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Healthcare studies and statistics conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US have indicated that autoimmune diseases are on the rise. They are not certain about the reasons but the fact seems to be clear.
What is meant by the term ‘autoimmune disease’?
An autoimmune disease is caused when a hyperactive body immune system triggers attacks on tissues and cells of the body. An autoimmune disease may be confined to specific organs or also be indicated in a particular tissue in different parts of the body. Translated, this means, the body turns on itself and ends up attacking its own cells. What happen is that the body begins to generate its own antibodies (cells that attack diseases and germs) and kills body cells erroneously. This misdirected action of the body immune system is triggered by a mix of environmental as well as genetic factors.
An autoimmune disorder is caused by the inability of regulatory T cells to control the production of antibody cells. Examples of autoimmune diseases are Diabetes type 1, lupus, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis among several others. There are altogether 80 known types of autoimmune diseases currently under research.
According to current health statistics, autoimmune disorders are affecting as many as 23.5 million (75% of which are women) Americans while causing disability and even death. The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association has stated that autoimmune disorders are listed among 10 causes for deaths in the US.
Which individuals are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases?
Autoimmune disorders are known to affect people belonging to various age groups and both genders. But certain groups are more vulnerable than others. For example, women are more prone to developing autoimmune disorders than males. Genetic predisposition may also be responsible for autoimmune diseases in members of the same family. Environmental factors such as certain chemical solvents, food allergens and other bacterial or viral presence in the air are also known to induce autoimmune disorders.
A combination of genetic propensity as well as environmental triggers tends to induce rapid development of autoimmune diseases. Dr Barbara Griffith, Vital health Inc founder, NMD, attributes the rising cases of autoimmune diseases to undesirable ingredients found in readymade foods found at a typical American supermarket. She adds that a poor diet and the inherently stressful lifestyles of modern America have contributed to the increase in autoimmune diseases in the US.
President and Director of the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA), Dr Lydia Ladd suggests that the rising prevalence of autoimmune disorders can be traced more to environmental triggers such poor diets and lifestyle choices than genetic factors only. She attributes this to the fact that genetic predispositions take a long time to develop.
Dr Fredrick Miller of the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) says that environmental risk factors. He feels that is vital that more research be carried out to find out the reason behind the genes-environment nexus and explore the possibilities of protecting individuals who are prone to developing symptoms.
How do you minimize your chances of developing autoimmune disorders?
- You can opt to incorporate the following lifestyle and diet changes, recommended by Dr Barbara Griffith, to protect your body from developing an autoimmune disease.
- Minimize the consumption of fatty, sugary and heavy foods that overload your body systems and release a constant dose of sugar into your bloodstream.
- Learn the art of relaxation with yoga, meditation techniques. This calms down the body which can otherwise exist in a state of comparative alarm and unrest.
- Focus on consumption of important vitamins and minerals such as zinc, B-12, vitamin D and magnesium which are essential for the body.