Autoimmune disease

Autoimmune disease is a chronic inflammatory condition where the immune system causes organ or systemic damage to the host. Autoimmune disease affects 7–9% of the population. Apart from adult-onset diabetes, which affects males more than females, and childhood diseases, which are proportionate across the sexes, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases in females is generally much higher—more than 85% in thyroiditis, systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren's syndrome patients and up to 60–75% in multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Autoimmune diseases are one of the ten leading causes of death in women aged under 65 years in the United States.

 Different body systems may be involved in different autoimmune diseases; however, they are generally characterised by chronic inflammation with a loss of tolerance to self-(auto)antigens, which are immune cells that attack the host. The cause for this loss of tolerance—the shift from normal immune function to autoimmune pathology—is poorly understood. It is generally agreed that the cause is multifactorial, involving a combination of genetic, environmental, hormonal and immune factors.

 Symptoms of an autoimmune disease can range in severity from mildly debilitating to life-threatening. Although autoantibodies are not considered a trigger for autoimmune disease, they are markers of disease, and autoantibodies can be found in serum samples many years before disease onset.

 Common symptoms of autoimmune disease that people experience are:

•         Inflammation

•         Fatigue, malaise

•         Skin changes

•         Swelling in joints, arthralgia

•         Gastrointestinal problems, especially food sensitivities

• Dizziness / Vertigo

• Extreme sensitivity to cold in the extremities

• Sensitivity to light, sounds, tactile responses, smell

•         Weakness and stiffness in muscles and joints

•         Neuralgia

•         Weight changes

•         Low or high blood pressure

•         Irritability, anxiety or depression

•         Hormonal changes or infertility

•         Blood sugar irregularities

•         A change in an organ or tissues

•         Gait changes

•         Nutritional deficiencies.

•         Intermittent low-grade fever

What can be done to treat autoimmune disease?

 Numerous diets have shown benefits for certain individuals, so it is of the utmost importance to have a health professional with a minimum of 4 years of training and who is clinically qualified to assess your diet correctly.

 Diets that have shown benefits:

•         Mediterranean diet.

•         Gluten-free, grain-free, Paleo, Paleo autoimmune diets

•         Plant-based, vegetarian, vegan, raw-foods, vegetable-juice diets

•         Wahls protocol

•         GAPS (gut and psychology syndrome) diet

•         SCD (specific carbohydrate diet)

•         Low-sulfur diet

•         IBD-AID (anti-inflammatory diet)

•         Weston A Price Foundation diet

What a lot of these diets have in common, when done correctly, is an emphasis on fruit and vegetables for there high antioxidant and therefore anti-inflammatory compounds. Also, the exclusion of processed foods and foods with high sugar content is a common theme.

In addition to dietary modifications, a Naturopath will use nutritional and herbal medicine to achieve the following:

·         Regulation of the immune response.

·         Prevention and reduced exposure to chronic infection.

·         Support and regeneration of affected organs or tissue.

·         Correction of any metabolic imbalances such as acidosis.

·         Support and manage psychological, emotional and physical resilience to stress.

·         Increase the capacity of cellular detoxification pathways.

 

Autoimmune diseases are complex conditions that require complex treatments that target a variety of mechanisms. This debilitating disease can manifest over several years and in many cases, decades. The benefits of nutritional and herbal treatments can take time; however, minor symptom relief can take as little as two weeks and many patients generally experience big improvements within a 3 to 6-month period.

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