Is this common condition causing your autoimmunity?

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Autoimmune disease is one of the top ten killers of women and affects 1 in 10 people worldwide. Autoimmunity is a complicated process – there are many books and research on the topic, and each of them provides countless hours of reading pleasure (or anxiety?). To further complicate things, there are dozens of illnesses that fall under the umbrella of autoimmunity. Issues like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and vitiligo (There are as many as 100 identified autoimmune disorders). Autoimmunity can affect nearly any part of the body, and may present in a non-standard way that doesn’t even have a name yet. These different kinds of diseases seem unrelated because of their different expression, but when you start drilling down, there are three common conditions that appear frequently in most people with autoimmune conditions.

In almost all cases of autoimmunity, there’s a genetic predisposition. That’s why autoimmunity tends to ‘run in families.’ There isn't a single genetic indication, but there are some common gene expressions that researchers are studying. The HLA complex genes seem to be involved most often.  Just having that genetic expression doesn’t mean that you will get an autoimmune disease, but it means your body has the right conditions for an autoimmune disease to develop. There are cases where people without these genetic expressions can get autoimmune diseases, but they have some significant life events that change the way their immune system recognizes foreign invaders.

A second condition present in most autoimmune sufferers is a major trigger experience. This isn’t necessarily an emotionally traumatic event, but a major event that draws on your body’s reserves and systems in a higher than normal rate. It could be a pregnancy, menopause, puberty, an injury, major illness, a relationship change, a period of significant stress and burnout, or a toxin exposure – or a combination of several things that cumulatively contribute to a major stress in the body. This major event might not happen in a short period of time. Chemical or toxin exposure might be a long term, silent buildup. Without the reserves to respond to infection or stress, your body can’t produce new cells or maintain existing cells, and your health declines.

The third condition that is found in most autoimmune sufferers is a food intolerance leading to digestive problems. Food intolerances can cause inflammation in the gut, which allows microscopic food particles to escape the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream. These food particles have cell receptors that look like some body tissues – like gluten has a bio-identical appearance to connective tissue and pancreatic cells. Milk proteins have a similar appearance to nerve tissue, cardiac tissue, and pancreatic tissue. You may not have an allergy to these foods, but if your body has difficulty processing them, you can create a condition where your body thinks it is attacking these foreign proteins in the blood, but it is instead attacking its own tissues.

The autoimmune triangle shows how different aspects of your health combine to create an autoimmune disease in susceptible people
The autoimmune triangle shows how different aspects of your health combine to create an autoimmune disease in susceptible people

Many autoimmune diseases have distinct symptoms and are classified by the type of tissue under attack. There’s new and interesting research to suggest that all autoimmune diseases are actually the same process, but with a different physical manifestation. If you imagine an allergy might show up as a rash, or a runny nose, or even digestive symptoms. The expression of an autoimmune disease – the particular organ or tissue it attacks – is the manifestation of the underlying disease process. This concept is both exciting and concerning! While it is helpful to combine these syndromes together to better research and identify treatments, it is a big concern that we’re having what might be called an epidemic of autoimmunity!

Beyond these three key conditions, there is a lot of research and speculation into other causes of autoimmunity. There is research linking it to vaccines, ancient viruses, vitamin D deficiency, environmental exposures,  and more research comes out each day. It’s pretty clear that our environment and our lifestyles are making us sick. Clearly the best way to prevent and manage autoimmunity is with whole, toxin-free foods, a clean environment – air, land, and water – and by choosing a lifestyle that nourishes your body, mind, and soul. It’s not always easy to get these things because of our life situation. Our access to healthy food, our time commitments – to jobs, family, and community may keep us from taking care of ourselves. Our environment may be adding air, water, and soil based toxins – and we may add these with the cleaning, personal care, and household products we choose.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re living with an autoimmune disease or if you’re trying to prevent one from taking hold. There are many different factors and contributors to your symptoms. When I work with a client, we design a personalized plan for improvement that targets those contributors that are the most important for them. They start to feel better in just three weeks, and that improvement only continues! You can feel better too! Schedule your Welcoming Wellness Call today and get started on your healing journey.