One of the things that is happening here in the U.S. is the rates of autoimmune (AI) disease continue to go up for all autoimmune diseases. There is an explosion of AI disease happening now like never before. Over the next several articles you will be introduced to the causes and triggers behind autoimmunity and what you can do to take back control of your health. You will learn learn about how functional medicine has so much to offer those who are suffering with autoimmunity.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system begins targeting self-tissue of the body causing destruction of that tissue or organ. The type of tissue that is destroyed in this process determines the type of autoimmune disease. There are many different AI diseases that have been identified, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Lupus (SLE)
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Graves Disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis (UC)
- Type I diabetes
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Celiac disease (CD)
Autoimmune Reaction versus Autoimmune Disease
During the early stages of autoimmunity, the immune system is attacking tissue and initiating an AI reaction (based on the presence of antibodies) but the diagnosis of AI disease is not given until observable destruction of tissue has been identified. An AI reaction is when the immune system starts to attack self-tissue. The presence of autoantibodies indicates that the immune system is initiating an immune response against self-tissue (tissue or cellular components of the body). During an AI reaction, you may or may not have symptoms of that tissue being destroyed. Symptoms will only occur when the tissue destruction is severe enough to lead to a change in physiologic function. Symptoms are your body’s clues, letting you know that something is off. Together we can tap into these clues and pinpoint the triggers causing your symptoms; this is the most effective way to halt the autoimmune response and the development of compounding AI diseases.
AI disease is usually progressive over time.
While there is no cure for most AI diseases, there are ways to manage it through functional medicine. AI patients generally experience more symptoms of tissue destruction over time and the diagnosis of AI disease is only made after there is degeneration of the tissue. However, the development of tissue destruction or organ failure does not happen overnight so I see many cases where a person may have gone through a 5-10 year “waiting period” experiencing a combination of unexplained symptoms, consulting with multiple doctors without a diagnosis. Fortunately there is a way to alleviate symptoms by going deeper to uncover the root cause of inflammation and eliminating possible triggers that may, unknowingly, be a part of your everyday diet and lifestyle. My goal in treatment is to listen to the patient, make connections unique to each individual case, and develop a manageable plan to stop tissue destruction in it’s tracks.
In conventional healthcare, the diagnosis of AI disease is based on destruction of tissue (observable on diagnostic imaging), autoantibodies (antibodies against self-tissue), and other markers found in the blood along with clinical findings (signs and symptoms of patient). Additionally, conventional treatment is focused on suppressing the immune response and controlling symptoms but little is offered to the patient in regards to modulating the autoimmunity and avoiding triggers that cause flare-ups of the autoimmune response. As a result, AI conditions tend to cause more and more tissue destruction over time, eventually leading to severe tissue destruction and organ failure in many cases. Instead of dulling the immune response with medication, my focus is rebuilding a healthy functional immune system. My job is to help identify triggers instigating the autoimmune response, stop the cycle of future destruction, and work with you to develop a treatment plan that supports restoring healthy cells and tissue once again.
By The Time You Have Been Diagnosed With Autoimmune Disease The Damage To Your Body Has Been Done. Our Job Is To Intervene In The Earlier Stages So That We Can Minimize Your suffering.
“Autoimmune diseases are the third leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the industrialized world, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease.”1
“While many individual autoimmune diseases are rare, collectively they are thought to affect approximately 8 percent of the United States population – 24 million persons.”
“To provide a context to evaluate the impact of autoimmune diseases, cancer affected approximately 9 million people and heart disease affected approximately 22 million people in the United States.” 2
AI disease can affect any organ or tissue in the body
“Autoimmune diseases can affect virtually every site in the body”
“At least 15 diseases are known to be the direct result of an autoimmune response, and circumstantial evidence links more than 80 conditions to autoimmunity.”3
Most AI disease remains undiagnosed- This is often the reason why your doctor says everything is “Normal” yet you feel terrible.
“Collectively autoimmune diseases have been identified in about 24 million people in the U.S., and only 1/3 are diagnosed. That means about 72 million people have an AI disease. It’s not looked for. Our system waits until the signs and symptoms are severe enough with organ failure and irreversible damage before we identify it.”4
Progression and Prevalence of Multiple Autoimmune Diseases
We know that when people have antibodies against one known tissue type, there are likely to be other antibodies against other tissue as well. In other words, when a person is diagnosed with AI disease, they are at high risk of developing other autoimmune diseases during their lifetime. It is very rare that only one tissue type is targeted by the immune system.
When we look at people with AI disease, they may have multiple types of tissue being targeted that have not yet been identified. For example, the literature shows people with thyroid autoimmune disease have over a 50% chance of being affected by another autoimmune disease.5 However, using a functional medicine approach to dampen the autoimmune response means you can have an affect on these statistics and lower your chances of developing additional AI disease. I would love to talk with you more about how.
• Rates of autoimmune (AI) diseases are increasing every year in the U.S.
• The diagnosis of AI disease is only made after there is degeneration,damage or destruction of the tissue
• Most AI cases remain undiagnosed and is the reason why most doctors will tell you that everything is normal.
• Most AI cases continue to progress over time– The earlier you intervene the better your chances are for a successive outcome.
• Most AI patients develop more than one AI disease during their lifetime. Autoimmune diseases are often seen together.
• Conventional healthcare has very little to offer patients with autoimmune disease besides steroids and pain pills.
Learn more about Autoimmune Disease and Other Triggers:
1. The Journal of Immunology,2005, 175: 4119–4126.
2. NIH. Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Comm. Autoimmune Diseases Research Plan. 2006
3. NAT CLIN PRAC GASTRO & HEP SEPT 2005 VOL 2 NO 9
4. Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D.; Metagenics Educational Programs. 2006
5. ACTA BIO MEDICA 2003; 74; 9-33