The immune system is designed to protect your body’s healthy tissues by attacking any viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens that enter your body. Simply put, it is what prevents you from getting sick, and what helps you recover if you do fall ill. However, autoimmune diseases are different. They cause your immune system to get confused and attack the healthy cells in your body. If left untreated, serious medical issues may occur.
Autoimmune diseases are among the most common diseases that exist today. There are hundreds of autoimmune illnesses and they are more prevalent in women than men. Symptoms vary widely among the diseases, many of which have their own unique symptoms, but many also share similar symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, cognitive changes, or unexplained weight gain or loss. Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases can affect any system in the body, making them difficult to diagnosis.
The most accepted theory now of how a person develops an autoimmune condition is that three factors play a role in the development of disease. One thing that puts you at risk for being attacked by your own immune system is your “genetics”. If your parents have a predisposition to autoimmune disease, you may, as well.
Another common characteristic of autoimmune diseases is that an “outside agent or trigger” is required to start the process. Even with a genetic predisposition, a person may not develop an autoimmune disease without an environmental influence to set it off. Examples of these are infections, certain foods, and toxins.
The third contributing factor to autoimmunity is that a person likely has intestinal hyper-permeability, what is commonly called a “leaky gut.” Research from the past two decades has demonstrated a high correlation between developing autoimmunity and inflammatory conditions in the GI tract. This makes sense because most of your immune system is in your GI tract. Some of the most common causes of leaky gut are related to diet, chronic stress, toxins and gut flora imbalance.
When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable (or leaky), large protein molecules can escape into the bloodstream, where the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. This immune response affects not only the gut but other organs and tissues. This starts a chain reaction causing low-grade chronic inflammation. As the leakiness of the gut worsens, the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease is increased.
As with all things in the body, the immune system is all about being in balance. If you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease, there is an imbalance in your immune system. The more significant the imbalance, the greater the severity of the immune response (and the attack on your healthy tissue). Therefore, if you can bring your immune system in to balance, you can effectively lower the amount of healthy tissue that is damaged.
The most common autoimmune diseases include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves Disease, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Crohns or Ulcerative Colitis, and skin conditions like Eczema or Psoriasis. Because the symptoms of an autoimmune disease may be similar to those of other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor for an official diagnosis and to learn about your treatment options.
So, if properly balancing your immune system is the solution, how do you do it? At Willowbend Health & Wellness our medical team is trained in the most advanced methods to diagnose and treat many of the root causes of the immune dysfunction that may be contributing to your illness utilizing a functional and integrative approach. If you have been experiencing symptoms connected with an autoimmune disease and are looking for answers, schedule an appointment with Willowbend Health & Wellness today.