Autoimmune Disease Part 1: 3 Factors That Cause It

According to the Autoimmune Registry, there are a reported 23.5 million cases of Autoimmune Disease in the United States and this number continues to grow. There are 2.6 million people with Rheumatoid Arthritis and another 2.4 million suffering from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in the United States alone! Current treatment toward these diseases and all other autoimmune diseases are based solely upon symptom relief. Turn on the TV and you will see an ad for Humira and its relief of RA symptoms, with a possibility of even inhibiting further damage.

Does Humira actually relieve symptoms? That depends on the individual. One of our patients was given Humira for supposed Crohn’s Disease (the lab tests did not confirm this diagnosis, yet the prescription was given anyway) and it made her feel like she was going to die, literally. She would kiss her children goodnight and “not know if I was going to wake up in the morning.”

She began to ask herself what was causing her symptoms. A profound inquiry, I know. At her doctor’s office, many attempts were made to find answers to this question: “What’s causing me to feel like this?” Nobody could tell her the answer, until someone mentioned she should see a functional medicine specialist. Going completely on faith, she walked into our office, not knowing beforehand what functional medicine even is.

In case you’re wondering what functional medicine is too, let me explain it simply: it discovers the WHY of your symptoms, the CAUSE of your diagnosis (or lack of), and then TREATS it.

So, what causes Autoimmune Disease??

The 3 Factors that Cause Autoimmune Disease:

1. Environmental Factors

Now before you go blaming yourself or anybody else for an autoimmune disease diagnosis, simply understand that you can only control so much. Living in 21st century America places a heavy burden on our bodies, a burden it can only handle for so long. We cannot control our:

  • food industry
  • the adjuvants in vaccines
  • glyphosate (Roundup) sprayed on crops
  • heavy metals like mercury in amalgams
  • emotional stress
  • and the list can go on and on

These are types of environmental factors that trigger autoimmune diseases.

Our bodies are incredible machines. But the machine can only combat environmental stressors for so long. Everyone’s threshold is different, and unfortunately you don’t know yours until it has been met. For example someone could be told at age 8 that they have Type 1 Diabetes. For someone else, they might receive a Hashimoto’s diagnosis at age 40. Others can last until age 63 when the onset of Parkinson’s appears.

Now the beauty in all this is you can bring your body back under the threshold. By testing, treating, and removing the burden environmental factors are placing upon your body, it CAN become healthy again.

2. Gut Dysbiosis

The microbiota found in our small and large intestine (AKA “gut”) are responsible for maintaining homeostasis (stable physiological processes) in our immune system. If homeostasis is maintained, the immune system never attacks our body – which is what happens with autoimmune disease. In multiple sclerosis, it attacks the nervous system. In diabetes the pancreas is attacked. Hashimoto’s is a result of an attack on the thyroid.

When composition of the microbiota change, the immune system is no longer in homeostasis. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are a result. When our immune system is in this state chronically, our bodies become more susceptible to autoimmune inflammation resulting in autoimmune disease.

Restoring proper balance to the gut flora is key in lowering those inflammatory cytokines. You can do this with proper testing, supplementation, and dietary alterations.

3. Genetics

“Well, my Mom has it. Now I have it.” A common explanation I hear in regard to an autoimmune diagnosis. I do agree that we can be genetically predisposed to diseases. However, I cringe every time I hear someone give this excuse. Here’s why:

Let’s say Type I Diabetes “runs in your family.” One child gets diagnosed with it. All other children grow to adulthood and receive no such diagnosis. But when genetic testing is done, one of these un-diagnosed individuals test positive for the gene. What explains the fact that one child got it while another didn’t?

Gene Activation.

Both children who had the gene were genetically predisposed. However, the gene only became active in the one, not in the other. What causes genes to become activated? Environmental factors. Gut Dysbiosis.

If you’re tired of managing your autoimmune disease symptoms, take action. See a functional medicine specialist. Their training can help restore homeostasis to your immune system leaving you symptom free and free from your diagnosis.

Stay tuned for part 2 in our autoimmune series…

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