What causes Autoimmune Disease?

You may have heard of Multiple Sclerosis (autoimmune reaction to the brain and spine), Rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune reaction in the joints), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (autoimmune reaction of the thyroid), Celiac Disease (autoimmune reaction to gluten the protein in wheat), and Diabetes Type 1 (autoimmune reaction affecting the pancreas). Autoimmune disease is best understood using the epigenetic theory. Epigenetics is the study of how genes change from external mechanisms. Instead of looking point blank if you have the gene or not, epigenetics is a dynamic study that looks at what and how external sources will change genes and trigger autoimmune disease.

Using the epigenetic theory, Autoimmune Disease can be understood as a combination of factors. First, there is the genetic predisposition. Secondly, there are enough external influences that overburden the system. Thirdly, there is an event that turns on the gene and activates the autoimmune disease process. Even though you may have the genetic predisposition, the autoimmune process may be lying dormant because there has not been a combination of factors to trigger activation.


What are the external influences that can overburden the system?
Any physiological stress, whether its food allergies, chronically imbalanced bacteria in the gut, yeast overgrowth, inflammation in the liver, poor nutrition, poor assimilation of nutrients in the body, poor quality nutrients, or even long term emotional stress such as depression will affect the body’s ability to adapt to new situations. What this means is that your body is like a cup where it can handle so many ‘stressors’, chronic inflammation, infections, or other events that overwhelm that body’s ability to adapt to further ‘stressors’ in a healthy manner. When the scale is tipped and the body is overburdened, that’s when the cup overflows and symptoms appear. The overwhelmed body is now predisposed for an event to trigger the autoimmune process.


What are some of the triggers?
There is a strong correlation between chronic bacterial and viral infections that trigger autoimmune disease. The theory as to why this occurs is that when the bacteria or virus leave the host cell (the host cell is our normal cell in the body that was invaded), they may take part of the normal cell with them, which tricks the immune system into thinking that the normal cell is now part of the invading infection. Alternatively, some microorganisms may show certain proteins on them that mimic the proteins on normal cells, which again confuses the immune system and triggers the immune response.


How do you treat Autoimmune Diseases?
Because each person and disease process is uniquely individual, no two cases will be treated identical. Naturopathic medicine uses treatments that lower the external sources that are burdening the body, support a healthy immune response, decrease an individual’s predisposition, and prevent triggers from re-stimulating the disease process. Naturopathic medicine is an approach to primary care that is derived from a Hippocratic teaching that the human body has an innate healing ability. It’s a form of primary care that uses a proactive approach with a combination of treatments such as clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, body work, vitamins and minerals, and lifestyle modifications to treat the root cause of disease while supporting the body’s innate ability.


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