Autoimmune Disease- Immune Function Gone Wild!
Many years ago as a young doctor, it seemed that autoimmune disease was relatively rare. However, this dreaded disease has become the number one cause of chronic illness in the United States, affecting over 23 million Americans, mainly women.
Autoimmune disease is basically caused by a confused immune system. The main role of the immune system is to protect the body from outside invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. Think of it as your body’s homeland security department. The immune system constantly roams the body looking for any breaches in security. When it detects an outside invader, it sends out alarm signals, which then cause “antibodies” and white blood cells to attack the uninvited invader. Unfortunately, every now and then, the security system gets confused and it mistakenly thinks that a part of your normal body is “non-self” and it attacks the innocent normal tissue with an immune response, often rendering the attacked tissue seriously harmed, or even useless. Some examples would be when the immune system attacks the pancreas it causes that organ to shut down, which leads to type 1 diabetes. Likewise, the confused and immune system may attack the gut- causing Crohn’s disease, or it may attack the thyroid- causing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or the joints- causing rheumatoid arthritis. Other forms of autoimmune disease include lupus, celiac disease, MS, blood disorders, myasthenia gravis, and many others. In fact, there are now over a hundred known autoimmune diseases, and there are approximately forty more diseases which are suspected of being autoimmune in nature. These diseases may be debilitating, and they usually last a lifetime.
What causes the immune system to go haywire? Since autoimmune disease seems to run in some families, there seems to be a genetic predisposition. However, there is often a trigger such as a virus, stress or toxins, which starts the ball rolling down the path of immune dysfunction.
The common pathway for most of these diseases is the GUT. The science of gut health this has emerged as one of the hottest areas of medical research these days. It has to do with the critters that live on us and in us called the microbiome. In fact, there are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells! Establishing and maintaining a proper mix of “good bacteria,” “bad bacteria,” and yeast is vitally important for overall health including immune regulation.
Autoimmune disease may be extremely difficult to treat. There are many drugs out on the market these days, which may be helpful, but many of them may have a significant side effect profile. I have found that a plan which includes significant dietary changes, detoxification, stress reduction, optimizing gut health, and targeted supplementation can be quite helpful in bringing about some relief, and sometimes a cure, for many of our autoimmune patients.
Alternatively, if the doctor and patient don’t address these underlying issues, the patient is more likely to go on throughout life and develop other autoimmune diseases.
Give us a call at McMinn Clinic, 205-868-13413 to see if we can help you with your autoimmune problems.