Recently a friend was telling me that she always feels tired, too tired. She is constantly irritable which is pushing your family away. She has gained weight, her hair is coarse and brittle and her stomach always hurts? It could be nothing more than stress or it could be something more complex and serious.
Experiencing physical ailments like these on a daily basis it’s been difficult for her and her doctor to understand exactly what’s going on.
It never occurred to her that these seemingly ordinary complaints were the signs of something more serious; autoimmune disease.
Did you know that more than 23.5 million people with the probability of up to 50 million Americans are affected by Autoimmune Diseases? Seventy-five percent (75%) of those are women so having a general understanding of autoimmune diseases is important to your overall wellbeing.
There is so much misunderstanding and confusion about autoimmune disease, too much to digest in one article so I have broken the topic down into several articles to educate and create awareness.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune diseases cause the body’s own immune system to attack itself, leading to a wide range of ailments and illnesses. Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells.
With autoimmune disorder (I use the term disease and disorder interchangeably), the immune system mistakes a part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack the healthy cells.
Types of Autoimmune Disorders
Some of the more prevalent autoimmune diseases include Crohn’s, Lupus, Hashimoto’s, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Unfortunately, most patients diagnosed with autoimmune disease often suffer from more than one autoimmune disease as they tend to work together to actively attack and destroy the body.
Incidentally, autoimmune disorders can affect any type of person at any age so a diagnosis of and Autoimmune disease is life-changing for the patient and their family.
Most Common Symptoms
Autoimmune disorders are known for certain symptoms that seem to be common among the entire category of illness. Symptoms like swelling, pain in hands and feet, numbness in hands and feet, hair loss, and fatigue, are all hallmarks of autoimmune disorders.
A disorder like irritable bowel syndrome will have other symptoms that are more associated with your digestive tract. Others like rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to be centered in the joints of the hands, neck, and feet. The important thing here is to take note of what areas are being affected.
What Might Trigger an Autoimmune Disorder?
One of the challenges with getting a diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder is that there can be so many different factors to consider. There are a lot of things happening at once and many of the symptoms are the same in other diseases. This is one of the details that can make it extremely difficult to discover which disorder you may be suffering from let alone figure out when it started or what may have caused the disorder in the first place.
Luckily, the research that scientists have been doing over the last 15 years has given a fair amount of insight into what kinds of things might trigger an autoimmune disorder.
Stress, Anger, and Anxiety
Research on the effects of extreme emotions on your health shows that sustained stress can cause damage to your immune system and can trigger varieties of autoimmune disease. The majority of patients studied and surveyed during these studies reported that the first manifestations of illness took place during emotionally jarring times. Many of these included caring for aging and sick loved ones, financial stress, or the dissolution of marriage.
In the last six years, gluten has become somewhat of a four-letter word among those who are newer to the natural health community. Literature devoted to getting people to stop consuming gluten can be found just about anywhere you look however not very many people understand exactly what gluten is or what its function might be.
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, and barley among other grains. Some people who experience the effects of autoimmunity might believe that they have celiac disease, but when they’re found to show no signs of the disease they continue to consume gluten. They may not have an allergy to gluten but its probably they have a sensitivity to it.
Unfortunately, this could be the beginning of a very serious battle with autoimmune disease. Even food exposed to gluten can be damaging to people who are especially sensitive.
This might be a serious bit of bad news to a lot of people who have been doing their best to avoid gluten, but many of the proteins contained in foods such as rice, corn, and oatmeal are very similar to gluten and could also create many of the same symptoms.
Keep in mind that not all of these symptoms may manifest the same way, and they can take place outside of the gut. There are several different blood tests focused on food sensitivities to help to figure out what is going on in your immune system. The results give doctors much clearer information on which they can base a diagnosis.
You can find an alarming amount of scientific literature that shows autoimmune diseases are caused by the combination of genetics and environmental toxins.
Studies show that there is a strong relationship with autoimmune diseases and a class of chemicals called organic solvents so it is essential for you to know what are these environmental toxins are and where are they found?
Where are Environmental Toxins Found?
They are in your refrigerator
GMOs or “Genetically Modified Organisms” are plants that have had their DNA artificially modified at a genetic level. This artificial modification involves combining the DNA of plants with animal, bacteria, or viruses creating organisms that do not occur in nature or by normal crossbreeding methods.
Fruits and vegetables that are grown traditionally (not organically) are sprayed with pesticides like glyphosate. If that doesn’t sound familiar you may know it as Roundup. There is an overwhelming amount of literature connecting glyphosate with a number of diseases.
They are under your kitchen sink
Studies show a strong relationship with autoimmune diseases and a class of chemicals called organic solvents. A 2012 study called, Organic Solvents, used for cleaning purposes, as Risk Factor for Autoimmune Diseases,
Organic solvents are commonly found in:
- spot removers
- rug cleaners
- personal care products, nail polish remover
- all-purpose household cleaners
They are in your bathroom
Autoimmune diseases affect approximately 8% of the population, 78% of whom are women. Women have 90% of all thyroid diseases, and they make up 90% of all lupus sufferers.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that the average women apply 168 chemicals to her body every day. Men on the other hand use about half that number.
That may seem impossible. However, when you think of all the personal care products women use the numbers actually add up and many of these chemicals are known to contribute to autoimmunity.
- Nail polish,
- Lipstick and
- Hair dye
The Environmental Defense Group issued a report on the heavy metals found 49 popular beauty products. Their results are frightening!
- Arsenic – 20%
- Cadmium – 51%
- Lead – 96%
- Mercury – 0%
- Nickel – 100%
- Beryllium – 90%
- Thallium – 61%
- Selenium – 14%
In summary, I have shown that both genetic and environmental can contribute to autoimmune disorders. Altering our genes may not be possible although the study of epigenetics tells us otherwise. We can actively remove and eliminate many of the contributors to autoimmune disease.
Suzanne ignites ideas, conversation, and connection…her motivational talks and workshops are a combination of innate wisdom, modern tools, and humor to grow communication, connection, leadership, emotional intelligence, productivity, strength, positivity, grit, resilience and a life you love!
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