Autoimmune disease is like a case of mistaken identity. Instead of defending against foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, your immune system begins to attack healthy cells in your own body. This results in damage to those cells, resulting in pain, disability, fatigue, and digestive troubles.
What Causes Autoimmune Disease?
There are well over 100 different diseases classified as autoimmune conditions. If there is a cell type in your body, there is probably an autoimmune disease to go with it. Most autoimmune diseases have a genetic component, and sometimes the onset of symptoms is triggered by a stressful event or a viral infection. Women are more prone to autoimmune disease than men. Some of the more common conditions are described below.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive autoimmune condition that affects the joints, especially in the hands and feet. Joints typically swell in a symmetrical pattern, and the disease usually isn’t seen in people under 40. People with active RA are usually in a lot of pain; some can’t even use their hands because the swelling is so bad. Left untreated, the joints of your hands, feet, and knees can become deformed due to joint damage. Prescriptions for RA tend to be harsh on the body, and side effects can be severe.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. In patients with MS, their immune system attacks the lining of their nerve cells. There are two primary subtypes of MS:
- Relapse Remitting – This type is more prevalent, and patients have episodes of symptoms followed by years without any. It’s unpredictable, and preventing future episodes becomes an achievable goal.
- Primary Progressive – This type of MS is a progressing disease, where once the first symptoms come on, they get gradually worse instead of going into remission.
There are two main autoimmune thyroid conditions. Graves’ disease causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones and results in hyperthyroid symptoms. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causes underproduction of thyroid hormones and results in hypothyroid symptoms. Both of these conditions are more common in women than men. You can find much more detailed information in the full article.
We’ve all heard about gluten and how it’s not good for the body; in people with celiac disease, eating gluten can be devastating. Celiac disease is one type of gluten sensitivity where the body mistakenly attacks itself when a person eats gluten, one of the main proteins found in wheat. Usually, celiac disease symptoms include diarrhea and frequent infections, but there are uncommon versions of the disease too. Sometimes people experience constipation; other times people don’t have any digestive symptoms, and instead get rashes or have nervous system dysfunction.
Psoriasis is a common condition where red, itchy, scaly patches develop on the skin. They can appear anywhere on the body, but are usually found on knees and elbows. Psoriasis can also affect the fingernails and cause joint swelling known as psoriatic arthritis.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
There are two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), both of which are autoimmune conditions.
- Crohn’s Disease – This type of IBD can happen anywhere in your digestive tract
- Ulcerative Colitis – This type affects only the colon
Sufferers of IBD often experience very uncomfortable symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, severe nutrient deficiencies, and intestinal pain. IBD significantly impacts quality of life, as well as mental and physical well-being.
How Can Naturopathic Medicine Help?
Autoimmune disease is one of the areas where naturopathic medicine shines. The conventional medical approach to autoimmune disease is to suppress it. Conventional treatment often includes high doses of corticosteroids and other prescription drugs like methotrexate that tend to come with extreme side effects.
Naturopathic doctors know that a lot more can be done than suppressing the immune system and offering palliative care. Sometimes, foods in your diet might be contributing to autoimmune flare-ups, and this isn’t just limited to celiac disease. Supplements like curcumin, a strong anti-inflammatory without the same side effects as prescription drugs, can help. IV therapy can help replenish your body with the nutrients it’s lacking. Reducing stress and using herbal medicine can assist in resolving your symptoms.
Want to see for yourself how naturopathic medicine can help your autoimmune condition? Book an appointment today.