With the media’s focus on cancer and heart disease, most people don’t know we are living in the midst of an autoimmune epidemic.
Some shocking stats:
• The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates up to 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disease (AD). In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million.
• Researchers have identified nearly 100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 more will soon be added to the list.
• NIH research funding for AD in 2003 was $591 million. Cancer funding came to $6.1 billion, and heart and stroke $2.4 billion.
• According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, autoimmunity ranked #1 in a top-ten list of health topics requested by callers.
• A close genetic relationship exists among autoimmune diseases, explaining clustering in individuals and families.
Common obstacles to an autoimmune diagnosis include:
• Symptoms cross many medical specialties and are frequently missed or misdiagnosed.
• Conventional medical education is behind on autoimmune disease diagnostics and treatment protocols.
• Specialists aren’t trained to recognize or treat the interrelationships among different autoimmune conditions.
• Because initial symptoms are often sporadic or non-specific, many patients suffer for years before proper diagnosis (if any).
• More interdisciplinary sharing of information is needed.
“Your Labs are Normal And it’s All In Your Head”
Many patients have been to multiple doctors — conventional and alternative — with a long list of unexplained symptoms, only to be sent away with “normal” lab results and being told the symptoms are all in their heads.
Or they have committed time and money to practitioners who treat every patient with the exact same protocols: leaky gut diets, parasite cleanses, liver detoxes, and heavy metal protocols, without first determining the exact underlying causes of their symptoms.
This is because they don’t have a full understanding of the mechanisms of autoimmunity. Every patient’s combination of issues is unique, and while solutions to certain pieces of the puzzle are the same, it’s necessary to understand how the entire puzzle fits together before trying to unwind it.
The multiple mechanisms of an autoimmune disease known thus far, are agglutination, molecular mimicry, cytotoxic T-cell activity, and regulatory T-cell dysfunction — and more.
Impactful factors such as environmental chemicals, social relationships, and stress management, need to be taken into consideration. We need to evaluate the pros and cons of different treatment approaches, such as which diet works best when (AIP, GAPS, FODMAPs, etc.).
Knowing these autoimmunity basics supported by the latest published science will allow you to better understand your underlying mechanisms and keep the motivation to follow your dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle protocols. This is the recipe for success.