Autoimmune Disorders Specialist

Ray Andrew, MD -  - Functional & Regenerative Medicine

Prestige Wellness Institute

Ray Andrew, MD

Functional & Regenerative Medicine located in Springville, UT & Moab, UT

The last 20 years have brought an epidemic in autoimmune disease. This should raise alarm bells throughout America. Fortunately, we know what causes it. By addressing the underlying causes of immune dysfunction, our patients are discovering freedom from both autoimmune disease and toxic medicines. Ray Andrew, MD, and his team at Prestige Wellness Institute in Utah County and Moab, Utah, are ready to help. To start your road to recovery, call and schedule an appointment today

Autoimmune Disorders Q & A

Sitting in medical school many years ago, I asked myself, “Why am I memorizing so many useless facts and figures about these rare conditions called autoimmune diseases? How often am I going to see this in medical practice?” 

Fast forward to 2019, and there isn't a day go by that I don't see at least one if not a handful of patients with autoimmune diseases. I am baffled by the explosion. The epidemic of diseases such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, celiac disease and so many others. How is it possible that medical societies and the government are not alarmed by this epidemic and going all out to turn it around? 

Frankly, we know what is causing it. But addressing the triggers on a societal level would be devastating to some very lucrative industries, including the food industry, the drug industry, big agriculture, pesticide industry, vaccine industry and more. I guess that explains why the people we trust to safeguard our health are doing nothing about this problem. 

With that said, like the overwhelming majority of diseases today, autoimmune diseases are totally preventable. Three conditions are required for the development of an autoimmune disease. First, you have to have a bad gene. We can't fix that, unfortunately. But the majority of people who have genes that predispose them to autoimmune diseases never find out about it because they don't get the disease. This is because two other conditions are required. 

The second condition is enhanced intestinal permeability. Some people call it "leaky gut", although this is misleading because it conjures up images of accidents in your pants. Intestinal permeability means that the gaps between the cells that line the small intestines have been damaged, have become enlarged, so that undigested food particles, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites can access the bloodstream directly without being blocked by the gatekeepers in the small intestines that are designed to protect us from all of these things. 

When this happens, the immune system in our gut responds by developing antibodies to attack these invaders that aren't supposed to have gotten in. Unfortunately, the antibodies tend also to attack human body tissues, which then leads to symptoms. 

But a third component is required for the development of an autoimmune disease. This is either an infection, toxin, or both. 

For example, you could have a case of Epstein Barr virus, which many of us recognize as Mononucleosis. However, most people who develop Epstein Barr virus do not actually experience the disease that we recognize as Mono, but instead, perhaps as an upper respiratory infection, a fever, some malaise, and they get over it and move on with their lives, but continue to carry the microorganism, the virus. Other infectious triggers of autoimmune diseases include intestinal parasites, bacteria, yeast, and even worms. 

Finally, toxins can trigger autoimmune disease, especially in conjunction with microorganisms. For example, we have pesticides, we have genetically-modified organisms that we call "food". Heavy metals are a big cause of autoimmune disease, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and others. 

In conventional medicine, we are taught to treat autoimmune disease by suppressing the immune system. Obviously, the immune system is misbehaving, so why not put it in its place, ratchet it down a few notches? For this, we use a variety of drugs to suppress immune function. Our symptoms get better. But unfortunately, when you suppress immune function, you suppress something that was designed to protect us from infections and cancer. 

So it should come as no surprise to people that immune-suppressing drugs cause increased rates of infectious diseases, including systemic fungal diseases, and things like tuberculosis and hepatitis, and malignancies like lymphoma cancer and leukemia. No, this is not the answer. 

It may be good in the short term to bring a person's symptoms under control, but we want to get at the root of the problem. Let's fix the underlying problem rather than trying to just cover it up with drugs. 

Obviously, we can't fix our genes, but we can improve our intestinal permeability, and we can look for and eliminate infections and toxins from our bodies. When we meet patients with autoimmune diseases at Prestige Wellness Institute, we guide them through the process of repairing the gut lining, and removing infections and toxins. 

But this is not all. Very often the damaged tissues--the victims of the confused immune system--need repaired as well. So, we pay attention to them. Also, we explain to patients that when they have an autoimmune disease, they actually have two problems, not just one. In other words, there's the victim--the tissue that is being attacked by the immune system--and then there's the attacker, which is the immune system. 

Now, of course, the immune system isn't the bad guy. It's just confused. So, the process I've been describing is the process of repairing the immune system, of helping the immune system to become healed, to become "unconfused", so that it no longer recognizes your own cells as the enemy, but instead, recognizes cancers and infectious diseases as the real enemies. 

Let me illustrate this further with the example of Hashimoto thyroiditis. In America today, it is said that 95% of hypothyroidism is due to Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid over a period of years. If left unchecked, it will destroy the thyroid, and the individual will require thyroid hormone replacement. 

In conventional medicine, we don't ever check for Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Instead, when someone comes to the office complaining of symptoms suggestive of hypothyroidism, we check a lab test and say, "Yep, you've got hypothyroidism. Now you have to take this drug for the rest of your life and you'll be fine." 

Unfortunately, this approach is very dangerous because statistics tell us that, once a person has one autoimmune disease, he or she is at a dramatically higher risk of developing another one down the road. We see this commonly in our offices. Someone who, for example, develops Hashimoto's thyroiditis may later develop celiac disease or Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis, or any other number of diseases. If we merely approach hypothyroidism as an endocrine disease--or in other words, a disease of an endocrine organ, which is a gland, in this case, the thyroid gland--then we are completely missing the attacker, which is the immune system. 

Well, once the immune system is confused enough to attack one tissue or organ, it doesn't magically know that it's supposed to stop there. It's still confused. So, we shouldn't be surprised when it goes attacking other tissue types. So in our offices, we address both the victim--the tissue being attacked--and the attacker, so that the patient does not develop additional victims down the road. 

Let me tell you about Tammy. One day, Tammy suddenly couldn't move her shoulders without pain. Then, she lost strength in her legs. Her whole body ached, so she couldn't sleep at night. She felt as if someone had punched her in the face. She developed a lump in her jaw. Her jaw wouldn't open all the way. Her hands swelled up. 

Tammy was eventually diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease and treated with prednisone and methotrexate. Then she was put on Prilosec because methotrexate was causing heartburn. She eventually stopped taking prednisone and methotrexate because she felt awful and got scared by everything she read about them. But the heartburn didn't go away. So she had to keep taking Prilosec. She was then prescribed plaquenil, then prednisone again, then CellCept. 

As soon as Tammy came to me for help, we started working on repairing her gut, treating hidden infections, removing heavy metals, and building up her immune system. As the months went by, she felt better and better. She stopped one drug and then another. Now she feels better than she felt even before her disease, and has nearly finished weaning herself off the last drug. 

A growing number of people have autoimmune diseases and cannot tolerate the side effects of the immune-suppressing drugs. Others are simply concerned about the long-term risks of those drugs. If you are among them, let me assure you that autoimmune diseases aren't caused by a deficiency of immune-suppressing drugs. We can use a natural approach to get at the root of the problem by solving the underlying triggers of autoimmune diseases. We don't need a different drug for each disease. This is because all autoimmune diseases boil down to one underlying problem: The immune system is confused. 

Now, don't worry: If you are already in treatment, you don't have to stop your medicines. Keep taking them as long as you want while we work on solving the underlying problem. Then you decide if and when you no longer need these drugs. 

Give us a call. We can help you make your immune system your friend again.