The immune system is a tricky little fellow. Perhaps the most complex, intricate and perplexing system in the human body. Governed by hundreds of complexes, proteins, immune cells and markers, its little wonder that things get turned upside down every now and then. Whilst there is a lot of information available on how to boost a low immune system, not a great deal is understood about the causative factors in the development of auto immune conditions.
Some commonly known auto immune conditions include organ specific conditions such as Hashimotos and Graves disease, both of which effect thyroid function, in the gut we have Crohn’s and Coeliac Disease and Type 1 diabetes effecting beta cells in the pancreas. Then we have systemic auto immune diseases affecting the entire body or multiple systems including Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Wegeners Granulomatosis, myasthenia gravis and ankylosing Spondilitis. What these conditions all have in common, apart from fancy names, is the fact that at some point, the body attacks part of itself.
Medically speaking, although life altering medications are available and in some cases, life saving, little is known or understood about the CAUSES of why the immune system fizzes out and even less is discussed about indeed how to prevent it from occurring. Of course genetics are involved in almost all auto immune diseases and most of the time, it’s just considered bad luck. If that is so, how does this account for people who may carry these genetic auto immune markers that DON’T go on to develop these diseases, what makes one person get sick and others not? To understand this a little better, I will discuss the medical theory of cancer in a nutshell, as I believe their causation is similar.
The development of cancer is a combination of your inherited, genetic predisposition, throw in some environmental factors such as poor diet, infection, medications, environmental toxins, heavy metals and stress and we have the perfect formula. The same theory applies for auto immunity. You inherit certain genetic traits which sets up the sling shot, then get the right combination of environmental factors send that sling shot flying through the air, and the cascade of disease progression begins.
Naturopathically speaking, in addition to the above mentioned risk factors such as poor diet, smoking, toxicity/pollution etc there are a number of other less discussed critical factors implicated in auto immunoty. Dietary proteins found in cows milk and gliadin found in gluten have the ability to disturb gut function. With all food, there is inevitable immune reaction, some foods cause more of a reaction that others, leading to intolerances and allergies. But perhaps the most important factor in immune regulation is good bacteria levels in the gut. What we have long known and believed about the need for appropriate and blanced gut flora, science is now starting to validate and ‘prove’. Immune cells are produced largely in the gut. An inflamed gut is goinf to produced underdeveloped immune cells which don’t function as they should.
Although medication is very important, so too is unlocking the reasons as the the WHY’s of your diagnosis.
Like with almost anything, diet, gut health, stress and environmental factors, most of which are modifiable, have the capacity to manage your condition remarkably better.