What is an Autoimmune Disease?
Your immune system has a job. It is there to keep you healthy. It attacks foreign invaders by combating microorganisms like bacteria and viruses that enter your body. It also looks for foreign particles that might get in through a cut or scraped skin. The goal is to prevent or minimize illnesses. However, sometimes things go wrong. An autoimmune disease happens when something causes your immune system to make a mistake and start attacking your own cells instead.
Some autoimmune diseases strike in one specific part or organ. Others attack several places on the body. Unfortunately, there isn't a single test that detects these conditions, making it hard for doctors to diagnose them accurately. It can take a specialist to figure out what is really going on.
There are 100 plus different types of autoimmune diseases. (1) Here are some of the most common autoimmune conditions:
Though autoimmune diseases can happen to anyone, women are more likely to get them than men. Research has also shown that the most common age group to develop one is for people 40-50 years old. (2) Certain conditions, like lupus, tend to run in families.
Not Everyone Experiences their Autoimmune Disease the Same Way
Not only are there different diseases, but people can also have varying degrees of symptoms. In other words, some people have mild cases, and others have more severe cases. There are many reasons why people experience them differently, including their environment, genetics, and personal health. (3)
There are some common symptoms, however. These include:
· Fatigue and having trouble concentrating
· Gastrointestinal issues
· Joint swelling, redness, and pain
· Recurring Low-Grade Fevers
· Skin rashes or hair loss
· Swollen glands
Autoimmune Conditions are on the Rise
Researchers are looking into why autoimmune diseases occur. One intriguing idea is that these conditions are linked to the "Western Diet." Someone eating the "Western Diet" is taking in a lot of high fat, high protein foods. They also eat a lot of processed foods and takeout meals, which contain excessive amounts of sugar and salt. (4) This type of diet leads to an increased calorie intake with too few nutrients. It causes obesity, heart diseases, and some cancers. An increasing number of studies suggest that this diet also increases your risk of getting an autoimmune condition.
Foods that Trigger Autoimmune Disease
People with some of these conditions, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, have found that certain foods trigger or worsen their condition.
Here are some foods that are known to cause inflammation. (5)
Sugar - Manufacturers call sugar by many different names. Look for ingredients ending in "ose" on the label.
Aspartame - It isn't just sugar that can cause inflammation, sugar-free products containing aspartame can do the same.
White Flour Products and Refined Carbohydrates - bread, rolls, crackers, white rice, cereals, and white potatoes, all staples in the Western Diet. These foods stimulate inflammation.
Gluten - Celiac is an autoimmune disease where wheat gluten causes inflammation. People with other autoimmune disorders may also find that a gluten-free diet offers considerable relief.
Saturated fats - The biggest culprit? Two of America's favorites - pizza and cheese. You also find saturated fats in full-fat dairy products and red meat.
Alcohol - your liver works hard when you drink alcohol and can cause inflammation.
MSG - Mono-sodium glutamate is a seasoning found in many Asian dishes and is also commonly added to prepackaged foods like soups.
People who suffer from autoimmune diseases often find that a healthy diet of whole foods, combined with exercise and medical treatment, can help slow the disease's progression. (6)
(1) "Autoimmune Disease List." American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc, www.aarda.org/diseaselist/.
(2) Hayter, Scott M., and Matthew C. Cook. "Updated Assessment of the Prevalence, Spectrum and Case Definition of Autoimmune Disease." ScienceDirect.com | Science, Health and Medical Journals, Full Text Articles and Books, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1568997212000225?via%3Dihub.
(3) "What Are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease?" Johns Hopkins Medicine, Based in Baltimore, Maryland, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/what-are-common-symptoms-of-autoimmune-disease.
(4) "Role of "Western Diet" in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases."PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034518/.
(5) "8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation."Arthritis Foundation | Symptoms Treatments | Prevention Tips | Pain Relief Advice, www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/foods-to-limit/8-food-ingredients-that-can-cause-inflammation.
(6) Gioia, Chiara, et al. "Dietary Habits and Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Influence Disease Development and Clinical Manifestations?" PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7284442