Your immune system is responsible to protect your body from viruses and infections. To fight against the threat, the immune system releases an army of fighter cells but the problem occurs when the immune system fails to recognize the foreign cells and its own cells, hence it senses the parts of its own body as a threat and starts attacking with antibodies.
This condition is known as Autoimmune Disease wherein the healthy cells are attacked by antibodies and thus disturb various organs and systems in the body.
The result is the inefficiency of organs in performing their regular task which leads to a series of symptoms including pain, organ failure, and chronic illness.
Most common Autoimmune diseases
Some of the most common autoimmune diseases are:
It is the condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and causes a chronic inflammation which leads to Hypothyroidism.
Graves’ Disease is the other autoimmune condition that directs the body to produce too many thyroid hormones, hence leading to hyperthyroidism.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
The condition where your immune system attacks joints and other tissues leading to chronic pain, swelling, and fatigue is another common autoimmune disease.
Type 1 Diabetes
To regulate blood sugar levels, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin. In Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
High blood sugar results can damage the blood vessels and organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
The condition where your skin is attacked by the immune system and leads to thick scaly patches of skin due to the quick multiplication of skin cells.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
This autoimmune condition disturbs the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the body and the brain too.
This damage can lead to numbness, weakness, balance issues, and trouble walking.
Parkinson’s disease (PD)
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra.
In this autoimmune condition, the immune system damages the areas of the body that include joints, skin, and organs.
To fight against autoimmune diseases, conventional medication was used to suppress the immune system but it also comes with the drawback of letting making your immune system less efficient from fighting the actual virus and bacteria that can cause other diseases in your body.
So, to overcome the setback, a functional medicine approach is adopted wherein the root cause of the autoimmune disease is identified and treated rather than just suppressing the symptoms for better functioning.
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Generally, the three areas of causes are considered while treating Autoimmune Diseases. These include Genetics, Environment, and Intestinal Permeability.
Although genetics play a major cause in autoimmune diseases, there are other factors also that can lead to autoimmune conditions. Genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases gets triggered by the environment. Environmental factors may include mold/mycotoxin exposure, the trauma of any kind, heavy metals, toxic body burden, radiation, chronic stress, medications, food sensitivity, chemical exposure, sleep deprivation, undiagnosed infections, breast implants, smoking, or a combination thereof.
Your gut health also plays a major role in autoimmune responses. when intestinal barrier function is compromised (Intestinal Permeability, informally known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome”), the body’s ability to regulate the immune response becomes imbalanced which can be a causal factor in autoimmune disease.
In the presence of small intestinal exposure to bacteria (SIBO) and gluten, among other environmental triggers, the body releases a protein called zonulin which influences the tight junctions in the gut. This causes an increase in intestinal permeability and autoimmune disease in genetically susceptible individuals.
Generally, women are more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases than men due to differences in immunity, sex hormones, genetic susceptibility, and history of pregnancy.
Analyzing the root cause
Analyzing the root cause of disease involves an individual approach which may vary from person to person. Hence, functional assessment is done to identify the lifestyle, diet, stress level, sleep cycle, and toxin exposure of an individual.
Then, the course of action is taken on the probable cause of the autoimmune disorder and the process of elimination is adopted to rule out the cause. Certain lab tests and other diagnostic techniques are also considered to identify which toxins are causing trouble. To check for gut infections and intestinal permeability, specific tests should be done.
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The strategy to address the environmental toxins and heal gut health is based on an individual’s unique health history, environmental triggers, specific gut health issues, autoimmune symptoms, co-infections, symptoms, food sensitivities, goals, timeline, etc.
But there are some universal healing principles that can benefit anyone with autoimmune diseases.
Eliminate Gluten and other foods that trigger your autoimmune response and eat a nutrient-dense diet with whole, unprocessed foods and healthy fats (like olive oil, avocado oil, olives, nuts, seeds, and omega-3-fats from wild-caught fish like salmon and sardines).
Eliminate refined sugar, refined carbs, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol from your diet.
High-Stress Levels can trigger your autoimmune response and increase intestine permeability hence keep a check on your mental health and reduce stress levels.
Follow a sleep cycle of 7-9 hours with fixed timing. Take the help of natural supplements for good sleep such as passionflower, chamomile, melatonin, and magnesium.
Eliminate Heavy Metals & Chemicals
To control Toxin Exposure, keep a check on your cleaning products, cosmetics, foods, plastics, laundry detergent, air fresheners, etc.
Move your body by adopting a daily routine of exercising for at least 30 mins. This helps you relieve stress and make your body fit.
There are supplements that support healthy inflammatory responses. Consult your doctor and include omega 3s, curcumin, Boswellia, vitamin D, magnesium, ashwagandha, and a high-quality multivitamin.
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Are Autoimmune Diseases Reversible?
The reversibility of autoimmune disease depends on the severity of the condition and the level of damage that has been caused to the body.
The accuracy of diagnosis and application of the necessary changes by the patients also plays a major role in the reversal of autoimmune diseases. The right treatment helps you to reduce the annoying symptoms and improve your quality of life by directly treating the root cause of the problem.
Although it is a time taking process, having patience is the key to success. Believing in the process and adopting lifestyle changes forms the basis of Functional Medicine which will help you fight against Autoimmune Diseases.
It is not overnight magic to happen and may involve months of application to see the results depending on the individual's condition and stage of the disease. Also, the symptoms vary from person to person and their frequency and intensity are also not certain.
Hence, making dietary changes, adopting stress management techniques, and adjusting toxin exposure are some of the lifestyle changes that should be taken care of by the autoimmune patient depending on the probable cause of their disease.
This balances your immune system and stops them to produce an autoimmune response. Also, once you know what triggers your autoimmune response, keeping control over it can help you get better day by day.
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