And as you might know, once you are diagnosed with one autoimmune, there is a 25% chance that you will develop another. No one really knows exactly why some people get more than one autoimmune disease, but most agree that some of these diseases are linked through genetics and environmental causes. Jane Buckner, MD, President of Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) says, “The gene defect that caused the immune system to attack the body and create an autoimmune disease could cause another autoimmune disease.”
While you shouldn’t worry about getting more than one autoimmune disease, you should be alert for another one IF symptoms pop up. This is what happened to me when I was diagnosed with my second autoimmune disease Epstein-Barr. Some of these autoimmune diseases can be quite debilitating. There were times with EBV that I could barely make it out of bed to go to the bathroom. During my most recent diagnosis of vasculitis, I was home for over three months with open sores on my legs. I couldn’t even visit my mom when she was in the hospital for fear of infection.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune dysfunction can happen in two ways:
- Your body has a low immune response to pathogens
- Your body can’t tell the difference between a pathogen and healthy tissue
A pathogen is any bacteria, virus or microorganism that can cause disease. Your body’s immune system has the job of fighting off these invaders, so if your body can’t tell the difference between a pathogen and what it thinks is a pathogen it often starts attacking your body instead. Your immune system can’t recognize the good from the bad, it attacks whatever it no longer recognizes. This is a total mistake and your body doesn’t even realize that it is doing you harm. It thinks it’s helping you. There are approximately 80 diagnose-able autoimmune diseases, but really no body system is safe from developing an autoimmune disease.
What Causes Autoimmune Disease
The cause of autoimmune disease is debated and unknown. While there is no definitive, scientific cause, I am convinced that these top things are the culprit for many people, including myself who develop autoimmune diseases.
- Chronic Inflammation
- Food Sensitivities
Inherited genes also play an important role in determining risk of autoimmune diseases. Some genes confer a large risk, other genes confer a small risk, and some genes even provide protection from autoimmunity.
Bacteria, viruses, toxins or drugs may trigger some of these changes, especially in people who have genes that make them more likely to develop autoimmune disorders in response to these foreign pathogens.
Other autoimmune diseases may be due to changes in the environment that disturb the balance of the immune system. These changes make it more likely that someone susceptible to one of these diseases will actually develop it. This is why people who live in certain regions of the country may cluster in what kind of autoimmune disease they develop. For instance, there is a link between people living in the Pacific Northwest and MS, IBD and T1D.
There also seems to be a correlation to gut health and autoimmune disease. When the gut develops micro-tears, undigested food particles can make their way in the blood and tissues. Some undigested materials closely resemble food tissues and inadvertently train the body to attack similar tissues. So it is important to maintain good gut health and eat correctly when you have an autoimmune. They don’t call the gut your second brain for no reason!
Autoimmune Disease Symptoms
The symptoms of just one autoimmune disease can be so varied that sometimes it takes doctors months and years to diagnose people with an autoimmune disease. Many doctors, who are unfamiliar with autoimmune diseases, often misdiagnose them or tell their patients that the symptoms are all in their head. It’s important that you advocate for yourself. You know your body – keep fighting until you get answers.
The Cure For Autoimmune Disease
While researchers are trying to find a cure, there currently is no cure for autoimmune disease. What typically happens is that doctors prescribe drugs that suppress your immune system and mask your pain. When this happens, you are more susceptible to the actual pathogens that your body would normally be able to fight. If you are on immunosuppressive drugs, you will need to be very careful of your environment and people that can cause infection and disease. Sometimes just having a cold will give you an autoimmune flare up. It is important to think about the root cause of your autoimmune; stress, poor food choices, and even a round of antibiotics for example, but there are natural solutions you can use to boost your immune system.
Here one remedy I use to keep myself healthy during times of threat. This is just one of the natural solutions I use to make sure that I am protected during cold and flu season.
I am not a doctor. I am not going to give you medical advice. However, I am currently living with nine autoimmune diseases: Epstein Barr, IBS, Hashimoto’s, Hypothyroidism, Rosacea, Vasculitis, Endometriosis and Interstitial Cystitis. I won’t go over the last one because it’s super personal.
Even though I have multiple autoimmune diseases, I am not on ANY immunosuppressive drugs. I am on a very low dose of thyroid medicine and I’m working to get off of that soon! I wanted to share my story about living with autoimmune as I have learned how to control the symptoms of every single one of my autoimmune symptoms naturally. I have made a lot of lifestyle changes that have allowed me to live a pretty normal life. I wish someone would have shared their stories with me twenty years ago, maybe I would have stopped at two autoimmune diseases instead of nine.
Each month, I am going to go over my protocols for my autoimmune diseases one at a time. This will include an overview video, articles, protocols, food choices, lifestyle changes, essential oils and any natural products I use to manage my autoimmune naturally. My goal is to help you do the same.