Autoimmune Disease is part of the rising tide of chronic illness affecting the developed world.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
In an autoimmune illness, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissue, creating inflammation, damaging and deforming tissues in the body, which leads to pain and loss of function. Any disease that results from this improper immune response is called an autoimmune disease.
There are currently more than 80 distinct autoimmune diseases that have been identified by the National Institutes for Health, but the autoimmune mechanism is involved in well over 100 diseases, that are not considered autoimmune diseases per se, such as artherosclerosis (a cause of heart disease).
Autoimmune Disease is one of the Top Ten leading causes of death in the USA –One in 12 men and one in 9 women have an autoimmune disease.
Here are some of the most common autoimmune conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Graves Disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Coeliac Disease
Why does Autoimmune Disease occur?
The activation of the immune system in autoimmunity, happens earlier than the onset of symptoms.In layman’s terms, what happens is, there is a set of circumstances than occur simultaneously or accumulatively, and once they are all in place, they disturb the balance of the immune system. Once this disturbance exists, the immune system no longer behaves in a healthy way.The combined, accumulated circumstances cause the immune system to act in a pro-inflammatory way, over-reacting to things that are not actually harmful or dangerous, and instead interrupting healthy function and eventually causing symptoms, that if they’re not arrested, will eventually become disease.
10 signs you may have an autoimmune disease.
If you’re experiencing the following symptoms, especially if you have a combination of them, you may have an autoimmune disease.
- A butterfly shaped rash, hives or recurrent unexplained rashes.
- Joint pain, muscle pain, muscle weakness or tremors.
- Unexplained weight loss, rapid heartbeat, insomnia and ‘running hot’.
- Multiple miscarriages
- Dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin.
- Feeling tired, feeling cold when others aren’t, weight gain, hair loss.
- Inability to concentrate or focus. Poor memory.
- Patches of lost pigment on your skin or your hair.
- Blood or mucus in your stool, diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain.
- Tingling sensations or numbness in your hands and or feet.
What causes autoimmunity?
There are multiple underlying factors that contribute to developing autoimmunity.
In order to activate the autoimmune mechanism, it is understood that three things are required.
- Genetic predisposition
- Intestinal Permeability (aka Leaky Gut). Click here to see if you have symptoms of leaky gut.
- An Environmental Trigger such as bacteria, virus and very significantly – inflammation caused by foods. There is a significant link between gluten, dairy, and autoimmunity.
What is the treatment for Autoimmune Disease?
Traditional medical management of autoimmune disease is slightly different from disease to disease, but is generally focused on using drugs to suppress symptoms or attempt to suppress the over-active immune response. Lastly, surgery may be recommended to remove tissue that has become to badly damaged by the inflammation or the side effects from the drugs taken to manage the symptoms of the AID.
My approach to Autoimmune Disease:
Here is my thinking about a better way to address autoimmunity.
If you have an autoimmune disease that affects a specific tissue, such as your joints, your gut or your thyroid, your conventional treatment will probably be focused on the area of your symptoms. However, the real issue lies in the immune system. If you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, this is not primarily a thyroid problem, it’s an immune system problem, and until the balance of the immune system has been addressed and restored, it will continue, no matter how much thyroid medication you take.
Addressing the underlying immune system disturbance in autoimmunity is rarely as simple as identifying a single ‘magic bullet’ trigger. In some cases, identifying the environmental trigger and removing it can make a tremendous difference, and also, often it will be necessary to address multiple variables in order to restore more normal function to the system.
The best part about working with autoimmunity is that, because of it’s multi-factorial nature, rather than just relying on your doctor to adjust your medication, there is a lot that can be done to take back control of your health and improve the situation.
The following all impact immune system function and balance, and are areas that we can investigate or adjust in order to impact the way the immune system works.
- Immune system reactions to food proteins
- Gut health and ‘leaky gut’
- Infectious agents such as viral or bacterial infections (which can be latent, or hidden)
- Pro-inflammatory / Anti-inflammatory foods
- Toxins such as heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminium, arsenic) or mycotoxins / mold
Where to begin?
- We can very easily begin by looking at and adjusting the food you eat, your sleep and stress levels.
- I will likely request some tests to look further at your gut, to determine any overgrowths or deficiencies there. The gut is the heart and soul of your immune system. I believe that anyone with an active autoimmune disease has intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and quite likely imbalances in the bacteria found there, both of which need to be corrected to restore immune health.
- We may need to look for different antibodies in the blood, or investigate hidden infections.
- And if we have addressed all of these things and you’re still experiencing symptoms, then it’s likely that we need to consider and investigate toxins.
This is a basic outline of my approach, but I consider every patient individually and will adjust the thinking and approach to fit each person and their history.To read more about my general approach to health restoration, click here.
Lastly, I do know from personal experience how overwhelming a diagnosis of autoimmune disease can be, and again I would like to really emphasize that there is so much that you can do to change your health in a positive way.
Please get in touch if you’d like more information or to get started with improving your health.