The immune system is your body’s protector against germs and viruses that can make you sick.
Immune system action involves lots of complicated pathways, but in general, it works through the production of antibodies. Antibodies are produced to “fight” and rid the body of foreign invaders.
But what happens when the immune system isn’t in tiptop shape?
For starters, you may be prone to more frequent illness, like the common cold or seasonal flu. But a chronically compromised immune system – when it’s too active or not active enough – can result in a whole host of health disorders called AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES.
A healthy immune system can recognize the difference between the body and foreign invaders.
But in the case of Autoimmune Diseases, the immune system starts mistaking normal, healthy cells as foreign and attacks parts of one’s own body.
Over 80 conditions have been recognized as Autoimmune Diseases.
Commonly recognized Autoimmune Diseases:
· Type 1 Diabetes
· Multiple Sclerosis
· Rheumatoid Arthritis
· Irritable Bowel Syndrome, including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis
· Celiac Disease
· Thyroid Disease
Each one has its own unique symptoms, depending on the body parts that the immune system attacks.
Most Autoimmune Disease begin with the same early warning sign symptoms, such as:
- Low energy
- Swelling, redness, heat
- Mental fog and/or difficulty focusing
- Skin rash and/or breakouts
Autoimmune Diseases can be difficult to diagnose, since these early symptoms are generalized. The severity of symptoms also varies and flare-ups and remissions are common (and commonly frustrating!) in people with an Autoimmune Disease.
Healthcare Professionals don’t know exactly what causes most Autoimmune Diseases either. Some have a genetic predisposition, meaning having a family history may increase your risk of getting that disease.
Research has identified several other few factors believed to contribute to the development of Autoimmune Diseases.
Contributing factors to Autoimmune Diseases include:
→ Western Diet – A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, saturated and trans fats is believed to promote inflammation, damage the lining of the small intestine, and weaken immune system function.
In contrast, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from plant foods has the opposite effect on the body.
→ Compromised Gut Health (i.e. Leaky Gut Syndrome) – Diet, alcohol use, stress, and antibiotics all affect the microbiome – the bacteria that lives in your gut.
→ Exposure to Toxins – includes environmental pollutants, heavy metals, chemicals in personal care products, and residue on foods (pesticides and chemical fertilizers – eww!)
→ Bacterial/Viral Infections- Since bacteria and viruses trigger a similar immune response, some researchers have suggested that antibodies produced in response to certain infections may also attack some of normal cells because they somehow resemble the bacteria or virus that caused the infection. Others say that infections may actually damage your immune system, leading to the development of autoimmune disorders.
→ Hormones – Women seem to develop more Autoimmune Diseases compared to men, especially during their reproductive years. This may be due to hormonal imbalances and/or an excess of estrogen, known as Estrogen Dominance.
Treatments for Autoimmune Diseases are not curative, but focus is on minimizing uncomfortable symptoms and decreasing the frequency of severe flare-ups.
A combination of treatments may help Autoimmune Diseases:
Medication – targeted at managing pain, reducing inflammation, and suppressing immune system activity.
Alternative therapies – acupuncture, chiropractic, and natural remedies may be used to manage symptoms.
Nutrition & Supplementation – AIP , Paleo, and HFLC are some of the more popular nutrition based approaches to treating Autoimmune Diseases.
I work closely with people struggling with thyroid autoimmune conditions (having suffered with it myself) and I found that many of the overwhelming symptoms (fatigue, weight gain, mental fog, sleep issues) can be resolved when we start to focus on the root cause. While there is no evidence that you can ‘heal’ an autoimmune condition, there is still so much that you can do to suppress the conditon and get relief from problematic symptoms. You just need the right support and the right plan. If you are struggling with these symptoms and have a thyroid imbalance I really encourage you to book a call with me so that we can create your personalized plan to address root cause and stop relying on your prescription alone.