Autoimmune Diseases 101
The immune system is your body’s protector against germs and viruses that can make you sick.
Immune system action involves lots of complicated pathways, but in general, it works through the production of antibodies. Antibodies are produced to “fight” and rid the body of foreign invaders.
But what happens when the immune system isn’t in tiptop shape?
For starters, you may be prone to more frequent illness, like the common cold or seasonal flu. But a chronically compromised immune system – when it’s too active or not active enough – can result in a whole host of health disorders called autoimmune diseases.
A healthy immune system can recognize the difference between the body and foreign invaders. But in the case of autoimmune diseases, the immune system starts mistaking normal, healthy cells as foreign and attacks parts of one’s own body.
Commonly Recognized Autoimmune Diseases
Over 80 conditions have been recognized as autoimmune diseases. The most commonly recognized are:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis
Each one has its own unique symptoms, depending on the body parts that the immune system attacks.
Most autoimmune diseases begin with the same early warning sign symptoms, such as:
Swelling, redness, heat
Mental fog and/or difficulty focusing
Skin rash and/or breakouts
Diagnoses and Causes
Autoimmune diseases can be difficult to diagnose, since these early symptoms are generalized. The severity of symptoms also varies and flare-ups and remissions are common in people with an autoimmune disease.
Healthcare professionals don’t know exactly what causes most autoimmune diseases, either. Some have a genetic predisposition, meaning having a family history may increase your risk of getting that disease.
Research has identified several other few factors believed to contribute to the development of Autoimmune Diseases.
Contributing factors to autoimmune diseases include:
Poor diet - A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, saturated and trans fats is believed to promote inflammation, damage the lining of the small intestine, and weaken immune system function. In contrast, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from plant foods has the opposite effect on the body.
Compromised digestive health - Diet, alcohol use, stress, and antibiotics all affect the microbiome - the bacteria that lives in your digestive system.
Hormones - Women seem to develop more autoimmune diseases compared to men, especially during their reproductive years. This may be due to hormonal imbalances and/or an excess of estrogen, known as Estrogen Dominance.
Treatments for Autoimmune Diseases are not curative, but focus is on minimizing uncomfortable symptoms and decreasing the frequency of severe flare-ups.
A combination of treatments may help autoimmune diseases
Medication - targeted at managing pain, reducing inflammation, and suppressing immune system activity
Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) – A diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, and meat to reduce inflammation. It’s thought to be similar to the Paleo Diet, but more strict. **Speak to your doctor or a Registered Dietician before starting the AIP. This should not be self-diagnosed or done without the care of a provider.
The 5 Most Important Health Concerns for Women Guide
Do you feel overwhelmed by all of the health concerns and screenings you hear you should pay attention to?
Do you need a quick and simple low-down on what you should be concerned about?
I used to put off health screenings and finding out about my risk levels. In an effort to make sure you don’t behave like the old me, my guide highlights the health concerns you should be monitoring and give you risk factors for them. Get my guide to learn about your risks for:
- Breast cancer
- Heart disease
- Colon cancer
- Type-2 diabetes
- Cervical cancer