“Low Positive” ANA: What it Means, Why it Matters, and What You Need to Know

Dr Sara Norris Naturopathic Doctor based in LA

April 24, 2023

Last month I had several patients with a positive ANA (anti-nucleic acid antibody) in their labs. Many of them were told something like, “Your ANA is low positive, but there’s nothing you need to do about it right now.”

First of all, what even is ANA?

The anti-nucleic acid antibody  is a general marker for numerous autoimmune conditions (when your immune cells are attacking healthy cells by mistake.) A positive ANA—even a “low positive”—tells us there is some autoimmune process happening in your body, but it doesn’t tell us which one.

With all autoimmune conditions, there are many factors that cause this lab to show positive. First and foremost, autoimmunity is genetically linked. You either inherited this from one or both genetic parents, or your chromosomes combined in a way that created a unique trigger for autoimmunity. (Thanks, mom & dad!)

Many autoimmune conditions ebb and flow, meaning sometimes symptoms can come and go. The higher your ANA, the more likely it is that your current symptoms (whether they’re ebbing or flowing at the moment) are linked to your positive ANA. 

Typically, when an ANA is 1:80 or 1:160, you are not currently having any symptoms linked to this positive lab. In medicine we tend to think of lab values at these ranges as either false positives, or early warning signs that you are at risk for an autoimmune condition. 

Being at risk for autoimmunity and having autoimmunity are not the same, but either way, the healing approach is the same.

From a conventional perspective (what your rheumatologist is likely to offer), there are medications that can stop  or slow the autoimmune process. This can sometimes be the best choice if natural interventions don’t work, take too long, or are too costly.

BUT, if we can reduce autoimmunity naturally, this is safer.  

 Factors that can raise the ANA (but also be treated naturally):

  1. Low Vitamin D
  2. Low consumption of omega 3 oils (and other nutrient deficiencies)
  3. Gut microbiome dysbiosis
  4. Environmental chemicals, pesticides, and organic solvents
  5. Heavy metals
  6. Cigarette smoking or chronic exposure to secondhand smoke
  7. Mold
  8. Emotional trauma, especially in childhood
  9.  Poor diet
  10.  Hormone imbalances
  11.  Immune activation from infection (bacterial, fungal, or chronic viral infections),
  12.  IgG food sensitivities 

First, we create a treatment plan to reduce any symptoms associated with an elevated ANA. We’ll also work on identifying your triggers (the foods and environmental factors that cause your symptoms to flare up).

Second, we treat these underlying triggers to prevent any further destruction of tissue (due to antibodies attacking). This involves a lot of moving—movement of your body, movement of the lymphatic system, and movement of stagnate emotions. Fun!

Third, we’ll create a game plan for long term remission which includes minimizing and decreasing current and future exposures to toxin overloads.  

I feel like we say this at the end of every blog post, but stress is a major player in autoimmunity. And when you start looking into natural interventions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by what can feel like massive life changes, sacrifice, and expense.

Honestly, it doesn’t do you any good to give up gluten (for example) if the stress of going gluten-free sends your immune system into a tizzy anyway!

This is why we’re always mindful of what’s actually manageable in our patients’ day to day lives. We take it step by step, and make sure you have time to weigh all the options and make an informed decision.

So. Have you had a positive ANA lab and are ready to find out more? 

Give us a call today and let’s see where we should start.