What is Autoimmunity?
An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake.
Why Would our Own Immune System Attack our own healthy body tissue by mistake?
The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. One theory is that some microorganisms (such as bacteria or viruses) drugs, stress, certain food sensitivities and other environmental factors may trigger changes that confuse the immune system. This may happen more often in people who have genes that make them more prone to autoimmune disorders.
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF ACTUAL AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS?
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders. 50 million people suffer from at least one autoimmune disease, you likely know someone who is. These include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes. They are now the third leading chronic disease in the country right behind heart disease and cancer.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
Your health care provider will do a physical exam. Tests that may be done to diagnose an autoimmune disorder may include:
- Autoantibody test
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
A believe in a functional medicine approach. What this means is a paradigm shift in healthcare. Functional medicine sees the body as a whole and works on the principle that the health of one system impacts the health and function of the others. Instead of focusing only on symptom management, the focus is on getting to the root of why the immune system attacked the body tissue by mistake. While there is no known cure for autoimmune disease, there are many lifestyle factors that can be addressed to get to the root cause of what is creating this immune response. Go to www.FunctionalMedicine.org for more information.
Kono DH, Theofilopoulos AN. Autoimmunity. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al, eds. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 20.