What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your body. In general, the immune system protects you against germs (e.g. bacteria, viruses). When it detects one of those, it sends an “army of fighter cells” to fight against them.
In an autoimmune disease, the immune system cannot make the difference between foreign cells and your own cells and without knowing, it will attack it’s own cells. For instance, the skin or the joints. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells.
What causes an autoimmune disease?
We are far from knowing the truth here. However, there is clear evidence suggesting that genetics represent a risk factor. It is not necessarily that everyone in the family will inherit the disease, but family members will be more susceptible to an autoimmune condition.
There is limited evidence suggesting that a “Western diet”– high-fat, high-sugar and highly processed foods increase inflammation, which might encourage an autoimmune response.
Exposure to chemicals might represent another risk factor which is still under investigation.
Types of autoimmune diseases:
1. Type 1 diabetes
2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
3. Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis
5. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
6. Inflammatory bowel disease
7. Addison’s disease
8. Graves’ disease
9. Sjögren’s syndrome
10. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
11. Myasthenia gravis
12. Autoimmune vasculitis
13. Pernicious anemia
14. Celiac disease
Autoimmune disease common symptoms
Early symptoms are very common. However, individual diseases might have their ow symptoms,. For instance, for type 1 diabetes, a person might experience weight gain/loss, fatigue or extreme thirst.
- achy muscles
- swelling and redness
- low-grade fever
- trouble concentrating
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- hair loss
- skin rashes
How autoimmune diseases are treated?
Traditional medicine does not cure autoimmune diseases. With medicine, they can reduce inflammation and calm overactive immune response. They can also relieve pain and discomfort. Drugs used to treat these conditions are:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -ibuprofen, naproxen
- immune suppressing drugs
Naturopathy and homeopathy can help people suffering from an autoimmune disease reduce the inflammation in their body and keep under control the symptomatology without any type of medication.
Immune suppressing drugs can be dangerous and have a lot of side effects if they are not balanced well. One common effect is increased risk of infection and hand trembling. However there are many others and while they are very helpful on one side, they come with more health risks than a naturopathic approach on the long run. Following an appropriate diet where one reduces sugar, fat, processed food, diary, red meat, caffeine, alcohol and grains can give you the same effects as the traditional treatment. Now, having a strict diet can be difficult at times and it might be just easier to take a couple of pills and be alright for the day without having to think about what is allowed to eat or not. The positive part is that reducing inflammation in the body by correcting some eating habits can not only keep everything under control but also prevent the disease from becoming worse. It is obvious that if someone gets ill from having a certain life stye, continuing with it will not improve the condition. In contrast, doing some changes will definitely have a positive impact on the overall health.
If you want to know more about how naturopathy can help with treating immune diseases, please do come back. Next week I will be sharing more info about this.