Botox & Autoimmune Disease: Is It Worth It?

Botox is the brand name for a form of botulinum toxin that is injected into facial muscles to paralyze neurons and result in a temporary reduction of wrinkles and fine lines. But what does injecting a known toxin into the body mean for someone with autoimmune disease?

 

First, let’s discuss what Botox is…

Before I head into how Botox can potentially affect someone with autoimmune disease, let’s discuss what exactly it is! Ingested or inhaled botulinum is a neurotoxic spore that in minuscule amounts can be fatal. Symptoms include slurred speech, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness and lethargy. This is why babies under 1 are advised to not eat honey – their digestive tracts are not mature enough to fight off potentially contaminated food.

Botox injections contain a very, very tiny amount of a specific strain of botulinum that paralyzes the muscles of the face to smooth fine lines, wrinkles and crow’s feet. It is even used by 20 and 30-something’s to prevent aging. The results only last 3 to 6 months which means Botox users get between 2 to 4 treatments a year, for decades and decades, if they want to maintain the results. Treatments cost anywhere between $400 to $1000, sometimes more, depending on how many injections you receive.

 

The industry is projected at an annual gross of 2.5 BILLION dollars & 4 to 5 million Americans receive Botox injections per year. You can bet that if 50 million Americans have autoimmune disease, there is overlap between Botox users and the AI population.

 

What else is it used for besides fine lines, wrinkles & crow’s feet?

Botox is also indicated on and off label for chronic migraines, spastic cerebral palsy, excessive sweating, acne and TMJ disorder. I had a few Instagram followers message me that they have used Botox in the past for migraines. All 3 said they did not find relief from Botox and 2 out of the 3 said Botox gave them terrible, painful, long-lasting autoimmune disease flares. Of course, this is anecdotal, but nonetheless interesting.

 

Botox’ insert warns the following autoimmune populations about serious adverse side effects…

People with autoimmune diseases that affect the neurological system like ALS, MS and Myasthenia Gravis (MG), should be particularly aware of the mechanisms and risks with Botox. The Botox website states that patients with ALS, MG, and Lambert-Eaton Syndrome need to be cautious of the potential for increased risk of serious side effects such as breathing difficulties and difficulty swallowing.

*Please be sure to make your Botox practitioner aware of all existing autoimmune disorders as well as pre-existing autoimmune episodes caused by Guillain-Barre Syndrome.*

 

Let’s look at the existing science on the relationship between Botox and autoimmune disease patients…

Limited longitudinal data or correlative studies exist examining the long-term health outcomes of Botox use on the autoimmune disease population or the general population.

Yet, a single subject study on a woman with Hashimoto’s who received Botox treatments over a decade-long timespan found a possible correlation between injections and a rise in her TSH post-injection.

These researchers examined the structure of the Botox and thyroid auto antibodies, which are the key indicators of the immune system’s attack on the thyroid. They found similarities between the epitopes of Botox and thyroid antobodies, indicating that Botox injections potentially increase the possibility of molecular mimicry – or the immune system mistaking Botox antigens for thyroid antigens.

 

Currently, not enough evidence exists to determine whether or not Botox is safe for patients with autoimmune disease, but just because something has not been proven, does not mean a relationship does not exist. This is where we each need to make our own informed decisions, and that will be different for each individual. 

 

As autoimmune disease patients, we need to make our own informed decisions about allowing known toxins into our bloodstream. Here’s why:

It is widely known that environmental factors account for 67% of  autoimmune disease risk while genetics only account for 1/3.

Autoimmune disease causal factors may include exposure to environmental toxins (including heavy metals, viruses and vaccines), nutritional deficiencies, blood sugar issues, antibiotic use, GMO and pesticide exposure and bacterial infections).

Now, if we know that the majority of autoimmune disease risk & potentially disease progression comes from our environment, then it makes sense to limit our exposure to environmental toxins. I don’t need a randomized, double blind, causative study to tell me that.

 

Thankfully, safer alternatives exist for decreasing signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity, if you do decide that Botox isn’t the right option for you. 

 

 SAFER ANTI-AGING SKINCARE

 

DIY MICRODERMABRASION FACIAL

This at-home gentle microdermabrasion deeply exfoliates and softens skin, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps with hyperpigmentation from scarring and sun damage.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon Skin Obsessions Microdermabrasion Crystals +

1/8 teaspoon Beautycounter Cleansing Balm

HOW TO USE: Wet face with warm water. Massage the exfoliating paste gently into your face and neck for 60 seconds, avoiding eyes and mouth. Rinse away with a warm wet wash cloth. Use SPF protection if going out in sun for 24 hours following.

 

 

DIY 85% LACTIC ACID PEEL 

 

Skin Obsessions’ 85% Lactic Acid peel resurfaces skin, decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation and dullness. It can be used 1x a week to 1x a month, depending on skin sensitivity and results goal. Follow directions included in your affordable at-home peel package. Use SPF protection if going out in sun for 24 hours following & avoid prolonged sun exposure during this time as well. Do not use if pregnant. I feel comfortable using 1x a month while breastfeeding, but that’s a decision you need to make for yourself.

*If pregnant, avoid the use of salicylic acid peels which contains high percentages of salicylic acid (a member of the aspirin family).

** Glycolic and fruit acid peels are two other safer at-home peel options.

 

 

 

AGE REVERSAL & PREVENTING SKINCARE

Beautycounter’s Rejuvenating Collection is a potent anti-aging line made without any harmful or potentially harmful chemicals like Retinol. The products I’ve seen the most benefit from include the Radiance Serum, Rejuvenating Night Cream & Rejuvenating Eye Cream.

HOW TO USE: Cleanse skin with Cleansing Balm. Apply Radiance Serum followed by Night Cream and Eye Cream. For additional brightening and scar-reducing benefits, apply the No. 1 Brightening Oil prior to the Radiance Serum.

 

 

COQ10 POWDER ADDED TO NO.1 BRIGHTENING OIL

The Skin Actives COQ10 powder is BRIGHT yellow and chock full of antioxidants that help return elasticity and vibrancy to skin. This loose powder needs to be mixed a face oil (this Brightening Oil is incredible for evening skin tone!) and then applied to skin. If using the Rejuvenating Routine above, apply it before the Radiance Serum. If using the Countermatch Routine, apply it last.

 

 

 

DIETARY INTAKE & SUPPLEMENTATION OF OMEGA 3 FISH OIL 

Increasing your dietary intake of coldwater fatty fish like wild-caught salmon (my fave!) and small bottom feeders like sardines and mackarel can help restore plumpness and vitality to skin. It is even thought to help with the prevention and reduction of fine lines and wrinkles as well as combat acne with its anti-inflammatory properties.

If you’re getting less than 1 or 2 servings of the above fish in your diet each week, consider taking a high quality fish oil supplement. I personally take Vital Choice Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil + Vitamin D3. Bonus: I’ve noticed more stable mood while taking it!

 

 

 

What the F is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)?

 

 

I couldn’t resist titling this article “What the F is EFT?” I can’t tell you how many people have asked me this very same question when I started talking about my experiences with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) last year. And I said the same thing when I first heard of this interesting form of therapy myself.

What the F is EFT?

EFT is a therapeutic emotional tool implemented by practitioners all over the world that combines the principles of acupressure (tapping along meridians with your fingers), talk therapy and replacing current thought patterns with positive affirmations in order to move energy around your body and nervous system. In a way, it has similarities to acupuncture which uses needles along known energy meridians to re-circuit the body’s qi (another word for energy). 

 

I have come across several different philosophies behind EFT, so rather than explaining the who’s, why’s, and how’s… I’m going to share my personal experiences so you can get a more unique look inside an EFT session. I do encourage you to reach out to a local EFT practitioner if you have one in your area, if this sounds like it may be beneficial for you. I received great benefit from my sessions + much, much, much better results than a traditional therapeutic approach or even hypnosis (I tried that too). It’s VERY woo-woo at first, but once I saw benefit, I put my initial judgments aside and just went with it. 

 

Humans tend to bury the things that frighten us the most deep, deep, deep into our cells. Our cells, our mitochondria, are responsible for giving us life and controlling every bodily process you can think of… including how we think. Our immune system. Our brains. Our guts. Our cortisol response. When our cells are contaminated with a personal history of fear, trauma, abuse, and invalidation, a switch turns on.

 

This switch could be the trigger that pulls the gun for autoimmunity that was already loaded by your genetic and environmental toxins. Or it could be the switch that keeps you from living life in your truest form and achieving true happiness and fulfillment. Don’t you find life’s greatest moments result when you just drop expectations? For EFT to “work”, you really have to become as non-judgmental as you can be and not overthink it one bit.

 

Think of it this way. Most humans are walking around on earth tightly wound up like a spring. Everyday experiences continue to load that spring until it gets tighter and tighter and smaller and smaller, so that it no longer feels, looks, or acts like itself.

 

Until we release the tension caused by all of these experiences, we are going to stay tightly wound, our cells starved for new flow of energy. This didn’t totally make sense to me until I tried EFT with a very skilled practitioner in Austin. I no longer live in Austin but I continue to use what I learned from my therapist to cope and thrive in my everyday life. 

 

How does it work?

Ideally you learn to self-administer EFT tapping with an experienced therapist in a quiet and safe setting. It’s important to trust your EFT therapist because you will likely be talking about your deepest concerns, fears, and anxieties. Some people use EFT to calm headaches, allergic reactions, back pain, bloating, constipation, rashes, etc. I started EFT after hearing what an effective treatment is can be for someone with PTSD, emotional trauma, and anxiety. I wanted to change my thought patterns because I knew if I changed those, other things in my life would naturally fall into place to make me a happier and whole being. 

 

EFT is applicable to pretty well any physical, emotional, or cognitive issue or ailment you are experiencing. While I haven’t used EFT on more than two occasions for physical illness (an exposure to an allergen), I have used it for the last 6 months to successfully heal emotional wounds that I have carried with me from birth, childhood and young adulthood.

 

One could argue that the trauma we carry with us may have caused enough stress to trigger our autoimmune diseases. Now it’s time to unload the gun so that if the trigger is pulled by a daily event, it’s not going to harm us.

 

Okay, so here’s how it works…While narrating your thoughts, you tap along designated acupressure points in a calming pattern. Top of the head, above the eyebrow, the side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, on the breast bone, across the chest, under the ribcage, side of your body, along your forearm, hand, and fingers. It’s important to really let the thoughts flow and to not judge them. If you need to vent about your ex-husband, mother-in-law, the girl who stole your treadmill at the gym, or the guy who rear-ended you this morning in a non-judgmental space, this is the place to be.

 

EFT doesn’t encourage you to pretend everything is roses + pack away your real feelings. Remember, it’s about the good, bad and the fuuuugly. I’ve learned that to cope in life, we need to be aware of our reactions first and foremost. I have less to cope with now since EFT has changed my outlook so dramatically on people and events. 

 

My Personal Experiences with EFT

I find the subtle drumbeat of tapping vibrating through my body INCREDIBLY calming, and will now even start tapping in public subconsciously if something is stressing me out. For example, the other day a car drove by my daughter and I while we were walking in my neighborhood way too fast.

 

My cells immediately wound up in anxiety, my heartbeat faster, and I started to sweat. To calm this cortisol response down quickly, I started tapping, tapping, tapping, and within a few moments, I felt level again and ready to appreciate the beautiful morning for what it was. In the past, that event would have set up me for anxiety all day, heightening my adrenal response, lowering my digestion, and stimulating my immune system. 

 

During our first session, I felt what I can only describe as a ball of energy form in my throat, almost choking me, and certainly uncomfortable. I consider that the first and largest release of energy from my body that was keeping me sick and unhappy. My body gathered up energy in my throat likely for a few reasons: I have a diagnosed thyroid disease and the energy was right where my thyroid is located. I have felt my voice was squashed for so long… I used to hide my diagnosis (especially my infertility diagnosis) from friends and peers, even my family. I’ve also always had a fear of choking or of anyone touching my neck. It makes complete sense that this is where my body’s energy expulsion targeted. My therapist said some people burp, pass gas, become sleepy, or feel other odd sensations during EFT sessions.

 

We continued to tap along the meridians of my body, me following the lead of my therapist. The room had lowered lights, soft music playing, and my therapist encouraged me to keep speaking my inner thoughts. The ones I had pushed deep into my cells for so long. That ball of energy slowly started to release into the top of my throat, near my mouth, and suddenly it was gone. I no longer felt like I was choking or couldn’t breathe. I didn’t burst into tears (this session), it just went away. And the issue we were talking about truly stopped bothering me. It was an issue that was rooted in a past relationship. That’s some heavy stuff to work through that quickly. Other topics took several sessions for us to work through, though, so even if you don’t feel completely resolved after one session, don’t give up yet.  

 

Of course I was incredibly curious to return for more sessions once I had that effective initial experience. And each subsequent session we focused on whatever was on my mind that week. One week it was my birth experience, another week it was about missing deceased family members, another week it was to combat anxiety I was experiencing in anticipation of having six weeks straight of visitors when Grace was a few months old. We also discussed past relationships and experiences (like a scary experience I had walking home by myself in college as well as the tragic death of two friends).

 

On top of the fear and trauma that results from those situations is blame and an unwillingness to make ourselves vulnerable… for fear it may happen again. Or maybe it’s embarrassment for others to know. Either way, neither fear, invalidation or embarrassment are creating a positive flow of energy in your body and are negatively impacting your efforts in healing. Wrapped up in my past trauma is years and years and years of living a life of someone who was unwell and had lost her zest for life. 

 

The guilt, shame, fear, pain, sorrow, and hopelessness that many of us that have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or infertility comes as a package with our diagnosis. We have to unwrap that package, stare at it, examine it, question it, and then decide how we’re going to address it. Do we want to hold those emotions in our cells, keeping us from leading the life we were meant to live? Or do we want to release those emotions + clear our energy meridians so we can instead bring them true emotional and physical nourishment?

 

I lived in these negative emotions far too long, especially with my infertility diagnosis. I can say with confidence that my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s would not have been nearly as devastating to me if it hadn’t come along with an infertility diagnosis a year later. After the birth of my daughter, the greatest gift I could have ever received, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to raise my daughter as a tightly-wound emotional spring, off-gassing my trauma on her. She deserved better and so did I. I had to face my own demons, the ones that were keeping me in a place of emotional restriction and possibly from reaching my full healing potential. That may sound strange to you depending on your own spirituality + openness to new ideas. But I fully believe that what we carry with us affects those around us.

 

Haven’t you been around someone who just made you feel off? There was a girl in my occupational therapy program who literally gave me the heebie jeebies… there was something in her energy that was so negative, it made my stomach twist and turn when I was near her. I had to work closely with her during the time of a Hashimoto’s flare and the days we were together, I felt so exhausted and sick. I wish I had known about EFT back then because I could have better protected myself in that situation. 

 

So what have I gained from EFT?

  • In a rather short time, I have increased my coping abilities dramatically. I go through my day with greater ease.
  • I have further accepted my body for what it does, what it looks like, and what it may do in the future. I don’t live in fear of autoimmune flares or fear of situations I cannot control.
  •  I have stopped blaming myself for everything. I’ve stopped worrying and “but what if-ing” everything.
  • I have stopped trying to control the future so much but rather live and stay in the present.
  • I feel healed from past traumas and aware of the healing that still needs to occur.
  • All of these tendencies and behavioral/thought patterns were rooted in anxiety and that anxiety was flowing through my cells like the Colorado River. We disrupted the flow.
  • Shifted my cognitive patterns using an almost trance-like state that is consciously tapping… and it really changed my outlook on the world and my place in the world.