Annapolis Integrative Medicine
1819 Bay Ridge Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403
Is Your Body Attacking Itself?
Auto immune diseases happen when a part of the body’s immune system begins to attack the body itself. Any of our body’s tissues and organs are potentially susceptible to these diseases.
Our immune system is designed to protect us from external invaders such as bacteria and viruses. So in this case it is essential for life. However, when the immune system begins to turn inward and attack our body, producing inflammation and organ damage, this points to the immune system gone awry.
Sometimes autoimmune disease is not hard to detect, especially when there are clear signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are other cases where autoimmune disease is subtler and more difficult to detect. For example, when the adrenal glands are under attack, people will often go through a period of time when they just don’t feel good, and unless a doctor stops to think “can this be an adrenal gland problem?” and does proper investigation, the patient may continue to suffer until the condition reaches a state of crisis.
So what can be done? First of all symptoms may be somewhat nebulous and general, such as fatigue, a bit of joint pain, or intestinal or skin issues. Or they can be more striking and serious. It is imperative as a patient that you have blood work done looking for autoimmune disease. Lab tests that can point to the inflammatory changes of autoimmune disease include c-reactive protein and sedimentation rate. Doctors can also order a rheumatoid factor, anti-nuclear antibody tests, as well as testing for antibodies directed at the thyroid and adrenal glands.
There is a proven connection between intolerance of gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley as well as other grains), which is most commonly known as celiac disease in its most severe cases, and various autoimmune diseases, especially autoimmune hypothyroidism. Addressing this and removing gluten from the diet can help to lessen or even resolve the autoimmune attack generated by gluten.
A lesser known factor, but extremely important to keep in mind, is the connection between the gut and auto-immune disease. The GI tract holds about 75% of the body’s immune system. It is very common for people with autoimmune disease to have chronic intestinal issues, and a condition commonly known as “leaky gut” can have a role in auto-immune disorders. Working with a physician knowledgeable in working with chronic intestinal disorders can help reduce or resolve autoimmune disease.
While autoimmune disease is a difficult and confusing situation there are approaches that holistic or integrative physicians can offer that can make a positive impact and may help reduce or eliminate the need for using strong prescription drugs.