When the body attacks itself

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in Autoimmune Conditions |

Your immune system is your body’s defender. It is designed to protect you against infections, toxins, and invaders — everything from bacteria, to viruses, to allergens. When the immune system encounters something it doesn’t recognize, it mounts a defense to help kill or overcome the “invader,” and protect the body.

Whether ignited by a virus, food allergy or environmental toxin, the immune system sometimes goes haywire and gets confused. The confusion sends the immune system into disarray and it begins to see our own organs as a foreign invader.  Then the attack is on, causing inflammation and, in severe cases, destruction.

According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), 50 million Americans — 20 percent of the population, or one in five people — suffer from autoimmune diseases. These diseases predominantly strike women, who suffer about 75 percent of all autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are more common during childbearing years, and frequently appear in women who have just had a baby, after periods of high emotional or physical stress or accidents, during periods of hormonal change such as perimenopause, or after starting birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

Autoimmune diseases can affect many different areas of the body.

body parts affected by ai

In the United States, the most common autoimmune diseases are thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. Other common autoimmune diseases include: Type 1 Diabetes, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Addison’s Disease, Cushing’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alopecia, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and Sjogren’s Syndrome.

There are hundreds of risk factors and symptoms for autoimmune disease, and a closer look at them can help pinpoint and close in on more specific conditions. But across the board for the estimated 100+ autoimmune diseases (AARDA has a detailed list online), there are a number of symptoms that are common to many of the different autoimmune diseases, including:

___ Joint and muscle pain

___ General muscle weakness

___ Greater susceptibility to infections, slower recovery from infections

___ Frequent rashes of unknown origin

___ Regular fatigue, debilitating fatigue

___ Chronic low-grade fever of unknown origin

___ Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet

___ Dry eyes

___ Dry mouth

___ Hair loss

___ Shortness of breath

___ Heart palpitations

___ Unexplained weight changes

___ Recurrent miscarriage

___ Mood changes, unexplained depression

___ Concentration and memory problems

If you have any of these symptoms, seek support from a functional medicine practitioner who can help you determine the appropriate lab tests and create a support plan to address the root cause of your condition.

Visit the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), at www.aarda.org for additional information on autoimmune diseases.

Image source: www.womenshealth.gov



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