We live in a sick nation. We are sick and becoming sicker! Autoimmune diseases, like so many other diseases, are skyrocketing at alarming rates. There are between 80 and 200 different autoimmune conditions today.
What is an autoimmune condition? It is a disease which manifests “antibodies or lymphocytes against substances naturally present in the body.” It has the appearance of the immune system going bonkers and can’t tell the difference between a foreign body and its own body. But we are discovering that what we thought we knew about auto-immunity may not be the full story.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s (thyroid), celiac, lupus, Lyme disease, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, Grave’s disease, endometriosis and others. Nearly any chronic illness can eventually turn into an autoimmune disease. Even having a brain concussion can.
Post-concussive syndrome (symptoms manifesting months or years later, as a result of the injury) has hit the limelight recently as we are seeing a relationship between that and future episodes of Alzheimer’s disease (recently added to the list of autoimmune diseases) or other forms of dementia. It is opening up new dimensions in our understanding of the autoimmune response.
The simple explanation of autoimmunity is like this: you come home one day and your kitchen is flooded. You discover that you left the faucet running and the sink has been overflowing for hours. So you rush about, gathering towels, blankets, anything possible to sop up the water. But in the process, you neglect to turn off the faucet. Eventually, you’ll get exhausted trying to keep up with it and realize that unless you handle the source of the issue (the faucet is still on) you will never get it under control.
This is likely the mechanism in autoimmunity. A tissue is damaged (for example, the brain) as a result of a trauma. Cell fragments from the traumatized tissue gets into the bloodstream. This is okay under normal conditions, and the immune system is designed to clean it up. The body makes antibodies to deal with this garbage. The problem starts when the damage isn’t healing, and cell fragments continue to flow into the bloodstream (the faucet is still running). After a while (weeks, months or even years later) the body decides to go to the source (the faucet) to stop it. Unfortunately, that means it is now going after the organ (brain, thyroid, lungs) or tissue (joints, muscles, nerves). All of this necrotic, damaged tissue, antibodies and auto-antibodies, etc., causes runaway inflammation and now you are miserable!
The question to be asking is “why did my body not heal?” Herein lies the real problem - the autoimmune response is simply the body doing its best to deal with a cascading level of insult.
Improper nutrition, toxic exposures, stress, weakened innate immunity, lack of exercise, underlying chronic infections, abundance of a pathogen (virus, bacteria, parasite, mold or fungus) or continued injury as in repetitive motions or repetitive injuries.
Fortunately, there are ways to address all of these insults to bring the immune system back into proper function, and not just suppress it. Learn more by attending our upcoming health class, Battling Autoimmune Diseases Naturally, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7 at Vital Health in Coeur d’Alene. Fee: $10. RSVP: 208-765-1994.
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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective.” She looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.