What is autoimmune disease

What is autoimmune? It is when the immune system malfunctions and starts to see some part of its normal anatomy as a problem, so it creates antibodies that attack your own tissue. The body mistakenly launches an attack on itself which would normally be reserved for pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. This can lead to deterioration and sometimes destruction of that tissue.

Can you name an autoimmune disease? Over 90% of people can’t. Yet, they are the third leading cause of illness and death in the industrialised world, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. It affects 1 in 20 people and most are women.

Autoimmune is an umbrella term that has over 80 different known states of disease under it. For this reason, there is a huge variation in those affected by autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease can present in a specific part of the body, like Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. Or it can be systemic where the effects are felt throughout the body, such as Lupus. Some are quite common and others are very rare.

Due to the array of autoimmune presentations, there are countless different symptoms which are individual to the disease and to the person. However, common themes seen in most conditions include inflammation, food intolerances and leaky gut.

What is leaky gut? Leaky gut is when the junctions of the gut are not nice and tight and therefore become ‘leaky’. There is a theory that leaky gut may be the cause if not at least a trigger in many autoimmune conditions. Food particles are thought to cross into the blood and act as triggers. Leaky gut affects the entire body and has been linked to anxiety, depression, ADHD, skin disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome , joint inflammation and allergies.

It is thought that a series of triggers such as stress, drugs, viruses or chronic inflammation may play a part in the development of an autoimmune disease but we do not know for sure. Genetic susceptibility is also thought to be a possible cause with researchers from the National Institute of Aging finding 89 variations in human genetics that are thought to be responsible for autoimmune conditions such as coeliac disease and multiple sclerosis.

So, if you are female, have the right predisposing genes as well as chronic inflammation from something as simple as food intolerance, you are at a higher risk of developing autoimmune disease. Although there is no cure for many autoimmune conditions, there are successful ways to manage individual conditions.