It’s not a secret that there’s been a glaring rise in autoimmune diseases over the past fifty years, from multiple sclerosis to celiac disease. The initial step in curing this disorder is to understand the definition of autoimmune disease and how it can be controlled.
Did you know that your body is hardwired to tell the difference between what belongs in it and what doesn’t? When your body detects an intruder, such as bacteria or a virus, it shoots to kill. Your body is at war.
But sometimes, the system fails and kills healthy tissue. If it continues to do so, it can lead to an autoimmune disease. Therefore, ‘auto’ means self, and basically, your immune system is making you its target.
More than twenty-three million Americans suffer from autoimmunity, yet, ninety-percent of Americans can’t name a single autoimmune disease because they don’t know the definition autoimmune disease. It’s an umbrella for many conditions, which do not have the word ‘autoimmune’ in their titles.
Definition Autoimmune Disease
Our immune system is a multifaceted network of distinctive cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other alien invaders. At the very core of this immune system is the ability to tell the difference between self and non-self. Sometimes, as stated, the body makes a mistake and attacks healthy cells. When this happens, the distinctive cells, called regulatory T cells, are unsuccessful in doing their job keeping the immune system intact. The result? An imprudent attack on our body, which can cause damage called autoimmune disease
Today’s doctors/scientists have a little more refined understanding of how the immune system attacks itself by deducing that there are three essential ingredients, a genetic susceptibility, an environmental activation and what’s called a ‘leaky gut.’
It wasn’t until 2000 that a scientist named Fasano discovered that zonulin, a protein regulating gut permeability works like a traffic cop protecting our tissues. This protein unlocks the areas between cells allowing some matter to pass through while keeping the damaging matter out. But, when the body produces an excess amount of zonulin, it pushes apart the cells of the intestinal liner enabling toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream, hence the term, ‘leaky gut.’
Here are the most common types of autoimmune disease:
Rheumatoid arthritisA chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, including those in the hands and feet.
LupusAn inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues.
Celiac diseaseAn immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Sjögren’s syndromeAn immune system disorder characterized by dry eyes and dry mouth.
Polymyalgia rheumaticaAn inflammatory disorder causing muscle pain and stiffness around the shoulders and hips.
Multiple sclerosisA disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves.
Ankylosing spondylitisAn inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and large joints.
Type 1 diabetesA chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
Alopecia areataSudden hair loss that starts with one or more circular bald patches that may overlap.
VasculitisAn inflammation of the blood vessels that causes changes in the blood vessel walls.
Temporal arteritisAn inflammation of blood vessels, called arteries, in and around the scalp.
If you are living with an autoimmune disease, there are ways to feel better:
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Get regular physical activity, being careful not to overdo
- Get enough rest
- Supplements to replace a substance that the body lacks, such as thyroid hormone, vitamin B12, or insulin, due to the autoimmune disease.
- Blood transfusions if blood is affected.
- Physical therapy to help with movement if the bones, joints, or muscles are affected.
If you think you have autoimmune disease, consult your doctor. There are steps you can take to feel better.