Autoimmune diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent due to more of them being the focal point of health issues. There are 80 to 100 different types of autoimmune diseases known that affect a large population around the world and is continuing to grow. Sadly, this has become an epidemic in itself.
So what exactly is an autoimmune disease? An autoimmune disease is a triggered response within the body where the immune system begins to attack itself in a form of a "false" defense. The immune system believes it is under attack by some foreign invaders (bacteria, pathogens, toxins) so it initiates the immune system defense in order to protect itself. In doing so, the body is left in a cyclic pattern of constant inflammation and war. Now, inflammation isn't a negative response. It is actually part of the healing process. However, when it becomes chronic, or rather never switches off, the body starts to break down, presenting with an array of symptoms and other health issues become the result of it.
Sounds intimidating doesn't it? In truth, it is literally a cellular war...that definitely sounds intimidating! As a fellow autoimmune disease survivor, I can relate all to well to the struggles of the cellular battle. I have to say though, once you have an idea of how autoimmune diseases begin and the possible triggers for eliciting the immune defense response, you are able to take necessary steps to reduce inflammatory triggers, slow down inflammation rate, and hopefully be in full remission where the disorder is completely dormant.
The starting point to healing and preventing is knowing what the common triggers are for the common autoimmune disease. Starting there will allow you to check in to see how these might be affecting your health or see what areas may be in need of improvement. Below is a list of just some of the triggers that affect the body's immune system.
This is number one on the list for me as a practitioner and as a autoimmune survivor. Diet plays a huge role in how our body functions. It has been known that a diet high in saturated fat, greasy, fatty foods, and processed sugar can increase chances of developing an autoimmune disease. It does so due to the amount of stress applied on the digestive system in breaking down the chemical based foods but also providing empty calories that don't assist the body in any way. It actually requires more calories and energy to break these foods down, which eventually leads to stripping the stored nutrients in the body to attack what is seen as a foreign invader because the chemicals aren't organic or natural.
The aim would be to have a whole foods diet that is nutrient dense. Meaning foods that are in their most natural state or the closest you'll find to organic that are packed with nutritional benefits for the body.
Maintaining gut health has never been more important than now. Along with diet as being a huge trigger, gut dysbiosis is one of the most common issues where autoimmune diseases develop from. The gut has its own ecosystem of different bacteria that help to digest, absorb, and maintain not only a healthy digestive system but a healthy body. There is what is deemed as "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria. All come from the food we consume. We want to have more of the"good" bacteria than the "bad" to ensure we assimilate nutrients and protect us from foreign invaders. When this balance is thrown off it sets a perfect environment for an overgrowth of the "bad" bacteria causing what is known as leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome is just that..food particles that aren't being properly digested enter the blood stream. The body responds in defense due to sensing pathogens or toxins where it shouldn't be. Where it should be is en route to be eliminated from the body through urine and stool. Instead, it is floating where we are most vulnerable and sends out the defensive team to fight and protect. Essentially, the body becomes at war causing a cyclic problem of inflammation.
Gut dysbiosis starts with reducing inflammatory triggers and consuming foods that are gentle on the gut providing nutrients that heal the gut lining and balance out the "good" and "bad" bacteria.
This is can be a difficult one to avoid, especially if you are on a long term treatment with medication. There are certain medications such as antibiotics, that can lead to the development of autoimmune diseases. Antibiotics kill off all the "good" and "bad" bacteria that reside in the body. This means it gives the gut a clean slate, however, it also leaves the gut lining vulnerable to an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria. As we know, an overgrowth of the "bad" bacteria can cause a homeostasis disruption in the gut lining resulting in Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Antibiotics are needed at times. When taking them, taking a probiotic or consuming fermented foods help to maintain the "good" bacteria in the gut. Make sure to steer away from dairy, processed sugar, alcohol, and caffeine when taking antibiotics. Especially if you are experiencing symptoms of an autoimmune disease or have been diagnosed, these foods should be avoided regardless of taking antibiotics.
There is an epidemic happening also with this topic. So many people come into my office saying they are overwhelmed with high levels of chronic stress. Research has shown experiencing high levels of stress lowers the immune system and sets off all the body's natural rhythms by keeping our nervous system in the fight or flight response. When the body isn't able to return back its rest and digest mode, a hostile environment is created and so is the body's fight against itself.
Take moments for yourself. Try breath work, meditation, journaling, forest bathing or even taking a walk. Something that works best for you but give yourself at minimum of 10-20 minutes throughout the day to rest, reset your nervous system, and bring yourself back to center.
Dental hygiene is so important not just to our teeth and gums but the body as a whole. A dental routine and care helps to protect your teeth and gums from plaque build up. The plaque contains bacteria that attacks the enamel and gums, deteriorating the bone creating cavities. Plaque build up that isn't addressed can lead to gingivitis, causing teeth to break down but it also can create systemic inflammation. Inflammation throughout the entire body is exactly what triggers autoimmune issues.
Keeping a dental hygiene routine, along with regular dental check ups help to keep the plaque from destroying teeth, gums, and any potential inflammatory trigger.
Chemicals, toxins, and air pollution are gaining more attention at how much of a part they actually play in the development of autoimmune diseases. It hasn't been discovered exactly in what way these toxins attribute to the formation of rewiring the body but it is known that they are triggers. It is believed that the environmental toxins may change molecular and cellular structure to the point where the body can't distinguish them from healthy or an intruder which induces inflammation.
Some of these toxins are mercury, pesticides, car exhaust, trichloroethylene, cigarette smoking, and vape smoke.