Understanding autoimmunity

A normal and healthy human body has proper system comprising of tools that function to resist attack of invading foreign particles such as bacteria, virus and other parasites. This set of tools is termed as immune system. Sometimes, immune system attacks the body itself. These misdirected responses by the immune system are known as autoimmunity.

Autoimmune diseases are have nonspecific symptoms and initially include fatigue, ache, pains and low grade fevers. Because of the vagueness, people are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases long after they are unable to function properly.

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Some examples of autoimmune diseases include

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). ...

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). ...

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). ...

  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus. ...

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome. ...

  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. ...

  • Psoriasis.

Autoimmune diseases occur in an organism when there is progression from autoimmunity to pathogenic immunity. One can determine this progression by genetic influences and environmental triggers. Autoimmunity is shown by the existence of T cells that are reactive to the host antigens and autoantibodies. Autoantibodies function against the person who produced them.

To be precise, autoimmune disease occurs when tissues are attacked by immune system. Just like all immune responses, its focus is on specific antigens by B-cell receptors and T-cell receptors.

Unlike in infection, the antigens recognized by B-cell receptors and T-cell receptors are processed by proteins. This process takes place in target organs and leads to chronic inflammatory process that hinders the normal functioning of the body tissues.

In case of human diseases, the trigger for disruptive process is usually undetermined. There is some evidence that autoimmunity can take place after infection and more than one infection is responsible for the initiation of disease. Other environmental factors also play a role.

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Role of genetic factors in developing autoimmunity

There is a lot of research going on to understand the influence of inheritance on autoimmune diseases. It has been observed that vulnerability to autoimmune diseases is contributed by a variety of polymorphic genes. In singular capacity, these genes have small effect but in aggregate they are responsible for vulnerability to autoimmunity.

Role of lifestyle factors in developing autoimmunity

Physical activities, stress, nutrition, hydration, sleep and lymphatic functions play their certain roles in developing autoimmunity. All these factors are responsible for creating neurotransmitter imbalances, mitochondrial dysfunction, hormonal imbalances and oxidative stress that increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

Role of environmental factors in developing autoimmunity

Infections (bacterial or chronic viral infections or intestinal dysbiosis) and toxins (heavy metals and chemical compounds found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics and other products) can influence, trigger or aggravate an autoimmune diseases.

For instance, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) exposure is associated with the autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Lupus is linked to mercury toxicity.

Ankylosing spondylitis is associated to the presence of Klebsiella bacteria in the digestive tract.

The infections and toxins trigger autoimmunity in different ways. They either trigger autoimmunity by damaging cells or the infections also have the ability of molecular mimicry.

The existence of these infections and toxins will continue to encourage the autoimmune response.

In a sensible approach to autoimmunity, it is vital to identify and remove these environmental triggers.


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The 3 downsides to using cough and cold medicines and what to do instead

Happy New Year my dear readers!

To kick off the year holistically, I'd like to begin challenging the hard stuff. 

Using easily available medications might seem innocuous and harmless once in a while, but think again.  What are we really doing here?  Are we working with or against your body?

As a holistically minded physician, I'm a believer in working with, not against the body.

Here's my take on such drugs whose main purpose is merely to suppress symptoms that are too troublesome for us to accept.

Photo by FotografiaBasica/iStock / Getty Images


The problem lies with our lifestyle expectations, and life on the fast pace.  We no longer have the community's patience towards our own needs.  We also treat ourselves harshly, as a result of others' (and our own) expectations of our bodies and minds.  

Lets get down to the three downsides.

Suppressing symptoms jeopardises recovery

Stopping mucus, and sneezing with antihistamines and decongestants, we impede the body’s natural mechanism to physically wash out germs.  While this is convenient and we can get through the day not even realising we have a cold when we actually have one, this brings in the risk of chronic infection.

Drugs that stop us from washing germs out with mucus fights against the body’s own mechanisms for self cleaning.  The body has to work harder and in more imaginative ways to clear infections.  

In the case of infants and young children, cough medicines can impair their ability to clear phlegm and lead to a worse congestion

The body requires a fever to fight infection

Yes, a certain level of fever is actually good for you.  It has been shown that an important type of immune calls, the T-cells that fight viruses and cancer, require a higher temperature to be effective.  

It is only dangerously high temperatures that need controlling, with a health professional.  

Drugs are foreign substances that may not be removed efficiently from the body.

Yes, this is a reminder that nothing about drugs are natural, and while there is a role for them in a spectrum of care that is offered to the patient, we must know its limitations.  

Drugs invariable tax the liver to metabolise and clear them out of the body.  Many a time, metabolites do not clear out completely.  This is in the case of synthetic hormones, and certainly for paracetamol (acetaminophen).

There have been cases of fatal liver failure associated with ingesting as little as 10 paracetamol pills.

There you have it!

The three reasons why we should think twice before reaching to drugs in order not to face the consequences of being ill.

Being ill is a part of life, especially for children, where it is normal to catch a virus or cold once a month, in order to build up their immune system towards better resistance.  Lack of this natural immune stimulation leads to a skew of the immune cells towards autoimmunity, which is another topic altogether.

The holistic approach to illnesses

While a balanced viewpoint must be kept, and drugs may need to be used in certain situations, having a holistic approach has the long term effect of working with your body not against it, in the long run. 

Herbs or nutrients may be used, complimentary therapies that address the Qi and energy systems, and healing touch, sound, art, and access to the spirit and soul.

What is the meaning of this illness for you? 

Simply waving it off with over the counter medications and "Keeping calm and carrying on" may miss an opportunity to investigate a nutrient deficiency, or even a lifestyle habit which may be causing the low immunity. 

If there is an immunity issue, we must address the reasons underlying that.  

This generation is so used to numbing and carrying on, and it is to the detriment of our spirits that we approach life this way.

To discuss your needs in greater depth do book a consult today!