sites. Some of the more common conditions coming under the umbrella of autoimmune disease include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, when joints are attacked, causing swelling, pain and stiffness
  • Lupus, affecting tissues in many different parts of the body leading to symptoms like skin rashes and joint pain
  • Coeliac disease, involving the small intestine
  • Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both affecting the large intestine
  • Multiple Sclerosis, where the immune system attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord
  • Grave’s Disease and Hashimoto’s, both involving the immune system attacking the thyroid gland
  • Psoriasis, affecting the skin
  • Type 1 diabetes, when pancreas cells producing insulin are destroyed
  • Sjogren’s’ syndrome, where the parts of the body producing tears and saliva are affected, causing dry mouth, eyes and skin

However, almost any body part can be mistaken for an invader by your immune system.

Causes of Autoimmune Disease

  • Because around three-quarters of your immune system is found in your gut, any problem with your gut health will inevitably affect your immune system. As well as being less able to destroy pathogens it can become less selective and attack your body cells instead. One common issue in autoimmunity is the gut lining becoming more permeable than it should. This allows substances such as toxins and incompletely digested molecules of food to access your bloodstream. Because these substances are unfamiliar to your immune system, it will be put on red alert. If it’s constantly being stimulated like this over time it’s likely to lose its selectivity.1,2,3,4,5,6
  • Food sensitivities, encouraged by a leaky gut. Gluten can be a particular problem, as a protein in gluten can cause your gut to become more permeable.7,8
  • Certain foods such as sugar, grains and processed foods produce inflammation in the body. Excess inflammation adversely affects the function of your immune system.
  • Environmental toxins such as pesticides and airborne pollutants, as well as mycotoxins from moulds, can adversely affect your immune system. So can heavy metals like lead, cadmium from cigarette smoke, and mercury, found in amalgam fillings and some fish.9
  • Chronic, ongoing stress can suppress your immune system and cause widespread inflammation. Many people who suffer from autoimmune diseases notice their symptoms often flare up following a stressful event.10
  • Dormant viruses may trigger autoimmune disease and flare-ups.11

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Disease

There is no one test to detect specific autoimmune diseases, although antibody tests are used to detect raised antibodies which would suggest autoimmunity.

Because the immune system can potentially attack any part of the body, many people with autoimmune disease are not diagnosed. You may find your symptoms have no obvious pattern, and you may have tried many drugs and remedies without success.

Conventional Treatment of Autoimmunity

Conventionally, there’s no cure for autoimmune disease. Treatment normally focusses on managing symptoms, for example with NSAIDs or painkillers, and suppressing the immune system with immunosuppressants. Unfortunately, these drugs come with side effects.

Functional Medicine and Autoimmunity

The goal of your Functional Medicine consultation will be to discover the reasons why your immune system is attacking your body, rather than simply addressing your symptoms.

Environmental factors have a significant effect on your immune system. Even if you are genetically predisposed to developing autoimmunity, it will only be triggered by environmental factors.

Functional tests can measure your stress levels, assess your gut health and detect latent viral or bacterial infections which may be contributing to your symptoms.

Once causes are isolated, a programme of supplements, herbs and dietary and lifestyle modifications can correct imbalances in your organs and systems to enable your immune system to react in a more balanced way.

This will usually involve supporting your gut health and helping your liver to detoxify better. Stress management and an anti-inflammatory diet will also be important.


  1. Di Tommaso N, Gasbarrini A, Ponziani FR. Intestinal Barrier in Human Health and Disease. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Dec 6;18(23):12836. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182312836. PMID: 34886561; PMCID: PMC8657205.
  2. Knezevic J, Starchl C, Tmava Berisha A, Amrein K. Thyroid-Gut-Axis: How Does the Microbiota Influence Thyroid Function? Nutrients. 2020 Jun 12;12(6):1769. doi: 10.3390/nu12061769. PMID: 32545596; PMCID: PMC7353203.
  3. Thye AY, Bah YR, Law JW, Tan LT, He YW, Wong SH, Thurairajasingam S, Chan KG, Lee LH, Letchumanan V. Gut-Skin Axis: Unravelling the Connection between the Gut Microbiome and Psoriasis. Biomedicines. 2022 Apr 30;10(5):1037. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10051037. PMID: 35625774; PMCID: PMC9138548.
  4. Zaiss MM, Joyce Wu HJ, Mauro D, Schett G, Ciccia F. The gut-joint axis in rheumatoid arthritis. Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2021 Apr;17(4):224-237. Doi: 10.1038/s41584-021-00585-3. Epub 2021 Mar 5. PMID: 33674813.
  5. Parodi B, Kerlero de Rosbo N. The Gut-Brain Axis in Multiple Sclerosis. Is Its Dysfunction a Pathological Trigger or a Consequence of the Disease? Front Immunol. 2021 Sep 21;12:718220. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.718220. PMID: 34621267; PMCID: PMC8490747.
  6. Li B, Selmi C, Tang R, Gershwin ME, Ma X. The microbiome and autoimmunity: a paradigm from the gut-liver axis. Cell Mol Immunol. 2018 Jun;15(6):595-609. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2018.7. Epub 2018 Apr 30. PMID: 29706647; PMCID: PMC6079090.
  7. Liontiris MI, Mazokopakis EE. A concise review of Hashimoto thyroiditis (HT) and the importance of iodine, selenium, vitamin D and gluten on the autoimmunity and dietary management of HT patients.Points that need more investigation. Hell J Nucl Med. 2017 Jan-Apr;20(1):51-56. doi: 10.1967/s002449910507. Epub 2017 Mar 20. PMID: 28315909.
  8. Hakola L, Miettinen ME, Syrjälä E, Åkerlund M, Takkinen HM, Korhonen TE, Ahonen S, Ilonen J, Toppari J, Veijola R, Nevalainen J, Knip M, Virtanen SM. Association of Cereal, Gluten, and Dietary Fiber Intake With Islet Autoimmunity and Type 1 Diabetes. JAMA Pediatr. 2019 Oct 1;173(10):953-960. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.2564. PMID: 31403683; PMCID: PMC6692682.
  9. Rowley B, Monestier M. Mechanisms of heavy metal-induced autoimmunity. Mol Immunol. 2005 May;42(7):833-8. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2004.07.050. PMID: 15829271.
  10. McCray CJ, Agarwal SK. Stress and autoimmunity. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2011 Feb;31(1):1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.iac.2010.09.004. PMID: 21094920.
  11. Getts DR, Chastain EM, Terry RL, Miller SD. Virus infection, antiviral immunity, and autoimmunity. Immunol Rev. 2013 Sep;255(1):197-209. doi: 10.1111/imr.12091. PMID: 23947356; PMCID: PMC3971377.



Request a Discovery Call

Please enter your contact details below and some details of your Fibromyalgia for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call

Request a Discovery Call

Please enter your contact details below and some details of your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call

Request a Discovery Call

Please enter your contact details below and some details of your symptoms for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call

Request a Discovery Call

Please enter your contact details below and the reason for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Discovery Call

Choose your Preferred Time of Day to be contacted ( You can choose more that one option)

Choose your preferred days to be contacted ( You can choose more than one option )

Booking Reschedule Request

If you wish to reschedule your appointment, please fill out the reschedule booking request form below.

Booking Re-schedules need to be approved and are processed manually. You will receive confirmation of your rescheduled booking once processed.

If you would rather cancel your appointment, then please close this form and select Consultation Cancel Request from the menu.

Booking Cancellation Request

If an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours-notice 50% fee will be incurred. If an appointment is not attended a 100% fee will be charged.

If an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours-notice by Embracing Nutrition, a 50% reduction of your next appointment will be made.