There are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Many of them have similar symptoms, which makes them very difficult to diagnose. It is also possible to have more than one at the same time. They usually fluctuate between periods of remission (little/no symptoms) and flare-ups (worsening symptoms). There are no cures for autoimmune diseases, so treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms.
Autoimmune diseases often run in families, and 75 percent of those affected are women (AARDA). African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans also have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
The cause of autoimmune disease is unknown. If you have a family member with an autoimmune disease, you may be more susceptible to developing one. There are many theories about what triggers autoimmune diseases, including
- bacteria or virus
- chemical irritants
- environmental irritants
We are facing an epidemic of allergic (60 million people), asthmatic (30 million people), and autoimmune disorders (24 million people). Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, celiac disease, thyroid disease, and the many other hard-to-classify syndromes in the 21st century.
These are all autoimmune conditions, and at their root they are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.
Your immune system is your defense against invaders. It is your internal army and has to clearly distinguish friend from foe - to know you from others. Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissues get caught in friendly cross-fire.
Your body is fighting something - an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food or the stress response - and somehow it redirects its hostile attack on your joints, your brain, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body. Unfortunately, many of the conventional treatments available can make you feel worse. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, steroids, immune suppressants like methotrexate, and the new TNF-alpha blockers like Enbrel or Remicade can lead to intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, depression, psychosis, osteoporosis, muscle loss, and diabetes, not to mention overwhelming infection and cancer.
When used selectively these drugs can help people get their lives back. But they are not a long-term solution. They shouldn't be the end of treatment, but a bridge to cool off inflammation while we treat the root cause of the disease.
If you have an autoimmune condition, consider using these techniques:
- Check for hidden infections - yeast, viruses, bacteria, Lyme, etc. - with the help of a doctor, and treat them.
- Check for hidden food allergens with IgG food testing.
- Get tested for celiac disease, which is a blood test that any doctor can do.
- Get checked for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity.
- Fix your gut.
- Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally.
- Exercise regularly - it's a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.