Living with autoimmune disease is challenging. For one, you are most likely being told that it is not curable. There is also the reality that other people in your life may not understand why you are sick and tired so often.
We get it. It is really hard to live with an autoimmune condition.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to prevent autoimmune disease? Are there things you can do to avoid it?
Or … is it even possible to prevent autoimmune disease?
The answer is yes. In fact, there are many ways you can protect yourself from developing an autoimmune condition. One of the main things that could prevent the development of autoimmune disease is to strengthen the immune system. This requires that you stay on top of your health.
What does this mean?
This is simply following a healthy lifestyle such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, stopping smoking, avoiding alcohol or only drinking moderately, getting enough sleep, and maintaining proper hygiene.
Suffering from autoimmune disease is a serious challenge, both for you, the patient, and your family. While you can take medications to suppress your immune system, reduce the severity of your symptoms, and slow down the progression of the disease, you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. It can cause fatigue, pain, and other symptoms that will affect your daily life potentially forever.
To further understand how you can protect yourself from this lifelong illness, let’s look first at some of its main causes.
The Link Between Autoimmune Disease and Heredity
Genetics play a big role in the development of autoimmune disease. If you are genetically pre-disposed, your chances of getting a certain disease increase. For example, if your mother or father has lupus, then you will have a 50% chance of getting it too. People who carry certain genes associated with celiac disease (HLA DQ2/DQ8) are at higher risk than those without these genes.
Genetics also plays a role when it comes to which symptoms you get and how severe they are. If you have a family member with diabetes, for instance, you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than someone who doesn’t have a family connection to the disease. And if your mom has rheumatoid arthritis, you have a higher risk of developing it. Click this link to find out more about the connection between autoimmune disease and heredity.
That being said, your genetic predisposition is just one factor in developing autoimmune disease. Environmental factors, including viral infections and dietary habits, also play a big role in triggering autoimmunity.
Inflammation and Autoimmune Disease
Before learning how to prevent autoimmune disease, we also have to understand the role of inflammation in the development of this illness.
Inflammation is a normal response by our bodies to harmful stimuli like bacteria, viruses, toxins, and damaged cells. It helps us fight infection and heal wounds. However, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health problems which include autoimmune diseases.
There are a lot of things that cause chronic inflammation in the body. The most common causes include poor nutrition, alcohol consumption, obesity, stress, lack of exercise, environmental toxins, and certain medications.
Poor nutrition is the most common cause of chronic inflammation. A high intake of processed foods (which are often high in sugar) and refined carbohydrates leads to insulin resistance, which triggers inflammation. This is the reason why it’s important to eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, lean protein, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of systemic inflammation. This effect was seen after only three weeks of following the diet.
Alcohol causes inflammation in the body because it increases the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker for inflammation. CRP levels increase when you drink alcohol, and then decrease after you stop drinking. This means that alcohol consumption causes inflammation in the body. Alcohol also contains acetaldehyde which damages cells. Acetaldehyde is produced when ethanol breaks down into acetic acid and carbon dioxide. The liver converts ethanol into acetate and then acetaldehyde.
When the liver becomes damaged from alcohol abuse, it cannot convert ethanol into acetate and acetaldehyde accumulates in the bloodstream. This leads to damage to the lining of the stomach, intestines, and pancreas.
Obesity causes inflammation because fat cells produce hormones called adipokines which trigger immune system responses. Adipose tissue also produces inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-alpha and IL-6. These cytokines activate macrophages and other immune cells to release proinflammatory mediators.
The result is chronic systemic inflammation.
Obesity also causes fat cells to release inflammatory chemicals called cytokines into the bloodstream. The body responds by producing white blood cells called macrophages which engulf the fat cells and remove them from circulation. This process is known as lipolysis. However, when the number of macrophages increases, they also produce more inflammatory chemicals.
Stress causes chronic inflammation due to the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a hormone that helps us deal with stressful situations.
However, when we are stressed for too long, our body produces too much cortisol which leads to inflammation. This inflammation affects almost all parts of the body, such as:
- Blood vessels
- Gastrointestinal tract
As you can see, no organ or system in the body is immune from the effects of inflammation.
The stress-related increase in cortisol, in turn, increases blood pressure and heart rate. When our blood pressure rises, the arteries narrow causing plaque build-up. This leads to high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and other diseases.
Lack of Exercise
Chronic inflammation is caused by a number of factors, including genetics, diet, stress, sleep, and physical activity. Lack of exercise may cause chronic inflammation due to the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels, but when too much is released, it can lead to insulin resistance and other health issues.
Environmental toxins such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other heavy metals are
known to cause chronic inflammation. These toxins are found in our environment from air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, industrial waste, and consumer products. The body’s immune system reacts to these toxins by producing inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. This causes damage to cells and tissues throughout the body.
Medications like aspirin and ibuprofen work by blocking cyclooxygenase enzymes, which prevent prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins are important for normal blood clotting, pain perception, and fever response.
When these drugs block prostaglandin production, they also block the formation of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which leads to increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNFα and IL-1β. This causes an increase in leukocyte adhesion and migration into tissues, causing tissue damage and contributing to the development of chronic inflammatory diseases.
How Do You Stop Autoimmune Inflammation and Increase the Immunity of Your Body?
Autoimmune inflammation occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells. The best way to treat autoimmune inflammation is to avoid triggers such as stress, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. Also, try to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which help to boost the body’s natural ability to fight off infections.
The immune system is a complex network of cells and organs that protects us from infections and other diseases. We can increase immunity and help our bodies produce antibodies that fight off viruses and bacteria in our body by eating healthy foods. Antibodies are proteins produced by B lymphocytes, which are part of the adaptive immune system.
By avoiding these triggers, you will be able to prevent autoimmune diseases naturally.
If you are highly likely to develop an autoimmune disorder, you should try the following steps to lower your risk:
- Avoid smoking
- Eat well
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce stress
- Drink plenty of high-quality water
- Maintain good hygiene
- Take care of your mental health
- Seek medical attention if you have any symptoms
- Don’t take recreational drugs
- Be aware of environmental toxins
- Have regular checkups
Functional Medicine and Autoimmunity
Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that focuses on treating the whole person (body, mind, spirit). It also includes looking at the underlying causes of illness instead of just focusing on the symptoms.
We consider all aspects of health including genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, gut health, environmental factors, emotional well-being, and stress management. This functional medicine approach guides us as we help people work to prevent or reverse autoimmune diseases.