Autoimmune diseases currently affect nearly 50 million Americans--many of whom are women. Considered a top 10 leading cause of death in women under 65 years old, symptoms can range in severity and can affect many body parts and organs (skin, thyroid, brain, etc.). Different types of autoimmune conditions include: Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and thyroid disease.
If you currently suffer from or believe you may have an undiagnosed autoimmune disease, here’s what you should know:
Autoimmune Diseases: What Are They?
Despite one’s diagnosis, all autoimmune diseases, at their root, are the body’s immune response to systemic inflammation that leads the body to attack itself.
These diseases develop while the body is working to defend itself from an infection, toxin, food substance, or allergen. Typically, when our immune systems encounter anything dangerous, it produces antibodies to fight off the potentially harmful invader; however, in the case of autoimmune diseases, the body turns the antibodies on itself and causes harm.
What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?
While genetics play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, our genes must be “turned on” by external factors. These factors can include exposure to toxins from heavy metals (mercury and lead), molds, or infections (herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr, Candida).
There is also a significant link between autoimmune diseases and the chronic inflammation caused by food sensitivities. Gluten, in particular, can wreak havoc on our body.
Signs of Autoimmune Disease
Signs and symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary greatly from disease to disease and person to person. If you are currently experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have an autoimmune disease:
Weight loss or weight gain
Joint pain, muscle pain, or weakness
Feeling tired or fatigued
Difficulty concentrating or focusing
Numbness and/or tingling in the hands and feet
Dry eyes, mouth, or skin
Recurrent rashes or hives
Hair loss or white patches on skin and inside of mouth
Multiple miscarriages or blood clots
Cold or heat intolerance
Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in stool, or diarrhea
In the event you suspect you may currently be suffering from an undiagnosed autoimmune disease, it’s important to seek medical care to help mitigate the symptoms and treat the underlying cause. It’s also important, however, to understand that conventional medicine and functional medicine approach the treatment of autoimmune diseases differently. Conventional medicine does not seek to heal the root cause of the issue--it seeks to treat the symptoms mostly with the use of medications (immunosuppressants, anti-inflammatories, and steroids). While these medications may provide short term relief, treatments such as immunosuppressant drugs have been linked to infections and even cancer.
On the contrary, functional medicine seeks to identify and treat the root cause of autoimmune disease. A functional medicine practitioner will review family medical history, possible food sensitivities, and other potential risk factors. Once the root cause has been identified and treated, thus reducing the burden on one’s immune system, symptoms may lessen or even completely disappear.
If you suspect you may have an autoimmune disease, Total Body Health can help. With the use of labs and testing, we can help identify the root cause of the issue and help restore optimal immune function. Call today for your FREE consultation.