Autoimmune Disorders: When Your Body Starts Attacking Itself
Autoimmune disorders are a clever group of medical conditions. While there are around 80 different autoimmune diseases affecting over 7% of the US population, behind the facade of each is a common adversary.
More accurately, it's your body feeling it is under threat and so it begins attacking normal, and healthy tissues. What is it your body feels is a threat? In some cases there are some genetic factors, but there is another main trigger for an autoimmune response. It's constant and chronic inflammation.
This response to inflammation affects women more than men, and causes your body to turn on itself. Any body part can be affected, and these disorders are painful and often lifelong battles than can end in death - autoimmunity has been classified as one of the leading causes of death in women up to 65 years of age. That put it in the same league as heart disease, cancer and stroke.
What causes this chronic inflammation in the first place? The inflammation can be caused by an number of environmental factors such as medications, stress, the amount of sleep we get, the foods we eat, smoking, etc. They all have an effect, and can independently or in concert affect whole systems in the body, which can lead to chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, digestive tract disorders, and autoimmunity.
The way that traditional medicine approaches an autoimmune disease rarely has anything to do with trying to cure the condition. In most cases, they are looking at trying to relieve the symptoms, and delay the progression, and often don't look for any underlying cause for the condition. The problem with this approach is, that many of the medications which they prescribe to relieve symptoms, have potential of devastating side-effects that can compound the difficulties with the autoimmune disease.
What causes autoimmunity?
As mentioned earlier, there are times when there is a genetic predisposition, and the condition is inherited.
The food we eat
When we have poor gut health, meaning an imbalance of the microbiome that helps to extract nutrients from food and pass it into the bloodstream, this can lead to an inflammatory response called leaky gut syndrome. This is where the lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed and allows toxins and non-digested food wastes to enter the blood - elements that would normally be prevented from absorption when the gut is healthy.
When these toxins and larger particles get into the system, they are targeted byt the immune system, and this causes inflammation. So now you have inflammation on top of inflammation - and it's this constant compounding that stresses and weakens your immune system, and eventually your body turns on itself.
The stress factor
When our bodies are under stress, the adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol, which is responsible for helping control stress levels. When the body is under constant stress - from work or family, social issues, or infection or illness, the cortisol is being constantly produced, which weakens the glands, and also makes it so other hormones which are vital for life, are not being produced in the levels they are needed.
When we are exposed to toxins, our body tries to flush them out. But when the levels of toxins are very high, or when they are always present, this can lead to inflammation response which can cause leaky gut, and eventually an autoimmunity.
Functional Medicine provides a different way
When you treat the whole patient, and not just their symptoms, you can find the causes of the illnesses. With proper testing and diagnosis, we can discover and remove the stressors that are causing autoimmunity. We can show you what foods to eat to get healthy and which to avoid so you can stay healthy. With a Functional Medicine approach, you can begin to heal from the inside, and free yourself from a lifetime of symptom management.