Autoimmune Disease – Why Is It Happening?
Have you been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? Perhaps you have been struggling with health problems for a long time. The more chronic, the more complicated, the more things you’ve tried, the higher the likelihood that your health problems are autoimmune. This means your own immune system is attacking your body! Autoimmune disease healthcare is decades behind other medical conditions. It tends to be complicated, messy, and full of road blocks for most people. They see multiple different doctors with varying levels of success.
As someone who treats mainly people with chronic health problems, my office is full of patients with various autoimmune diseases. One question nearly everyone asks me when they discover they have an autoimmune disease is, “How did I get this autoimmune disease?”
Let me try and simplify our current understanding of how people develop autoimmune diseases.
1. Poor Immune System Regulation – Set up to Fail
The first thing we must recognize is that the immune system’s self-check system must fail for an autoimmune disease to develop. The immune system has an incredibly complex and thorough system of making sure it does not attack your own body. Although there are over a half dozen steps at which the immune system checks itself, one of the most crucial is in the lymph node at a cell called the T regulator (Treg) cell. [For those of you who want to do further nerdy reading you’ll find scientific studies by looking up Treg cells or one of their primary receptors, FOXP3.] Literally, when this cell malfunctions you are in grave danger of developing an autoimmune disease. If this cell is working well, he can save you from a world of misery even if other things are going wrong. This cell is like a great quarterback in football who can cover up other player’s mistakes. This Treg cell can cover the mistake of the immune system to accidentally attack your own tissue (joints, thyroid, ovaries, brain, liver, etc). What helps this Treg cell function? Only things most Americans are extremely deficient in such as Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Omega 3′s, Short Chain Fatty Acids (from gut bacteria digesting vegetable fibers), Glutathione, and Ganoderma.
More Information on Glutathione, the most important Tregulator nutrient you need! Click HERE for more information.
The Genetic Link to Autoimmunity – You are Not Doomed!
I must note here that most often this is where genetics also plays a factor. It is true some people are more prone to getting autoimmune diseases than others and we find these diseases running strongly in families. As genetic testing goes farther and farther we find genetic defects with this immune regulatory process. Often one of your immune system self-check systems does not function well. However, genetic problems do not mean you are destined and helpless in your fate to get an autoimmune disease! It is all the more important to make sure your other autoimmune regulatory processes (like Treg cells) are working properly. This often means extra support for your Treg cells (for the rest of your life) is necessary to help your immune system function in a healthy way and not perpetuate you developing more and more autoimmune diseases.
2. Molecular Mimicry – An Error In Targeting
Our immune system functions to protect us against foreign invaders like fungi, bacteria, and viruses. The way it does this is by identifying the shape of the invader. Like a key has to be shaped correctly to open a lock, so the immune system method of identification is based on shapes. The problem with this is when the immune system gets activated against a pathogen, it actually is activated against that particular shape. If, for example, that shape is extremely similar to a protein in your joints, you can develop an autoimmune disease against your joints as your body tries to kill the infection and gets carried away thinking your joints are part of that infection because they have a very similar shape. This concept is called “molecular mimicry” because the infection shape “mimics” another part of the body. This can happen with allergies also. For example a gluten allergy can have a shape that mimics thyroid tissue and thus can trigger an autoimmune thyroid disease.
Research is also showing us more and more that having a “leaky gut” can trigger autoimmune diseases. Leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability) happens when the tight junctions in your intestines break down and undigested food can enter directly into your blood stream through the intestines. This undigested food falls under the immune system to get rid of and creates potential for molecular mimicry as the body develops allergies or food intolerances because of the leaky gut.
3. Co-Stimulation – Pulling the Trigger
Remember I said molecular mimicry is like a key fitting into a lock? Well it is actually like 2 keys fitting into 2 locks. You see your immune system being activated is like launching a nuclear missile in the movies. You know the movies where they always need 2 people turning 2 different keys at the same time? Just like that your immune system needs molecular mimicry AND co-stimulation to develop an autoimmune disease. This co-stimulation is often an inflammatory process and is often the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. This is what people often identify as the start of their health problems. Common co-stimulatory events are illnesses, broke bones, accidents, emotional trauma, sudden hormone fluctuations in pregnancy or menopause, and exposure to allergenic food through a leaky gut. While some of these events can’t be avoided in like, there are things we can do to lessen your chance of autoimmune flares during these events. One great option is making sure you have glutathione around. Glutathione is a vital part of your body’s anti-oxidant protection program and can serve to soften the blow in our bodies from any kind of stress or damage.
In review, autoimmune diseases happen when people have faulty immune system control, molecular mimicry, and co-stimulation. This perfect storm creates an opportunity for the body to malfunction and identify a piece of itself as a foreign invader. How do we go about starting to fix the problem? Please read our links to other articles that go more in depth but in essence the answer is simple. We want to increase immune regulation, decrease molecular mimicry and decrease co-stimulatory immune events.
That’s all I have for today. Thank you for reading.
More Information on Immune System Balancing Concepts and immune regulation click HERE