Scientists have looked long and hard about this disease – as opposed to defending our bodies, the immune system wages war on it, a complete reversal of how it should be acting. So far, medical research has not yet discovered why this happens. There is a strange loop somewhere that can no longer tell the difference between the cells in your body, and ‘invader cells’. So instead of fighting off bacteria and viruses, your immune system accepts them, either in one isolated place or potentially your whole body.
There is no telling who will get this disease, no specific groups of people, although it can be hereditary. Research also shows that certain ethnic groups can also be susceptible. The problem is that there is no real consistency in research and trial results.
More women than men seem to get autoimmune disease and cases are rising year upon year. Considering that some years ago it was supposed to be a skin disease, you could say that it has turned full circle and medical professionals believe that it could be environmental issues or response to other forms of inflammation. Taking a test, can ascertain whether, for instance, environmental situations are causing such inflammation. Exposure to a variety of chemicals is being investigated since the mid 90’s and continues.
No part of your body is protected against autoimmune disease, and it manifests itself in different ways. Here are some of the most well-known:
- Coeliac disease
- Arthritis (rheumatoid)
- Anaemia (pernicious, caused by severe protein deficiency and inability to absorb Vitamin B12)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Thyroiditis (usually Hashimoto’s, where basically it almost stops working at all)
- Graves disease (too much hormone production)
- Skin complaints such as psoriasis
There are several other diseases, but some are ones that occur less often and that most of us will never have heard of. Probably, the one that people are most concerned about these days is Lupus, particularly the most usually diagnosed one called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). This awful version of the disease is extremely debilitating and can attack virtually every part of your body, including the brain, kidneys, heart and all joints.
There are a few symptoms that are quite constant through many of the autoimmune disorders, which are:
- Aching muscles either in one place or whole body
- Extreme fatigue
- Skin rashes
- Fever (not extreme, from mild to medium)
- Redness in places, or some swelling
- Tingling sensations, normally hands and feet
- Brain fog
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Headaches and potential dry eyes and swelling, redness around the eye area
Each individual disease can have its own set of symptoms and problems which manifest themselves in different ways. With around 87 different autoimmune diseases, doctors find it very difficult to diagnose. As symptoms may come and go as this disease has a tendency to, it is difficult to treat. At this stage of research, all doctors can do is prescribe the relevant medications to control, but not cure, the disease. In the case of autoimmune disease, all that really can be done is to treat patients with anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing medications. If a patient is in any pain, this will also be treated.
When you have a definite diagnosis, your medical professional will also be taking care of your welfare and mental health. It is not unusual for a disease such as this to cause anxiety and depression, for instance, as you feel that you cannot see the end of it. Take all the help that they offer, eat healthily, take steady exercise and do things that are fun with other people. You do need to help yourself as much as you can.
How the correct diet may help symptoms
Anti-inflammatory produce is obviously the way to go when trying to ease symptoms. Also, the practice of ‘clean eating’ should help, which means foods devoid of additives, chemical intervention etc., just fresh food all the way (preferably a majority of plant food).
There are specific foods that seem to provoke symptoms. These are the Genetically Modified Foods or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms.) Unfortunately, a lot of plant food has been, and still is genetically modified, so the following should be avoided where possible. GMO’s can be engineered via the seeds that are used in the case of crops, or steroidal abuse of cattle etc. Alternatively, they can be nurtured using toxic chemicals during the growth period. You should keep well away from toxins of any form.
Rather than advise you what to eat, it is more helpful to give you an idea of what foods to avoid, the kind of items that often exacerbate autoimmune symptoms.
Foods to avoid
Dairy – cheese, milk, yoghurts or any products that contain dairy.
Nightshade Vegetables – tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, potatoes. These contain alkaloids which can cause intestinal inflammation.
Eggs – eliminating eggs from your diet can improve symptoms of diseases such as IBS and IBD as they tend to inflame your stomach and bowel.
Gluten – if you suffer from coeliac disease, you will already know that items such as bread, pasta etc will cause some pretty nasty symptoms. If you are a beer drinker, stay well away from that too.
Sugar – potentially sugar can aggravate symptoms of those suffering from Crohn’s and multiple sclerosis. More research is needed.
It is important to remember that autoimmune disease is not a sensitivity as such, and can last a lifetime. There is also no such thing as cheating for a day or two, and eating products that you shouldn’t, as this would undoubtedly result in a flare up. Stick to your dietary regime, have fun, but be mindful of what you put into your body.