Autoimmune disease, a condition when our body’s immune system attack it’s own cells and tissues.
Over the years of study, more than 80 diseases related to autoimmune conditions have been discovered. In fact, diseases co-relate and supposed to be more than 130 according to ‘AARDA‘.
One of the most common condition is Rheumatoid arthritis with more than a million patients only in India and becoming rapidly common in developing countries.
So… What’s the Point!
Our immune system is not the same as digestive system or the blood circulation or any other mechanism of our body. Even though, 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract… it is not regulated by any particular organ or system within the body and remain functional between each & every cell of our body protecting us against threats.
But, what happens when it goes wrong?
… Chaos, the immune reaction is not limited to any organ and can attack it’s own tissue cluelessly. A person can have two or more parallel autoimmune diseases at the same time. These elevated response are able kill cells or tissues of heart, brain, kidneys etc.
What causes Immune System to strike it’s own tissues so badly?
A simple reason behind these elevated response is the immune system eventually cannot identify what’s local and what’s foreign element. The role of our immunity is to kill those disease causing bacteria, virus, parasites, fungi, molds, candida etc. entering into our body.
But, due to some environmental triggers it fails to differentiate body’s own cells and genetic components of these foreign elements…
Some environmental triggers associated with autoimmunity
- Heavy metal toxicity can mimic the underlying genetic signatures.
- Infections from candida and molds leave toxins which remain for a long time inside the body.
- Gluten sensitivity, proteins like gluten can destroy intestinal cells and thereby exposes bacteria directly to your blood stream.
- Genetic flaws, you are more likely to suffer if you have a family history of autoimmune.
The Most common autoimmune disorders
Affects joint linings and causes painful swelling, bone’s erosion & deformity and can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, heart problems and lung disease. Like many other autoimmune disorders it can’t be cured. Early stage of rheumatoid tends to affect small joints first (joints attaching fingers & toes).
Immune reaction caused by gluten intolerance, gluten causes damage to intestines leading to mal-absorption of nutrients and can even lead to further immune reactions.
Triggers skin infections (red, scaly patches on skin) and stress. Psoriasis can’t be cured but it’s treatment may help to remove symptoms.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease ‘IBD’;
Often used to describe two conditions ‘Ulcerative colitis’ and ‘Crohn’s disease’ which affects digestive system whether large intestine or whole from mouth to anus.
Type I or Juvenile Diabetes;
The symptoms typically appears in adolescence like increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue and blurred vision. In this case, body actually stops producing insulin and glucose utilization gets interrupted.
Causes Mind and body rewiring, as Thyroid glands are damaged resulting leakage of thyroid hormones, which makes you either gain weight or lose it drastically (Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism).
Grave’s or Basedow’s Disease;
Another Thyroid disorder causing over-production of thyroid hormones. These are more common in women under the age of 40. Symptoms like weight loss, puffy eyes, hand tremor makes it easily recognizable.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or simply ‘Lupus’;
Hard to recognize and can affect joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Symptoms can be minor skin rash, fever, joint pain with sudden flare ups.
Autoimmune patients often complain about dry eyes and dry mouth resulting in less interest in food. In this case, salivary glands and lacrimal glands are harmed by your immune system. Sometimes, it occurs parallel to rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The pigment producing cells die or stop functioning and often looks like burning marks. The loss of colour can affect mouth, hair, eyes or any other part of skin.
A disorder causing nerve cell damage making patients unable to believe in their own senses. Symptoms are diverse and vary accordingly as blurry vision, double vision weakness, complete blackouts, vision loss, pain, fatigue, impaired co-ordination. Patients with severe chronic symptoms have been reported who were experiencing it for their entire lifetime.
Similar to rheumatoid arthritis but, can present across a wide spectrum from mild to severe diseases. Usually, it appears between 30 to 50 years of age and affects men and women equally by risk.
More common in men and usually begins in early adolescence, when immune system attacks vertebrae leading to fused discs. The discs restrict proper growth and cause hunched-forward posture. It may further lead to cardiac problems and lung’s dysfunction.
Fibromyalgia or Fibrositis;
A non-celiac gluten sensitivity, accounts to 80-90 percent patients as women. It alters daily routine like sleep cycle, mood & memory with depression, sensitivity to cold and pain.
A disorder of adrenal glands, where glands are damaged by immune system and can’t produce enough ‘adrenaline’. Ultimately, there is deficiency of ‘cortisol & aldosteron’ characterised by low blood pressure. A person with the disease may feel fatigue, nausea, darkening of skin and dizziness upon standing.
Alopecia Areata or simply ‘Patchy Hair Loss’;
Common in India and occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles (where hair growth begin). Symptoms like spotted baldness in face and scalp may persist with severe stress.
Inflammation of large and small intestine. A serious infection developed in either newborn babies (within two weeks) or premature infants.
Pernicious or Addison’s Anaemia;
A decrease in red-blood cell’s count when the body lack Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin (water-soluble) due to mal-absorption. It is caused by weakened stomach lining which may cause heart or nerve damage and therefore, should not be left untreated.
Scleroderma or Crest Syndrome;
Stiffness of skin and connective tissues. It affects women more often than men and usually occurs between the age of 30 and 50. Symptoms may include tightening of skin, joint pain and heartburn.
Vasculitis or Angiitis;
Causes walls of blood vessel to thicken and block blood flow to organs and tissues partially. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, weight loss, shortness of breath, muscle and joint pain.
How to know if you have one of these conditions?
- Know if you have a family history of autoimmune diseases. Probably, only you can feel it at first place… any abnormality in these five spheres will let you know – Bones, Blood Vessels, Skin, Digestion and Heartbeat.
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain, insomnia, heat intolerance, rapid heartbeat, sun-sensitivity, lack of focus, foggy brain, unreasonable feeling of tiredness, cold intolerance, lack of balance & co-ordination etc.
- Visible symptoms like blood or mucus in stool, diarrhoea or mouth ulcers, white patches on skin, hair loss, rashes or hives on skin or palms, burning & swelling of skin, a butterfly shaped rash across nose or cheeks.
- More sensory symptoms like sore throat, joint or muscle pain, weakness or tremor, abdominal pain, dry eyes, mouth or skin, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, blood clots, depression, memory loss, irritability, unreasonable & excess sweating.
Diagnosis & Monitoring
These test will help you understand better the underlying cause of your symptoms:
Performed along with x-rays, imaging scans & biopsies to help diagnose an autoimmune disease. An antibody test can also be considered to help you evaluate how critical your situation is, can monitor the progression of disease as well as the treatment. The result of these tests should be interpreted with care because, not every person with an autoimmune condition have detectable antibodies.
Anti-Nuclear Antibody Test;
Look for antibodies attacking proteins in the nucleus of cells. If the test comes back with a positive result, more specific and detailed tests are required to know which autoimmune disease is causing your symptoms. Unfortunately, a healthy person can also have positive (false-positive) result and therefore, it cannot be used as the only test to diagnose your condition.
Complete Blood Count Test;
Determines if any increase or decrease of blood cell count is there in your stream. It accounts for balance of red-blood cell, white-blood cell & platelets. The results of the test may vary and a very high or a very low cell count can implicate a wide range of conditions including autoimmune diseases.
C-reactive Protein ‘CRP’ Test;
Measures c-reactive protein in blood, a counter material produced by liver in response to inflammation. Though, it’s not a standalone test and a high CRP level in your blood can be associated with high risk of heart attack, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or another autoimmune disease.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate Test;
Monitors any inflammatory disease instead of any specific condition. These inflammatory diseases can be any common infection, cancer and certain autoimmune disorders – lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, thyroiditis and anaemia.
[A low ESR or a high ESR, both can be associated with a major concern.]
Immunoglobulin Test (IgA, IgG, IgM, IgE & IgD);
Measures the level of 5 immunoglobulins produced by plasma cells in your blood stream. The results can indicate autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis etc.
Know more about immunoglobulin tests here.
Rheumatoid Factor Test;
Measures RF proteins in blood which indicates a rheumatoid or sjögren’s syndrome. It can also monitor the severity of your condition.
How to treat an Autoimmune Disease
These are chronic conditions (lifelong) which can’t be cured and can only be treated. Furthermore, these conditions often have flare-ups with complications making it hard to treat as well. If you have an autoimmune condition, you should always monitor it’s symptoms and try to eliminate it from the root cause.
Take the help of a functional medicine physician, if necessary.
Why conventional medication fail to treat it for longer
The conventional medicines eliminate the symptoms of these diseases, which limits the flare-ups not the underlying problem. It can include blood transfusion, anti-inflammatory medication, painkillers, immuno-suppressive (as name suggests) medications. In fact, these medications can show effectiveness for a short-term, but a long-term usage can have diverse effects including infections, thyroid dysfunction or failure and cancer.
An autoimmune disease is often the resultant of your over-active immune system and that’s not the problem alone. The problem is, your immune system still react like it works in emergency. To an extent, the immuno-suppressive drugs restrict the need of immunity in your body. But, you cannot eliminate a whole system from the body. Therefore, convincing your body to live without immunity (defence module) complicates your condition even more and can have major issues.
It is wise to heal an autoimmune condition naturally,
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