There are now over 100 named auto-immune diseases recognized. This has grown from 88 named diseases in 2008, when I graduated from school.
Auto-immune diseases tend to favor women and are the #2 cause of chronic illnesses and in the top 10 causes of death for those under age 65. They can cause symptoms all over the body, making them a challenge for conventional providers to diagnose. Let's take a look at auto-immune diseases, what they are, why some get them, and what to do about it.
What is an auto-immune disease?
An auto-immune disease is when your complex immune system, designed to protect you from foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc.) turns against YOU. Depending on the disease, your immune cells start attacking your pancreas, your thyroid, your joints, your skin, your organs.... Your immune system thinks that some (or several) types of cells in your own body are dangerous to you, and kills them.
Why do people get an auto-immune disease?
iThere are many factors involved in why a person develops an auto-immune condition. There is a genetic component, but genetics alone does not mean that you will get a specific condition - you may have the gene but it never gets "turned on" or expressed.
So, what can "turn on" the gene?
Often it is a STRESS to the body. Your immune system gets ramped up to fight off that stress and, in the process, confuses your cells with harmful cells.
For some, it may be intense emotional stress... a divorce, a birth of a new child, a death of a close friend or family member.
For some, it may be toxins - heavy metals like mercury or aluminum, mold exposures, etc.
Maybe a chronic infection like Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), Candida, Herpes, Lyme disease...
Over time, these stressors can cause disrupt the functions of the gut - causing "leaky gut", food intolerances - especially gluten and dairy, etc. Think about it, 80% of your immune function is in the gut, so is it any surprise that many autoimmune conditions have GI symptoms?
7 Signs You May Have an Auto-immune Disease
If you are experiencing a combination of any of these symptoms, you may have an auto-immune disease (list is not all-inclusive):
What to do if you think you have an autoimmune disease?
The most important thing you can do if you think you have an autoimmune disease is to find and treat the underlying cause. Typically there are several factors that need addressed, but first, let's discuss the conventional route.
Conventional doctors treat the SYMPTOMS, but do not look to find the root cause. Common treatments are prescribing medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids (such as prednisone), or immunosuppressants. (Yes, let's turn off your immune system...? Be wary of getting the flu or any other infections then....) You may start with your primary care provider, but will likely be sent to see one or more specialists, for conventional medicine is very segmented. If you have joint symptoms, you'll see a rheumatologist. Have hormone symptoms, you'll see an endocrinologist. (Rarely does an auto-immune disease stay in one system...)
But the body is not segmented....it all plays together. The specialists are very good at analyzing you under their specific lens, but when your symptoms don't fit that picture, you get referred on (and on, and on...) Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an autoimmunologist.
Well, there's something close....
What is my approach to helping those with auto-immune diseases?
With my labs-supported clinical nutrition (functional medicine) approach, I look at you as a total person. What is the history behind your condition? What is your family history? What are your risk factors for being exposed to different infections, toxins, parasites, etc. Do you have food sensitivities? How do you handle stress?
The initial testing is a 52-point blood test to evaluate your current health status. I always run a mineral and toxic metal hair test as well as a urinalysis. We may do stool testing, of which there are several options depending on your case and your risk factors.
We keep looking for the cause(s) of your health condition and we make a plan to reverse them.
As always, help is just a call away.