You have seen pharmaceutical drug commercial of rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriasis very often. This is because the numbers of people who suffer these conditions have increased. Did you know that they are actually some of many autoimmune disorders? When you check Wikipedia for Autoimmune Disease, there are more than 80 illnesses listed which are caused by autoimmunity. (1)
I picked up several illnesses that many people are not aware that they are autoimmune in nature.
Alpopecia (spot baldness)
Arthritis (all forms)
Atopic Allergy (tendency to be hyperallergic)
Dermatitis (all forms)
Type I Diabetes
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome
As you can see, there are many skin conditions and digestive health disorders. You have or your friend, family members, or acquaintances have one or some of conditions listed above. Dr. David Brady, an integrative physician says that the incidence of autoimmune disorders has been rising sharply over the past several decades in the Western industrialized countries, particularly the US (Figure 1). You may not know that how many people are affected by autoimmune disorders. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), 50 million Americans suffer from disease whereas cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million. (2)
Donna Jackson Nakazawa, an author of “The Autoimmune Epidemic” says “Imagine the slow, creeping escalation of seemingly amorphous symptoms: a tingling in the arms and fingers, the sudden appearance of a speckled rash across the face, the strange muscle weakness in the legs when climbing stairs, the fiery joints that emerge out of nowhere — any and all of which can signal the onset of a wide range of life-altering and often debilitating autoimmune diseases.” (3)
So obviously, many people are not aware of their true cause of the symptoms. Functional Medicine Doctor, Amy Myers listed “10 Signs You May Have an Autoimmune Disease”. According to her, If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially a combination of several of them, you may have an autoimmune disease. (4)
1. Joint pain, muscle pain or weakness or a tremor
2. Weight loss, insomnia, heat intolerance or rapid heartbeat
3. Recurrent rashes or hives, sun-sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks.
4. Difficulty concentrating or focusing
5. Feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance
6. Hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth
7. Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in your stool, diarrhea or mouth ulcers
8. Dry eyes, mouth or skin
9. Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
10. Multiple miscarriages or blood clots
If you have one or more symptoms listed above, I recommend you that you see a functional Medicine or Naturopathic Doctor to investigate the condition. If you see a conventional doctor, they normally treat the symptoms of the disorders and often prescribe medications such as an anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or immunosuppressant. AARDA states that these prescription treatments lead to devastating long-term side effects.
We may be able to, however, prevent, lower the pain, or cure the disease from changing your lifestyle choices. Virginia T. Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), explained: “With the rapid increase in autoimmune diseases, it clearly suggests that environmental factors are at play due to the significant increase in these diseases. Genes do not change in such a short period of time.”(5)
There are many environmental factors causing Autoimmune disorders, but digestive condition can be one of the causes according to Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, an author of “The Paleo Approach – Reserve Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body” (6) Moreover, Alessio Fasano, MD, a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, research scientist, and founder of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research says, “Besides celiac disease, several other autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, are characterized by increased intestinal permeability secondary to non-competent tight junctions that allow the passage of antigens from the intestinal flora, challenging the immune system to produce an immune response that can target any organ or tissue in genetically predisposed individuals,”(7)
So, how to heal “Leaky Gut” (intestinal permeability)? There are many factors involved to heal such as diet, stress, sun exposure, exercise and so on. Diet itself has a lot of details need to address here. However, one simple thing you can try is avoid gluten. Gluten, or any one of its 50 toxic epitopes, is one factor that can modulate zonulin secretion (Zonulin is a protein that modulates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract). “Once gluten is removed from the diet, serum zonulin levels decrease, the intestine resumes its baseline barrier function, the autoantibody titers are normalized, the autoimmune process shuts off and, consequently, the intestinal damage heals completely,” Fasano wrote.
You can, however, try autoantibody test which enables to detect predispositions and triggers for disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac, Crohn’s, and autoimmune thyroid disorders at early stages when they are most manageable. Aristo Vojdani, PhD, chief scientific advisor for Cyrex Laboratories says that “this is only one of many emerging examples of detectable autoimmune changes occurring well before the clinical signs of disease, and it opens a wide window for early interventions. Lifestyle changes aimed at minimizing trigger antigen, and holistic strategies to restore optimal GI barrier function could significantly reduce the burden of illness, even in people with strong genetic predispositions”. (8)
Before facing serious chronic autoimmune disease, there are number of things you can do to prevent. So, start it from today! If you don’t know how and what to begin with, please contact me. We can create healthy body and healthy lifestyle together.