“I have recently been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain.” ~ Venus Williams
In the United States, we are currently experiencing an autoimmune disease epidemic. Here are a couple of statistics to consider:
(1) Autoimmune disorders have increased by 300 percent over the last 50 years.
(2) Autoimmune disorders affect between 50 and 75 million Americans.
(3) It is the third leading cause of chronic illness (besides heart disease and cancer).
Sometimes, it’s necessary to construct a health article that, on the surface, may seem depressing!
Please understand that we simply wish to inform all of our readers on the risks of certain diseases; and, more importantly, provide some valuable insight on the prevention and (when possible) treatment of health disorders.
Here’s a wonderful phrase applicable to autoimmune diseases that this writer found on Pinterest:
I fight for my health
Every day in ways
Most People Don’t Understand.
I Am Not Lazy.
I Am A WARRIOR.
What is an autoimmune disorder?
Although there are many types of autoimmune disorders and diseases, they all have one thing in common: an immune system that attacks itself.
The immune system is an intricate structure that has evolved to safeguard our health from foreign substances, e.g., toxins, that we come into contact with.
When some foreign material, whatever it may be, enters the body, our immune system immediately analyzes it and determines whether it is “friend or foe.” If foe, the immune system will produce antibodies to neutralize them.
Autoimmune disorders develop when the body is trying to fight off against an allergen, infection, food, or toxin; and fails to distinguish between the intrusive substance and those naturally produced by the body.
The immune system is no different than most other parts of the body – it can change if exposed to prolonged stress. If this happens, our immune system may begin attacking healthy cells and tissues, which may trigger specific symptoms.
Common signs of a developing autoimmune condition
As autoimmune disorders are wide-ranging in both number and types of symptoms experienced, we’re going to classify the signs according to body area. In this case, we’re going to list symptoms that affect the adrenal glands, brain, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, joints and muscles; sinus, mouth and lungs, skin, and thyroid gland.
– Anxiety: a persistent feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease.
– Attention deficit: difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness.
– Brain fog: lack of mental clarity and decline in cognitive performance.
– Headaches: continuous pain around the head area.
– Bloating: swelling of the abdomen by fluid or gas.
– Constipation: an inability to pass stool.
– Stomach cramping: painful sensations around the abdominal area.
Joints & Muscles:
– Muscle Pain and Weakness: general pain of the muscle or muscle area.
– Joint and Muscle Stiffness and Pain: May be indicative of fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.
Sinus, Mouth, & Lungs:
– Allergies: response by the body to a substance.
– Asthma: a condition marked by spasms in the lungs’ bronchi.
– Dry Mouth: reduced production of saliva within the mouth.
– Frequent Colds: increased susceptibility (usually, frequency) of colds.
– Acne: a condition characterized by red pimples on the face.
– Dermatitis: skin that is red, swollen, and sore, sometimes containing small blisters.
– Eczema: skin that becomes rough and inflamed, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding.
– Psoriasis: a skin disease marked by red, itchy, scaly patches.
– Rosacea: enlargement of the facial blood vessels, giving the cheeks and nose a flushed appearance.
Thyroid (besides anxiety and fatigue, mentioned earlier):
– General malaise: a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness.
– Weight fluctuations: rapid weight gain or loss in short periods.
Tips on reversing autoimmune diseases and disorders
It’s estimated that environmental factors contributed about 75% to an immune disorder, while 25% is genetic. The environmental factors are definitively within our control.
Amy Myers, MD, and former Grave’s Disease patient says:
“Through my experience as a functional medicine physician and working with thousands of autoimmune patients, I have identified five environmental factors that play a key role in the creation of autoimmune diseases:
– Leaky gut
Dr. Myers goes on to explain that all of the above factors are a burden on the immune system; and that by addressing them, it is possible to return your immune system to its optimal state.
For example, leaky gut – a condition wherein the digestive tract experiences bloating, cramps, gas, foods sensitivities, aches, and pains – can be helped by consuming more probiotics.
Simple steps for eliminating toxins include stopping the consumption of alcohol or cigarette smoking.
Our diet should be well-balanced, with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Processed foods should be eliminated whenever possible.
Mitigating stress through meditation and exercise can go a long way to strengthening the immune system and fighting off infections!