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Ask Dr. Mike: Supplements Safe for Autoimmune Disease PLUS Natural Ways to Ease Myasthenia Gravis Symptoms

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans.

Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Are there any supplements someone with an autoimmune disease can take?

An autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system attacks healthy cells within your body by mistake. There are over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, and doctors are still unsure why people suffer. They do know, however, that autoimmune diseases run in families. Dr. Mike wants you to first speak with your doctor first before taking any supplements.

Here are four supplements that are true immune modulators:
  • Vitamin D
  • White peony extract
  • Shark liver oil
  • Plant sterols

I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis after the fatigue I was suffering started to affect my vision. Is there anything natural I can take to lessen the symptoms?

Myasthenia Gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disorder that causes extreme fatigue and overall weakness of the skeletal muscles. The muscles that are mostly affected are those in your legs, neck, face, and arm.

Dr. Mike suggests vitamin D, astragalus, green tea extract, cat's claw, and omega-3 fatty acids.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 11, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to Radio MD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike, on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR MIKE: So, I found two questions in my email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , relating to autoimmune disorders. The first one is a more general question, so I'll start there, but then, the second one is about a very specific autoimmune disorder, Myasthenia Gravis, so we'll get to that one, but let's start with this general one and I'm going to paraphrase what this person was asking and here it is:

"Are there any supplements somebody with autoimmune disease can take?" This is a really good question because I know, even on my show, especially since I'm an anti-aging doctor. Ultimately, I talk about a healthy immune system. I talk about the importance of a strong immune system, but a lot of things I talk about aren't really necessarily appropriate for people with autoimmune disorders because here's a situation where you have your immune system that is kind of overactive in some aspect and it's attacking your own tissues.

The last thing I want to do is give you something that's going to cause more over activation. I don't want to overstimulate someone with an autoimmune disorder. So, the terminology for this is, and you'll hear this a lot in the industry, is immune-modulation. What it means is using supplements, for people with autoimmune disorders, that don't necessarily activate a specific part of the immune system, but instead, provide a balance to the immune system.

Let me try and give you an example. Let's look at something like coriolus, which is a mushroom. I've talked about coriolus and the importance to the immune system and anti-cancer properties. Coriolus is a definite immune stimulator. There are a lot of things coriolus does, but one of the things it does is, it helps to help to prepare T cells to be activated. So, it kind of primes T cells which are a very important part to the immune system, but it's definitely activating T cells. It's getting them ready. Coriolus may not be the best thing in autoimmune disorders because of that stimulatory effect.

But there are other supplements, though, that don't necessarily activate things like T cells or B-cells and macrophages. Instead, they provide kind of a balance. So, if you have a situation in an autoimmune disorder where your T cells are a little over activated, there are nutrients that when you take them, they're able to rebalance that. They bring down the T cells, bring up the B-cells, or, you know, wherever that deficiency is, they'll bring that up and they'll bring down the overactive part and these are called immune-modulators.

So, based on the research that Life Extension has done, we usually list, and there are other ones, but these four we feel very confident as classifying them as true immune-modulators and, in most cases, are going to be safer for people with autoimmune disorders. Now, notice I just said in most cases.

I've learned in medicine never to be definitive in anything I say. I'm never going to say absolutely, always, never. I've been burned so many times in medicine when I use words like that. So, if you have an autoimmune disorder and you're interested in immune-modulation, you can't just start these supplements, you need to speak with your own doctor. If your own doctor doesn't know, usually naturopathic doctors have a better handle on this where they can help you understand immune-modulation and then you can take that to your doctor who's treating the autoimmune disorder.

So, don't just start this stuff. However, if you want to do some more research, these are the four immune-modulators that we feel confident with here at Life Extension. The first one is white peony extract. Usually around 1200-1,800 mg a day. White peony is a good immune-modulator. Shark liver oil is an immune-modulator. Now the caveat to shark liver oil, and this just shows you that the immune system is very complex. It's not always cut and dry, black and white type stuff.

There's a lot of grey area. Shark liver oil is an immune-modulator, but in some people can boost white blood cells quite significantly. So, there you can have to be a little careful with that one even. Most of your plant sterols, these are plant based antioxidants known as polyphenols. Sterols is a type of a chemical structure, but a lot of plant sterols, about 20 mg a day, will provide immune-modulation. And then vitamin D,
"D" as in dog.

So, important to just managing the immune system. As a matter of fact, that's probably the key one you that want to start with. So, white peony, shark liver, plant sterols and vitamin D. What also helps, and what I'm about to say, these next three things maybe aren't directly related to immune-modulation, but they have an effect. That would be probiotics. There is the amino acid glutamine and butyric acid also can play a role because by improving the gut, which these three do that helps indirectly those three help immune-modulation.

So, yes, this is a good question and you do have to be careful, if you have an autoimmune disorder what supplements you use. You don't want to overstimulate the part of the immune system that's already overstimulated. Now, let me go to the next question and in this question, hopefully, I'll be able to get all of this in. I'll explain what I mean by immune-modulation a little bit more.

So, here is the question, this is more specific now.

"Dear Dr. Mike, after a few months of extreme fatigue and several doctor visits I was finally diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis", MG, "after the fatigue, it started to affect my vision", which is common in MG, the visual effects. "Is there anything natural that I can take to lessen the symptoms? By the way I will be starting Regonol soon." Regonol is a common prescription for MG. So, to understand MG, you have to understand it is an autoimmune disorder.

There are antibodies that target certain receptors and muscle cells that are linked to acetylcholine, which stimulates muscular contractions. So acetylcholine will bind, in a normal situation, will bind the receptors and that allows for normal muscle relaxation and contraction cycles.

But in MG, you have these antibodies that your own bodies produce, that are attaching to these receptors, so the muscle loses control over this normal contract/relax cycle and they tend to be more just like contracted and the muscles become very weak and easily tired and those are just classic symptoms. I mean, they're non-specific symptoms, which is often why it takes a long time to diagnose MG. Eventually, you start having some of the eye muscles get involved and that's where you start getting the blurred vision and that usually is how it's diagnosed. So, this person, I don't have a name here, the fact that it was the vision that eventually gave the diagnosis is common.

Now, what's interesting here is, I'm going to use MG as a way better way of understanding the modulation affect. The T cells are an immune cell that are really important--specifically, a type of T cell called T helper cell--to just managing the entire immune response. There are T helper cells that are more linked to problems inside the cell and those are called T helper 1 or TH1 cells. Then there are ones that, T helper cells, that are more involved with antibodies and b-cells and they're called TH2 cells. Well, MG is an autoimmune disorder where the TH2 cells are overactive because you have too many antibodies attaching to these acetylcholine receptors.

So, here's a perfect example of where I don't want to give somebody with MG immune nutrients that will boost TH2 cells because that's just going to make it worse. I want to bring down TH2 and bring up TH1. Vitamin D is always a good one to start with because that's your classic modulator, as I just mentioned. Astragalus is an herb that will help to bring down TH2 and up TH1. Creatine, protein that will help to do that, green tea extract can help, cat's claw and even Omega-3 fatty acids. Again, what we're doing here is we're rebalancing, we're bring down the active component of TH2 cells, helping to produce those antibodies and we're bringing up the TH1. That's classic immune-modulation.

So there you go.

This is Healthy Talk on Radio MD.

I'm Dr. Mike. Stay Well.