Part 4: Treating Autoimmune Disease – Is There Only One Way?

In my previous post in this 6-part series, I looked at the different types of Autoimmune disease that are around. if you missed it you can find it here:

Part 3: Autoimmune Disease -Which One Have You Got?

Now that you understand what autoimmune diseases are, the types and the symptoms, are you ready to learn about what treatment options are available?

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Why Is It So Hard To Treat Autoimmune Disease?

Treatment is not easy.

Early detection can help slow down the progression of the disease, but diagnosis is difficult and patients are often misdiagnosed. This is due to lack of education, less than 13% of Americans can name one autoimmune disease and many traditional doctors do not understand the disease or know how to treat it. (1)

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), explains that the issue with diagnosing and treating autoimmune disease is that modern medicine focuses on the specific body part where the disease is found. However, because autoimmune disease can involve many body parts, there is lots of cross over, which means various specialists are needed. (1)

Ideally, if you have an autoimmune disease with multiple body parts involved, you may need to find a doctor that specialises in autoimmune disease, and that can be difficult.

It’s important to find the right doctor, as I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, there are Functional Medicine doctors in the USA, the UK and Australasia who ask how and why illness occurs, they restore health by addressing the root cause of disease for each individual. (2) (7) (8).

Symptoms vary depending on the type of autoimmune disease that you have, and of course, everyone is different, so tailored programs are essential. What works for one patient may not work for another.

So How Do You Treat Autoimmune Disease?

Treatment for autoimmune disease is big business.

There are many drugs available to treat the various conditions.

I believe that you should investigate all avenues and discuss them with your doctor to ensure that you are getting the correct treatment for you and your specific condition.

Your doctor may offer you drug treatment, natural treatment or a combination of both.

I am not a health care professional, so, my advice is for you to get educated so that you are working with your doctor and that you can achieve the best outcome for you. And, most importantly, one that you are happy with.

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Drug Therapy

Drugs can only be prescribed by a doctor after blood tests have been completed to diagnose the disease type. All drugs have side effects which must be weighted up against the benefits. If taking medication, you must have them monitored regularly and have a plan of when, how much and for how long the therapy will be used.

Here is a brief overview of some top therapy drug treatments used in various autoimmune conditions

Immunosuppressive Therapy

This tends to be a widely recognised treatment of autoimmune disease.

High doses often needed to maintain control.

Serious side effects due to toxicity of the drugs.

Continued research looks promising in finding improved immunotherapy which is more targeted and with fewer side effects. (3).

Hormone Replacement Therapy    

Sex hormones play an important role in autoimmunity, especially estrogen, which is considered to enhance autoimmunity and there is strong evidence that estrogen is linked to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus SLE. (4)

However, HRT in Rheumatoid arthritis does not appear to be associated with increase flare ups and may improve the disease. (4)

Conventional medicine for Thyroid conditions, Hashimotos, focuses on restoring normal thyroid function using supplemental hormones. This therapy is considered lifelong. (5)

People with Diabetes Type 1 are usually given daily injections of HRT insulin to keep their blood glucose levels normal.

Corticosteroids                                    

Prednisone and prednisolone are common corticosteroid drugs used for inflammatory and non-inflammatory conditions.

Short term use is relatively safe, however, for chronic conditions such as SLE or nephritis, a long-term plan needs to be implemented.

The outcome of the benefit of corticosteroids is better than the progression of the disease in some cases. (6)

NSAIDS                                                  

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs often prescribed for pain, fever and inflammation.

Used as an alternative to steroids which have many side effects, and narcotics which are addictive.

NSAIDs should be taken with medical guidance and if possible not used long term, although this could be difficult for chronic pain sufferers.

NSAIDs have been linked to leaky gut, which can contribute to inflammation and autoimmune disease. I will talk about leaky gut in detail later

Monoclonal Therapy                          

Monoclonal means “all one type”. It is a form of immune therapy, that uses monoclonal antibodies to bind to certain protein or cells. This may then stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack those cells.

This therapy has been used to treat autoimmune conditions such as crohn’s disease, psoriasis arthritis as well as cancer asthma. Research continues.

Blood Transfusions                           

If the blood is affected, a blood transfusion may be a treatment.

Drug therapy plays an important role in the treatment of symptoms in many types of autoimmune conditions. The complex causes of autoimmune diseases not only present a challenge to the development and testing of new therapies but also offer a framework that allows the identification of subgroups of patients who might benefit from particular approaches. (7). Research continues.

I use Thyroxine myself to manage my Hashimotos. If your traditional doctor suggests a drug therapy, make sure that you educate yourself on what is involved, what the side effects are and how long you can be on the therapy.

But drugs are not the only treatment available. Ask your doctor about alternative natural treatments that can be used in conjunction with your drug therapy.

If your doctor is closed to the idea, as mine was, then maybe it is worth looking for another doctor, one who is open to a holistic approach. Search USA (2) or search Australasia (8) or search UK. (9)

As you can see there are many drug treatment options available depending on your disease type, but what about natural approaches to treatment?

This leads me to my next question, and next bog, where I will discuss the many types of natural treatment options available.

Honestly, I bet your doctor won’t suggest that you do these amazingly simple things.

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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Part 5 is Ready to Read: Discover What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You, and Why.

Please comment, what’s been your experience?

Thank you for following and sharing.

Katherine

You Are What You Eat, Choose Wisely.

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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.
Affiliate Disclaimer: This blog post and other blog posts on Essential Nutrition Tips Blog, may contain affiliate links to third party web sites. I may receive a small commission from sales on some products. However, the price to you remains the same. These affiliate links are a way of offsetting the costs of running my blog, Essential Nutrition Tips Blog.
References:
  1. American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, Retrieved from https://www.aarda.org/
  2. The Institute For Functional Medicine. Retrieved from Find A Practitioner. https://ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/
  3. Rosenblum, M, D et al. Treating Human Autoimmunity: Current Practice and Future Prospects. Science translational medicine 4.125.(2012): 125sr1. PMC. Web. 15 July 2017. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061980/
  4. Holroyd CR, Edwards CJ.s. The effects of hormone replacement therapy on autoimmune disease: rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. . 2009 Oct;12(5):378-86. doi: 10.1080/13697130903025449. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19591008
  5. Wentz, I,PharmD, FASCP, Nowosadzka,M. MD., (2015) Restoring Thyroid Hormone Levels. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause.  (pp. 28). Wentz, LLC. Boulder, Co.
  6. Hall B. M. (1 Feb 1999). NPS Medicine Wise. Australian Prescriber. Corticosteroids in autoimmune diseases. Volume 22 issue 1. https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/corticosteroids-in-autoimmune-diseases
  7. Mackay I and Rosen F. (August 2, 2001). New England Journal of Medicine. Autoimmune Diseases. N Engl J Med, Vol. 345, No. 5 · Retrieved from http://www.columbia.edu/itc/hs/medical/pathophys/immunology/readings/AutoimmuneDiseases.pdf
  8. Australasian College Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. Find A Practitioner. Retrieved from https://www.acnem.org/practitioner.php
  9. Natural Therapy Pages. Holistic Doctor. Retrieved from http://www.naturaltherapypages.co.uk/natural_medicine/Holistic_Doctor

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