In my first post in this 6-part series, I discussed the shocking statistics about Autoimmune disease and I explained the importance of your immune system in keeping you safe from invading pathogens. if you missed, it you can find it here:
If you want to help yourself, family and friends then you must continue this journey of understanding autoimmune disease. Please allow me to explain, in simple terms, exactly what autoimmune disease is and the typical symptoms.
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What is Autoimmune Disease?
Our immune system is our bodies defence against invading pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungus. For most people, it works well. But for 50 million American and counting, their immune system has turned against them, literally (1).
With autoimmune disease, the immune system responds inappropriately and begins to attack its own healthy cells. “Autoimmune” means “Immunity against itself”.
Inflammation and damage to cells results in damaged to organs and the inability for them to function correctly.
There Are Two Forms of Autoimmune Disease:
- One affects specific organs, for example the Thyroid, causing Hashimotos Thyroiditis which I have, and Graves’ Disease. When the myelin sheath in the brain is attacked, it causes Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and if the pancreas is attacked it causes type 1 Diabetes.
- The other form of autoimmune disease affects multiple organs, examples, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Rheumatoid Arthritis. (2).
How Does The Body Turn On Itself?
No one really understands why this happens. It is believed to be a combination of factors.
Genetics does play a role, but having the gene does not mean that you will get the disease. I am the only person in my family diagnosed with autoimmune disease, Hashimotos, and my identical twin sister doesn’t have it, yet.
It is possible that we both have a genetic disposition, clustering is found in families. In my case, it’s possible something that happened to me in my past, may have triggered it.
I have thought about this, and wondered if having Yellow Jaundice at age 7, may have caused it, although I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 40. I realise now that the Psoriasis which I suffered in my late teens was possibly the start of my autoimmune journey.
I also had regular migraines as a teenager, as did my twin. These migraines were isolated and thankfully, as I got older, they have become very infrequent. I actively prevent them now with proactive Osteopath visits, to ensure that my spine is straight.
I don’t know if they related to my autoimmune disease, but thought worthy of a mention since migraines are associated with some autoimmune disease such as systemic lupus.
It’s also suggested that toxins in our food chain from chemicals in the soil and the toxic spraying of crops has contributed to the build-up of toxins in our environment. Toxins are everywhere these days, not just our food, but the products we use on our skin, hair and around the home.
More clinicians and researchers are now coming around to the idea that, “leaky gut” maybe ground zero for most autoimmune conditions. 70% of our immune system is contained in the gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). Which protects us daily from everything that passes through the gut wall. When the gut becomes permeable, as in the condition “leaky guy”, more virulent hard to manage pathogens can enter and start to wreak havoc on the body. (3)
Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Has extensively studied the gut and its role in human health. In 2000, he and his team discovered “zonulin,” a gut protein that unlocks the tight junctions between the cell walls in your gut. Inflammation from gluten in the diet can cause zonulin to be produced. (4) (5).
The damaged gut lining can cause nutrient deficiencies, which can also trigger autoimmune disease. One of the treatments includes healthy nutrition and some functional medicine doctors will prescribe specific vitamins, minerals and herbs as part of a holistic approach to treating the condition.
Stress is also believed to be a trigger to set off autoimmune. I could probably tick that box too, life has not always been a box of chocolates.
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So, How Would You Know If You Have It?
You need to understand what the typical symptoms of autoimmune disease are, and if concerned, visit a Functional Medicine doctor, who will give you full blood tests and focus on treating the cause as well as the symptoms.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of autoimmune disease that you have. All parts of the body can be affected, which specific parts, depends on the type of autoimmune disease that you have.
Fatigue is particularly common. Many sufferers feel constantly tired.
I love this infographic from Dr Josh Axe, author of Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It. It highlights some of the common symptoms,. Please note, that there are many more. symptoms not listed (6)
Don’t panic if you have some of these symptoms. It doesn’t automatically mean that you have an autoimmune disease, it could be related to other things. The only way to truly know, is to get full blood tests done. These will determine if you have an autoimmune disease and if so, what type.
Yes, there are many different types.
So now you know how the immune system works, (part 1), what an autoimmune disease and the symptoms are (part 2), this leads me to the next question, and the 3rd part in the 6-part series.
In Part 3, You Will Discover What Types of Autoimmune Disease Exist
I was amazed to learn how many there were, now you can find out too.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please share with your family and friends on social media.
Education is important, more people need to understand and learn about this growing disease.
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Ready for Part 3?
Thank you for reading and sharing, please comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
You Are What You Eat, Choose Wisely.
Katherine Minett, a Blogger with Hashimoto Thyroiditis, is on a mission to educate and guide others on the importance that good nutrition has, in preventing and managing autoimmune diseases. Specifically, how to manage the symptoms of weight gain and fatigue that are commonly associated with these conditions.
Disclaimer: “Essential Nutrition Tips Blog” does not offer medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have medical concerns please consult your doctor. See Full Disclaimer.
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American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, General AD Information, How Many Americans have autoimmune disease? Retrieved from https://www.aarda.org/knowledge-base/many-americans-autoimmune-disease/
Australian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy Autoimmune Diseases (2017). Retrieved from https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/autoimmunity/autoimmune-diseases?highlight=WyJhdXRvaW1tdW5lIiwiZGlzZWFzZXMiLCJhdXRvaW1tdW5lIGRpc2Vhc2VzIl0=
Axe, J. MD., (2016). Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It The Immunity Connection. Eat Dirt (pp 35-36) New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Markham Heid. (13 Jan 2016). You Asked: Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Thing? http://time.com/4178015/leaky-gut-syndrome-probiotics/
Fassano A. MD., et al. The Lancet. Zonulin, a newly discovered modulator of intestinal permeability, and its expression in coeliac disease. Volume 355 Issue 9214. 29 April 2000, Pages 1518-1519 Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673600021693
Dr Axe J. Autoimmune Disease Symptoms You Need to Know About. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/autoimmune-disease-symptoms/