There are more than 90 autoimmune diseases ranging from common to very rare. 5% of the Australian public have been diagnosed with at least one of these conditions and autoimmune diseases are on the increase. Rheumatic, endocrinological and gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis are increasing at the fastest rate. (1)
Everyone has their own theory of how and why they developed a condition and some common drivers for disease development do exist. Learning what is driving the disease is vital if you want to try to control it. Knowing the cause and sustaining nature of any condition is the way to help apply the brakes!
Below are some of the common contributors to autoimmune disease (AD) development and some steps you can take to reduce the self-sabotage of immune dysfunction.
Our bodies are constantly being assaulted with chemicals and toxic overload, the liver works hard to metabolise these toxins. If we have a sluggish liver we are exposed to these toxins for longer as the body fails to eliminate them quickly. Toxins can come in many forms – plastics, silica, gases, pollution, infections, sun exposure and pesticides to name a few.
Solvents like paint thinners; nail polish removers and dry cleaning chemicals have a connection specifically to MS, Lupus, Vasculitis, Scleroderma and Thyroid conditions. One meta analysis states that anyone with a family history of AD (autoimmune disease) should avoid exposure to organic solvents. (2)
Pesticides have been linked to Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Even home use of sprays has been found to be an influence in these diseases developing. (3)
If you have a parent with an autoimmune disease you may think this signs you up for the same health issues but being born with the genetic susceptibility to develop AD doesn’t mean you will. Research states it involves a combination of environmental triggers such as those listed above to switch these genes ‘on’. (3) Studies of twins who are genetically pre disposed to autoimmune disease have shown that often only one twin will develop the disease. This is all the more reason why people with this genetic pre disposition should adopt a healthy lifestyle!
70% of our immune system is in the gut. It makes sense to start here when dealing with any area of ill health. Often healing the gut is the first step to healing the body.
SIBO, Leaky gut and biofilm have been implicated in AD.
Stress, smoking, alcohol and a western diet can all cause oxidative stress; this can lead to changes in the immune system and inflammation.
Stress will exacerbate symptoms of autoimmune illnesses, this has been found to correlate strongly in cases of MS, Colitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Steps For Healing
Inflammation is a major component of ALL AD; it causes the body to launch an immune response and switch into emergency mode. If you want to dampen down inflammation then you need to find what is driving it, for you it may be food related and for someone else it could be a build up of toxins. Working on reducing the inflammation can go a long way to resolving symptoms. Below are some key areas that can be addressed to help reduce the inflammatory response and support the body.
Follow an anti inflammatory diet. This helps to reduce oxidative stress and can help symptoms to subside. A diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables and avoidance of gluten and dairy is a great start.
Get tested for potential pathogens and viruses, mineral deficiencies and nutrient deficiencies that could be exacerbating your condition. Knowing where your body is lacking in nutrients is an important component to your wellness regime and one which can be easily fixed. In addition if you have a virus like glandular fever and it’s active it will aggravate your symptoms, being tested for such viruses if you suspect them is important. (5)
Work on healing your gut. This is the foundation of your immune system and if you have SIBO and leaky gut you will not be able to absorb nutrients properly. Gut healing can include making changes to you diet as listed above and introducing small amounts of fermented foods like Kimchi or Kombucha.
Take supplements to both support your body where it needs it and calm down your immune system. Probiotics, vitamin D and alpha lipoic acid are all good choices.
Clean up your environment and opt for natural based cleaners, detergents and personal care products to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals. This will also prove to be a supportive measure for your liver.
Take up a stress reducing activity you enjoy such as yoga, tai chi or meditation. Stress is strongly linked to flares of AD and although it’s part of life we can adopt management strategies to help us cope.
There is no magic pill to help you manage autoimmune diseases but a combination of natural approaches can go a long way to reducing disease activity.