Over the past many decades we have moved from the paradigm of one constituent causing one disease to many different reasons why a diagnosis exists. This creates a difficulty when it comes to treating concerns with the past mindset.
What is Sarcoidosis?
Sarcoidosis is characterized by the growth of granulomas (inflammatory cells) in various parts of the body (most commonly lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, and skin) due to an irregular immune response to foreign substances, such as inhalation of air toxicities, viruses, or bacteria.
It’s most common amongst people between ages 20-40, with women slightly more at risk. African-Americans also have a higher rate, as well as a potentially more severe course of disease.1 While we cannot control our age, race, or family history, we can be proactive about our lifestyle when it comes to where we live, exposures, and healthy habits, as unfortunately there is no cure in conventional medicine, just medications to manage symptoms.
Its symptoms can be vague, and include
- swollen lymph nodes
- joint pain
- weight loss
Many people may also experience:
- lung issues (e.g. shortness of breath, persistent dry cough)
- joint pain (usually in wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles),
- skin rashes like reddish-purple bumps (usually on shins or ankles)
- lesions on their face
- growths under the skin
People can have varying types of lung involvement, staged 0-4, based upon chest X-ray, with 0 being normal, and 4 being most severe. Stage 1 involves granulomas in lymph nodes on both sides of bronchi, pretty centrally located. Stage 2 is stage 1 plus granulomas in lung tissues, usually in the upper lung. Stage 3 has granulomas only in the lungs.
Stage 4 has granulomas and scarring throughout the lungs that can impede function, and irreversible. However, the stages do not always reflect prognosis or severity of symptoms, as a complete picture of symptoms, labs, and diagnostic criteria need to be considered.
Less common organ system involvement affected by granulomas altering function includes eyes (usually severe pain and vision interference), heart (palpitations, right sided heart failure if severe), and nervous system (excessive urination due to overproduction of vasopressin).
Doctors or other health care professionals may also catch elevated calcium blood levels, due to granulomas production of vitamin D, which enhances calcium absorption from the intestine and can contribute/worsen similar symptoms as well.
Diagnosis is made through chest X-ray and biopsy of affected tissue to display inflammation and granulomas. Additional tests to measure organ function are blood tests for kidney and liver, pulmonary function tests, and an eye exam.
What are the Conventional Treatments?
Once diagnosed, treatment becomes symptom management in hopes that it can either go away on its own (about half of cases), or doesn’t worsen. Common medications include corticosteroids, NSAIDs, medications that suppress the immune system, and sometimes more potent medications to treat inflammation.
5 Natural Treatments for Sarcoidosis
Remove Air Pollution
While an untreatable disease seems grim, fortunately, there are many natural and healthful ways to go about promoting healing. Environmental health and air pollution are the main risk factors, so minimizing those by having an air filter, not smoking, and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke.
Boost Your Liver Health
In addition, your liver is an important detoxification organ (what helps metabolize those pollutants) so minimizing alcohol (also suppresses immune function), consuming a healthful diet especially rich in green vegetables, and drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water helps optimize our liver health.
Lower Stress and Inflammation
Take it one step further and cook your veggies with turmeric, black pepper (enhances absorption of this powerful anti-inflammatory herb) and coconut oil (helps absorb fat soluble vitamins). Incorporate strategies to manage stress (honestly everyone needs more of; stress also hinders our immune system) such as deep breathing, laughing, being around people you enjoy, yoga, and regular movement.
Care for Your Emotional Wellbeing
Check in with your doctor to find out a plan for potential regular check ups around various tests to monitor your liver, heart, eyes, and lungs. Your emotional well-being is also incredibly important as counseling and support groups may be helpful. Further, organ systems also represent emotions, with lungs signaling imbalances around unresolved depression and grief, as healing on the emotional realm adds to healing within our body.
Consider when the masseuse hits a knot when we’re on the massage table and there go the water works- hello emotions stored in our tissues!
When it comes to supplements, and any other type of natural treatments, it’s best to speak with a Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine Doctor who know herb/drug/nutrient interaction and about the condition itself, such as how calcium and vitamin D are not advised, and the knowledge to choose high quality supplement brands customized for your individual needs.
We did not wake up with our symptoms just last night, as various processes may have been brewing for years, and thanks to genetics, even before we were born. Yet genetics is only about 5-10% of our health destiny, which means you are now empowered to make long lasting changes to improve your health outcomes and quality of life with the right direction.
This great guest post was written by Dr. Serena Goldstein, a naturopathic doctor specializing in natural hormone balance! I encourage you to go check out her website!
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