According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are 23.5 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases (AID) and the prevalence of these diseases is rising. In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million.
Women and Autoimmune
Autoimmune diseases affect approximately 8% of the population, 80% of whom are women so we cannot disregard the hormone connection. I hear many women, particularly Mothers, who suffer from chronic fatigue even when they’re sleeping 8+ hours per night and their young children are also sleeping through the night. It can take an average of 3 years for a women to be diagnosis with an AID. In TODAY’s new “Dismissed” survey, 26% of women with a chronic condition said doctors had ignored or dismissed their symptoms. About 31% felt they needed to “prove” their symptoms to a health care provider, and 22% said they felt they needed to look outside of mainstream medicine for treatment. Roughly 31% of women from the ages of 18-34 years old sought out treatment outside of mainstream medicine for their chronic conditions.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
A function of the immune system is to protect our body from invading microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses by producing antibodies as a defense. Under normal conditions, an immune response does not attack the cells of one’s own body. In some cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases. This process encompass a broad category of related diseases in which the person’s immune system attacks their own tissue.
Most common autoimmune disease
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Psoriasis/ Psoriatic arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Irritable Bowel Disease
- Addison’s Disease
- Grave’s Disease
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Hashimoto’ Thyroiditis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Autoimmune Vasculitis
- Pernicious Anemia
- Celiac Disease
And many more as there are more than 100 autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune disease don’t act like other gene-like diseases. Autoimmune disease can have multiple gene mutations compared to a disease like sickle-cell anemia that has a specific gene mutation. As a result, autoimmune diseases tend to “cluster” in families – not as one particular disease, but as a general tendency to the autoimmune process and, consequently, different autoimmune diseases.
So besides our genetic predisposition, what factors trigger autoimmune disease to “turn on”? Scientists define those triggers broadly (internal or external factors) such as chemical exposure, inflammation, infectious agents, stress, hormones, drugs, poor diet/food sensitivity, weight gain, dysbiosis or an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, and more have all been cited as etiological factors.
Symptoms associated with AID:
- achy muscles
- swelling and redness
- low-grade fever
- trouble concentrating
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- hair loss
- skin rashes
- weight gain or weight loss
At STAT we use a few different tools to help diagnosis AID. With most patients, we start with a full wellness panel. This comprehensive panel can identify indicators that an autoimmune disease is occurring or could develop. It can be demonstrated through markers of inflammation, immune regulating cells, infections, nutritional deficiencies (especially vitamin D) and stress in the body. However, this is not the best option for a diagnosis of AID as abnormalities can be non-specific. This is a great place to start if you’re experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above in developing a personalized plan of care based on your symptoms.
We also offer more comprehensive AID testing called the AVISE- CDT. This test looks at a number of antibodies and biomarkers associated with AID such as Lupus, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and more. The best part is this test is $45 with any insurance!
Conventional medicine treats Autoimmune disease with NSAIDs, steroids, and immunosuppressants.
“BOTTOM LINE: The main treatment for autoimmune diseases is with medications that bring down inflammation and calm the overactive immune response. Treatments can also help relieve symptoms.”
Here at STAT Wellness we believe that the root cause of many diseases and illnesses is inflammation. We take a deep dive to uncover potential triggers for your AID including food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis, nutritional deficiencies, environmental triggers, or hormonal imbalances. Our goal is that through lifestyle, diet, exercise and supplementation changes we can reduce inflammation and alter the progression of the disease. If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above, schedule an appointment with me (Athena Newell, FNP-C) or one of our Healthcare Providers here.
We’d love to help figure out the root cause of your symptoms!
Fairweather, D., & Rose, N. R. (2004). Women and autoimmune diseases. Emerging infectious diseases, 10(11), 2005–2011. doi:10.3201/eid1011.040367