Autoimmune disease is an increasingly significant problem on the Sunshine Coast and worldwide. This is why a good naturopath should have a solid understanding of it. I wish to share the knowledge, so have put together a 4 part series of blogs to help people to understand autoimmunity.
Autoimmune diseases are born when your system works hard to defend itself against something potentially dangerous. such as an allergen, a toxin, an infection, or even a food, yet it fails to differentiate between the intruder and parts of your own body. Hence the immune system mistakes your own tissues for harmful substances, so it creates antibodies against your own cells. This wreaks havoc on your organs.
Autoimmune disease occurs when a person’s immune system is confused and attacks their own cells. So any organ of the body may be involved. As a result, a significant amount of inflammation and damage to specific parts of the body occurs. Very often the joints, skin, gut or thyroid are affected. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and Hashimotos disease are common examples.
Autoimmune disease causes more than 80 known illnesses. Interestingly, women are more commonly affected than men.
What are the common causes of autoimmune disease on the Sunshine Coast?
A good naturopath knows that there are many underlying factors that can cause people to develop an autoimmune condition. Firstly, there usually is an underlying genetic component. However, whether these genes are expressed or turned on is actually caused by a host of other factors. Some examples are heavy metals like mercury, or mycotoxins from moulds and infections like candida. Epstein-Barr and the herpes simplex virus. We can also suffer from chronic inflammation tied to food sensitivities — particularly gluten. Interestingly, there is a significant link between autoimmune diseases and gluten intolerance.
If you are experience any of the symptoms below it may be a good time to begin preventative measures with a good naturopath such as myself. We know how to recognise the early symptoms and signs of autoimmune disease. What is more, we know how to dampen down the process, and sometimes even turn it off. I can do that for you, with or without the help of our holistic doctors (Tracy Johns, Tim Smith or Mark Fulton) here at the clinic on the Sunshine Coast. So please feel free to read some of my other blogs on this and check out our medical centre on this website.
What is the Consequence of Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune diseases tend to have one of three characteristic pathological effects
- Damage to or destruction of tissues, the consequence of which is inflammation
- Altered organ growth
- Altered organ function
These diseases are often chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening. What is more, they are among the leading causes of death in all age groups up to 65 years.
Why this occurs is complicated and multi factorial. Of note, genetic predisposition plays a role in autoimmunity, but is only a small piece of the puzzle. Interestingly, many people who have the genetics for particular autoimmune disease never develop that disease. That is one of the reasons this area of medicine is so fascinating. Research shows that 70% to 95% of the risk for developing autoimmune disease comes from the environment. That means we have significant control over our own health.
Environment refers to the foods that we eat, chemical exposure, and stress exposure. It is the interplay of genetics with the environment (a field known as epigenetics) that results in autoimmune disease.
The good news is that the patient can have control over this. While we can’t change our genes, we can control our environment. Yet to change the environment our genes exist in is complicated. We know the key is to reduce inflammation. This is best done with the help of a good naturopath like myself.
Autoimmune disease can grumble along slowly for many years before a diagnosable disease is confirmed.
Early symptoms can be vague, and may include:
Brain fog, cognitive impairment/and or memory loss.
Allergies or food intolerance.
Mild fever or feeling uncomfortably hot particularly at night.
Muscle or joint aches and pains or a tremor.
Swollen glands in the armpits, neck or groin.
Recurrent minor infections or lingering infections.
Numbness and/or tingling in the limbs.
Weight loss, insomnia, heat intolerance or rapid heartbeat
Recurrent rashes or hives, sun-sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks.
Feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance.
Hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth.
Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in your stool, diarrhoea or mouth ulcers.
Dry eyes, mouth or skin.
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
Autoimmune diseases usually fluctuate between periods of remission (few or no symptoms) and flare-ups (worsening symptoms).
Although there are many different types of autoimmune diseases, and they can affect many different organs, they are all similar in that they are an immune response caused by inflammation. This leads your body to attack itself. The immune system is very sophisticated. It normally keeps you well, in that it identifies all of the foreign substances that enter your body. So If your immune system deems anything dangerous, it will produce antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.
This discussion is continued in my other blogs on autoimmune disease.
Written by naturopath KIm Carolan, who works locally on the Sunshine Coast
Kim Carolan holds a degree in Naturopathy, yet, being a good naturopath, she hasn’t stopped learning. To that end, she has further training in holistic counselling, live and coagulated blood microscopy, metabolic balance, biomesotherapy and German biological medicine (Sanum). Kim operates out of Pulse Holistic Medical Practice on the Sunshine Coast. Like all the practitioners here, she is passionate about helping people reach their optimal health goals. So she has special interests in digestive health, weight loss, anxiety, depression and autoimmune conditions.