Autoimmune diseases have a bit of mystery around them, which so you might not fully understand what they are.
This is partially because autoimmune conditions have an unknown cause.
Despite this, though, and thanks to a great deal of diligent study, medical researchers have uncovered a good deal of intel on them. This helps your naturopathic doctor to put together a treatment plan that can help.
There are currently no known cures for autoimmune diseases. There are, however, ways to make them easier to live with. This is how your naturopathic doctor can help.
Let’s talk more about autoimmune diseases. What they are, where they come from, and some information on the more common autoimmune conditions.
What Is An Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is a disease that affects the immune system. Rather than fighting off invaders in form of viruses and illnesses, an autoimmune condition causes your body to attack its own tissue.
It’s unknown what triggers this event. Autoimmune disease results in the immune system not being able to differentiate between foreign cells and host (your own body’s) cells.
Often, these immune responses are specifically-located. In other words, one type of cell or body part is being mistaken for something dangerous.
Because the cause is unknown, treatments usually focus on trying to manage symptoms and triggers.
What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?
Although we don’t know what actually causes an autoimmune disease, we do know that some of them are hereditary.
For instance, lupus and multiple sclerosis run in families. Not everyone in the family will have the disease, but you’re more likely to develop this condition if your close relatives did.
Another working theory is that autoimmune diseases are related to exposure to chemicals and solvents.
Autoimmune diseases have been steadily increasing over the recent years. This suggests there is an environmental cause.
Another course of study suggests that the rising diagnosis of autoimmune conditions may be related to our high-fat, high-sugar, highly-processed Western diet.
The more scientists understand our gut microbiome, the more we learn about how it influences our many other systems, including our immune systems.
Who’s At Risk For Autoimmune Diseases?
Studies have shown there are certain people more likely to get an autoimmune disease.
For instance, ethnic groups. Lupus is more prevalent among those of Hispanic and African descent.
As well, cis women deal with with autoimmune diseases twice as often as cis men.
Finally, if you’re a woman who is prone to getting an autoimmune disease, it’s more likely to manifest during childbearing years.
How Many Autoimmune Diseases Are There?
Because autoimmune diseases can be localized to a specific area of the body, they are categorized as unique diseases.
To-date, there are at least one hundred different autoimmune diseases commonly accepted.
Below we’ve explored a few of most common.
1. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arthritis is famously what causes sore, stiff joints.
However, it’s usually associated with old age. That’s a different condition – osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, can affect people at any age.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis focus on reducing the redness, swelling and associated pain.
2. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis attacks the protective coating around nerve cells (called the myelin sheath).
When this sheath is damaged, it slows the transmission of signals between your brain and spinal cord.
The result includes symptoms of weakness, numbness, and difficulty with balance or walking.
Psoriasis is a skin-specific autoimmune disease. That means the immune system attacks cells in the epidermis.
This creates red, itchy patches with a scaly skin buildup resulting from the over-activity of the skin attempting to reproduce and heal. The skin is often raised and inflamed, but it can range in severity from mild and painless to severe and, in rare cases, life-threatening.
4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes the inflammation of the lining of the intestinal wall.
However, IBD is an umbrella term. It refers to different types of inflammatory bowel disease that affect different parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
Some of the more common conditions you may have heard of include:
• Ulcerative colitis – which primarily affects the colon and rectum
• Crohn’s disease – which can attack any part of the GI tract
• Celiac disease – which primarily affects the small intestine
5. Graves’ Disease
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. Your thyroid regulates the hormones related to your metabolism.
When you have Graves’ disease, your thyroid overproduces these hormones, causing a condition called hyperthyroidism. This can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
• Heat sensitivity
• Unexpected weight loss
• Menstrual fluctuations
• Chronic fatigue
• Heat intolerance
Contact Annex Naturopathic
If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, naturopathic medicine can complement your medical treatment for it.
If you’re concerned you may have an autoimmune disease, call Annex Naturopathic now to get a consultation.
One of our doctors will be able to help you understand what’s happening to your body. From there, we’ll explore the next steps and treatments targeted to your case.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND