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When The Body Sees Itself as Foreign

By Jason Lee BSc. ND.

Autoimmune conditions are on the rise in North America. Did you know that for women between the ages of 15 and 64, autoimmune diseases are the eighth leading cause of death? And since as many as 50 million North Americans are thought to have some type of autoimmune condition, chances are, you may know of someone from work, in your neighborhood, or even within your family with this illness. This is because autoimmune disorders are the third most prevalent condition in the United States, and the most frequently observed ones affect over 8.5 million (or 1 in 31) Americans (Canadian Statistics are unavailable).

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune basically means that the body is “automatically” attacking itself. The term autoimmune diseases refers to a group of over 80 distinct, chronic illnesses in which the underlying problem is similar—the body’s immune system is misguided, attacking the body it was designed to protect.

Examples of autoimmune conditions include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Lupus (otherwise known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
  • Neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or myasthenia gravis
  • Connective tissue disease such as scleroderma

Is there a natural approach to address autoimmune diseases?

It is important to treat the root of the issue rather than the symptom itself. I believe that the autoimmune diseases are actually not diseases at all but rather symptoms of a deeper underlying issue. The underlying issues associated with autoimmune disorders can be addressed using a natural model approach, but keep in mind that some of these strategies are in place mainly to identify possible triggers and mediators, and not to treat disease. In order to treat the root the cause of the auto-aggression must be addressed.

Possible triggers for autoimmune conditions include:

Sex Hormones – This may surprise you, but it turns out that sex hormones may do more than just influence sexual characteristics—they may also stimulate your immune response. Statistically There seems to be a higher percentage of women that suffer from autoimmune conditions which leads me to believe that hormones and hormone balance play a large role in autoimmune aggression. Estrogen, in particular, appears to be a mediator of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

Drugs and Chemicals. Research suggests that when you are exposed to particular drugs and environmental pollutants, your body may react by turning on the immunotoxic effects. This means that in certain individuals, their own body will work very hard to fight against the components of their own tissues. Vaccinations also fall into this category with studies showing MMR and DPT residues in the bowel of patients suffering with autoimmune conditions.

Stress / Endocrine: Stress affects the body’s endocrine system which governs hormonal and organ control. Stress is often seen as a factor that triggers autoimmune attack. Recient research in fields of psychoneuroimmunology and psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology have linked the role of the mind, the immune and the endocrine system together in health and disease.

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Who is at risk of developing autoimmune diseases?

Autoimmune diseases are observed most frequently in women, and most often during their childbearing years although in some cases pregnancy can suppress symptoms. Research indicates that race is also a risk factor whereby certain autoimmune conditions affect more African American, American Indian, and Latina women than Caucasian women. In addition, hereditary is another risk factor, increasing the likelihood of having the illness for individuals with prior family history of disease, especially when they come in contact with certain environmental exposures.

Treat the root of the problem

Having the autoimmune disease can gravely affect your quality of life whereby the body’s own protective mechanism becomes compromised and fails to distinguish between self from non-self. Years of research have identified promising triggers and mediating factors believed to play a role in the underlying pathway of autoimmune diseases.

The purpose of natural model approach is to get to the root of the immune dysfunction. By minimizing the impact of physiological and environmental triggers, and addressing the underlying physiological and dietary mediators implied in autoimmune diseases—through normalizing hormone imbalance and metabolizing toxins, for example—nutritional support may reduce your susceptibility to such conditions and offer strategies to facilitate disease management.

If you have a family history of autoimmune conditions, think that you may be at risk for developing one or wish to discuss nutritional strategies to help manage your present state of health, please schedule an appointment at the office.