Autoimmune Diseases

The human body has a complicated and extensive immune system that protects it against various foreign substances and organisms, including diseases and infections. The presence of the immune system limits the extent to which we are affected by harmful germs and threats that are abundant in our surroundings. While our immunity does serve as an effective defense against common infections and ailments, it also safeguards us against more serious diseases. There are various bacterial, fungal, viral or even parasitic threats however, that may at times overcome your immune system, allowing infection to take hold. This is particularly likely to occur when your immunity is low.

What is an Autoimmune Disease? An autoimmune condition is a condition where the immune system itself causes the medical condition. In such a situation, the immune system attacks seemingly healthy cells and tissues of the body because it suspects that there is some sort of foreign substance, disease or infection that is present in this area. This abnormal reaction usually leads to the development of inflammation in the affected area. Immune system activity in such individuals is heightened. There are many different types of autoimmune conditions. The underlying cause for these conditions may not always be known.

The severity of an autoimmune condition differs from patient to patient. As there are nearly 100 different known autoimmune conditions, it is obvious that each case must be treated individually. Although our understanding of autoimmune conditions is still lacking, there are some things that we do know for certain, and there are a lot of other areas where we may speculate with some degree of certainty. Autoimmune conditions are a lifelong affliction and there is no known cure for autoimmune diseases. The only medical strategy for treatment of autoimmune disorders is through control and management of the condition so as to minimize the impact of the disorder on the patient’s life. Treatment strategies to manage autoimmune disorders generally involve medication, most importantly modifications to diet and lifestyle. It must be noted that there are some autoimmune conditions that affect the nervous system. Unfortunately autoimmune conditions of this nature tend to deteriorate over time, as they are progressive.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

As explained above, there are many different types of autoimmune conditions. This would quite naturally imply the symptoms of autoimmune diseases could also vary greatly, depending on the cause. This said there are some basic warning signs that are common to most types of autoimmune disorders. In most cases, the condition appears gradually. The symptoms at this stage would therefore be rather mild, but continuous. Unfortunately, diagnosis of autoimmune disorders is rather tricky, and no matter how well informed you it may be impossible to recognize the signs of an autoimmune disorder. Health care professionals would be able to make an accurate diagnosis, but this is no easy task and in most cases, patients will go through a series of different diagnoses before they the condition is detected. Many autoimmune conditions are associated with digestion and the digestive tract. Such conditions will produce symptoms that include indigestion, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and general irritation during defecation. Many autoimmune conditions will also present with low grade fever or with general malaise. Fatigue and general malaise is associated with the fact that the individual’s body is under constant strife as a result of the condition. Various tests have to be conducted to understand the exact nature of the condition. One of the most crucial tests is a blood test that helps determine the state of the immune system. If there is a high level of immune system activity detected, the patient may be diagnosed with an autoimmune condition.

Certain nervous system based autoimmune conditions will produce more pronounced symptoms. These symptoms would include lack of coordination, tremors, pain in various parts of the body and sudden loss of sensation. Eventually, such conditions will lead to loss of motor control as the disease progresses. Multiple sclerosis is a type of autoimmune condition that damages the nervous system. Such conditions tend to be progressive and their effects cannot be reversed. At best, the deterioration that is inevitable can be slowed down to give the individual a better quality life.

Symptoms of specific types of autoimmune disorders are a lot better defined, but they could also be confused with various mundane diseases. If your condition is chronic however, then there is a possibility that you may suffer from an autoimmune disorder.

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

It is only natural for you to wonder how or why you were afflicted with any disease, and we generally look to the causes of a condition to better understand and find ways to deal with it or prevent it if possible.

Unfortunately, our understanding of the causes of autoimmune diseases still remains speculative and there is no definite known cause of autoimmune disorders. It is clear that there is some trigger that makes the immune system believe that there is a danger present in the body that needs to be neutralized. Research continues to be conducted on a daily basis to figure out what sets off an autoimmune reaction in the body. Most researchers have found that there is a genetic predisposition towards the development of autoimmune disorders in some individuals. It is for this reason that certain racial groups may be more or less prone to developing autoimmune conditions. For example, African Americans are considered to be more prone to autoimmune conditions, as compared to Asians or Caucasians.

Environmental factors including lifestyle factors are also linked to the development of autoimmune conditions. An interesting finding from a recent study suggests that extremely sterile environments may actually lead to an increase in autoimmune activity. It does in fact appear that in the absence of a foreign enemy the immune system turns on itself. This is believed to be the reason for the higher prevalence of certain autoimmune diseases in developed nations, where hygiene levels are high, as compared to in developing nations.

Remedies for Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you need to keep in mind that the term autoimmune disease doesn’t refer to a single condition, but encompasses a variety of disorders that affect the immune system. An autoimmune disease like Addison’s Disease is quite different from Autoimmune Thyroiditis, so the treatment for the two conditions would quite naturally differ. Diagnosis is the first and most crucial step for managing an autoimmune condition. While this may seem obvious, the problem here is the fact that many diseases take weeks or even months to be properly diagnosed. Vagueness of symptoms and rarity of certain conditions are two factors responsible for this. Once the condition has been identified, it needs to be managed using medication. For most autoimmune conditions, treatment involves the use of steroid based medications. Steroids are used to calm the immune system so that the individual has some relief from the symptoms. For nervous disorder related conditions, this type of treatment may not work. In such a situation, physical therapy and medications to block the progress of the condition are the only hope. Further research continues to be conducted with respect to the nature and scope of various remedies for autoimmune conditions. For digestive system related autoimmune conditions, the remedies are related to changing of dietary habits along with the normal course of treatment. People with conditions like ulcerative colitis must ensure that they avoid heavy meals, fatty meals and spicy meals. In some cases, the consumption of smaller meals may help to prevent a flare up. By following such tips, the individual may be able to reduce the intensity of the condition. Most autoimmune disorders don’t act up continuously, but involve passive and active phases; maintaining a more disciplined lifestyle, with the recommended lifestyle changes can help limit the occurrence of the passive phases or the severity of the symptoms.

Diet For Autoimmune Diseases

The role of your diet can not be ignored when examining any treatment strategy in the treatment of autoimmune e diseases. In general, a healthy and balanced diet is useful when dealing with a range of different medical conditions. When it comes to autoimmune diseases, your diet plays a particularly important role. Most autoimmune diseases involve some sort of inflammation that occurs during the active phase of the condition. For this reason most diet plans for patients suffering from autoimmune disorders are directed towards this problem. There are certain foods and food groups that are known to be associated with inflammatory conditions. These foods include red meats, eggs, gluten, sugar, flour, processed foods and alcohol. An elimination of these foods from the diet, or at the very least a significant reduction is absolutely necessary when it comes to dealing with autoimmune conditions. It should be stressed that none of these foods are necessary for your nutritional requirements and any nutritional value that is lost by eliminating these foods can be obtained from other healthy food sources. This is an encouraging fact as it means that people with autoimmune conditions do not need to follow a particularly restrictive diet. The focus in your diet should be on balance and moderation. General guidelines suggest that an individual should consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. The same goes for the consumption of fiber which is an important part of the diet, particularly if the individual suffers from some form of digestive distress. A wholesome well balanced diet would therefore suffice to meet your nutritional needs. Individuals with specific food allergies would of course require a more specialized diet plan. Strict adherence to diet recommendations during the initial phases can drastically slow down the progression of the disease, reducing its impact on your life.

All stimulants should be eliminated from the diet of a person suffering from autoimmune conditions. This is particularly true during periods where there is heightened immune system activity. During a passive phase in the condition, the patient may be able to get away with consuming some forms of stimulants like tea or coffee. However, these should be moderated to a bare minimum as it has been found that stimulants tend to worsen most autoimmune conditions.

Suggestions for Autoimmune Diseases

It has been found that a large proportion of individuals affected by autoimmune conditions tend to lead a sedentary lifestyle. Some amount of physical activity is essential for your well being, and all studies conducted on the subject have found that physical exercise tends to improve the condition and could also reduce the severity of reactions. In most types of autoimmune disease, patients are advised to engage in exercise and stress relieving techniques such as yoga and meditation.

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