Healthy Holistic Living

What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?


You’d think that there are enough diseases, illnesses and conditions in the world without creating our own wouldn’t you? But that’s exactly what we do to ourselves with autoimmune diseases – our bodies attack themselves! Here you will find out what causes autoimmune disease and how to prevent it.

What happens is that our immune systems, (normally our guardians against infection and disease), are fooled into thinking that our own body tissue is the enemy, and it then sets about manufacturing antibodies which attack these tissues causing various inflammatory conditions, many of which are very painful, can be seriously debilitating, and even deadly.

Who autoimmune diseases affect the most

Autoimmune diseases can affect both women and men, but it’s women who suffer from them most; according to statistics – 75% of the time. It may have something to do with the fact that women’s immune systems are more enhanced than men’s. On the one hand they’re more effective at their job; on the other – there’s more chance of something going wrong with them.

Generally speaking autoimmune diseases manifest themselves in women 3 times more often than men; but with certain diseases, this figure is even higher.

It’s a problem of national proportions

It is reckoned that 50 million Americans live with autoimmune disorders today, and of this 50 million, 30 million are women. What causes autoimmune disease? Many specialists on the subject maintain that that autoimmune disease is amongst the top 10 killers of women below the age of 65, and that as a category of disease, it is the 4th largest in terms of debilitation here in the US.


The age old problem – recognition – or lack of it

One of the problems with autoimmunity is that it is yet to be recognized by the conventional medical fraternity as a bonafide category of disease. It’s probably because it transcends and crosses the boundaries of many specialist areas such as audiology, cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, nephrology, neurology, and rheumatology. Whilst the diseases themselves are given serious attention, little or no attention is given to the root cause – autoimmunity.

The focus is treating symptoms – not seeking out the root cause

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The majority of professionals in the conventional medical sector are mostly concerned with treating the symptoms of diseases. It is after all what they’re trained to do; identify an illness, and prescribe appropriate medication to deal with the symptoms as quickly as possible. Not enough time is spent thinking about, and trying to identify, the root cause itself; which in many cases, and more increasingly so, is autoimmunity.

Scientists May Have Finally Found The Trigger for Autoimmune Diseases

In August 2017, a study four years in the making excited researchers autoimmune disease sufferers because it pointed to a possible answer to the question: What makes the body attack itself?

The study published in Cell analyzed rogue B cells in mice. Normally, B cells produce antibodies that cause immune cells to attack dangerous foreign substances. However, when researchers looked more closely at B cells in mice, it became clear something in them was overriding the usual protective actions and, instead, attacking the immune system.

According to one of the study’s researchers Michael Carroll from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the rogue B cells pointed them towards epitope spreading (something which scientists know little about how it happens). When the body begins hunting down different foreign substances that should not be on the immune system’s “kill list,” it’s called epitope spreading.

In attempts to try and figure out what the B cells were really doing, the research team used the autoimmune disease Lupus.

The Surprising Findings

When B cells begin sensing those negative foreign bodies, they cluster into germinal centres. In these germinal centres, B cells, in essence, battle each other in order to determine which ones are best suited to fight the foreign bodies. So far so good, but not when the body ends up choosing cells that attack the body.


“Over time, the B cells that initially produce the ‘winning’ autoantibodies begin to recruit other B cells to produce additional damaging autoantibodies – just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water,” said Søren Degn from Boston Children’s Hospital and Aarhus University in Denmark.

“This finding was such a surprise,” said Carroll. “It not only tells us that autoreactive B cells are competing inside germinal centres to design an autoantibody, but then we also see that the immune response broadens to attack other tissues in the body, leading to epitope spreading at the speed of wildfire.”

While scientists have only examined this in mice so far, they know a bit more about them (and epitope spreading) to learn how the rogue B cells spread so quickly. With further studies, scientists hope to one day discover how to block those faulty germinal centres and stop the viscious cycle autoimmune disease sufferers are far too famliar with.

Undiagnosed and untreated in the early stages

Because of the lack of recognition within the conventional medical community, autoimmune disease, (particularly the start of it in the early stages) doesn’t get properly diagnosed. In a way it’s not surprising, because the women who develop autoimmunity often have symptoms which come and go in the beginning. These women are therefore often labeled by the medical practitioners they visit, as being hypochondriacs, or time wasters.

Too little – too late

The result is that in all too many instances, diseases, or autoimmunity,  is allowed to progress untreated, until it develops into an easily identifiable disease, causing serious damage in later life when it fully manifests itself; something like arthritis for example, which, by the time is has developed, cannot be cured – only its symptoms, treated.

Prevention is better than cure – Causation in the key

Causation is key. If we can find the cause of any disease, we stand a better chance of preventing that disease from developing in the first place, and as they say – prevention is better than cure, particularly, when in many instances, no cure is available once a disease has developed. In one sense autoimmunity is still a very young disease in terms of its being recognized. This means that not enough money has been, or is being, thrown into research. The majority of the thought and theorizing into the causes of autoimmunity therefore comes from those who pursue holistic health lifestyles, and the professionals within the alternative medical community.

The jury’s out

Most people agree that no one actually knows with any degree of certainty, exactly what causes the immune system to react in the way it does with autoimmunity. Many theorize that it could be the result of an attack by:

  • Bacterial agents
  • Viruses

Some people hypothesize that it could be the result of

  • Toxins
  • Environmental issues

What most people do tend to agree on, is that genes could have a big part to play in the passing down of a propensity towards developing autoimmunity.

Sunlight and Lupus – and other possible factors of what causes  autoimmune disease

One particular cause or trigger of Lupus disease is sunlight, which can not only act as a trigger, but can also worsen an existing condition. There are other possible causes too, the full effect of which, in terms of autoimmunity diseases are not properly understood. These include:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Pregnancy (linked to hormone imbalance)
  • Severe stress
  • Aging (aging reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of many body functions and processes – including immune system functionality)

Dealing with inflammation (what causes Autoimmune Disease) 

At the end of the day, what we do know about autoimmune diseases is that they cause inflammation in the body – and it’s this inflammation that causes a recognized disease to manifest itself – arthritis is probably the one that most people are familiar with. From a holistic health lifestyle point of view, one of the best ways we understand of dealing with inflammation is through diet and making sure your diet includes plenty of fresh foods that fight inflammation may be important. Examples include:

  • Fatty fish which is rich in omega-3
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Nuts
  • Low fat dairy products
  • Capsicums and chilies
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets
  • Spices such as Ginger and Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh berries
  • Sharp cherries

Minimizing the chance of developing autoimmunity the holistic health lifestyle way

Good diet, regular physical exercise, minimizing or abstaining from smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, minimizing your caffeine intake, and living in as toxin free an environment as possible are all things that may help to minimize inflammation, and help to stave of developing of what causes autoimmune disease.  For more information about autoimmunity you can follow this link through to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA).

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