Today, over 1,000,000 Australians suffer from some type of autoimmune disease. There are over 80 known types of autoimmune diseases, including well-known conditions like Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac’s disease, Leukemia, Rheumatoid arthritis, Eczema and Multiple sclerosis (Figure 1).
An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks your body’s healthy cells. Autoimmune diseases are caused by many factors, which can be broadly classified as genetic and environmental.
The specific factors that cause an autoimmune disease are different for each disease and may include anything from a specific genetic background that causes the malfunction of an enzyme to environmental triggers that start a chain of events that result in an autoimmune response. Broadly, there are two types of autoimmune disease: localised and systemic.
Localised autoimmunity occurs when the immune system attacks a specific part of the body. Other types of immune diseases affect the whole body and are called systemic autoimmune diseases.
Affecting the adrenal gland. Here immune cells damage the outer layer of the adrenal gland, resulting in reduced production of steroid hormones.
Symptoms include: fatigue, muscle weakness, and loss of appetite. If untreated, the condition can be fatal.
Affecting the thyroid. Here, antibodies produced by the immune system (B cells) simulate a hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. As a result, the thyroid gland is stimulated to produce excessive amount of the thyroid hormone.
Symptoms include: insomnia, tremors, and hyperactivity.
Where the pancreas is targeted. Here, immune cells attack and destroy pancreatic cells, which are responsible for insulin production. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar present in the blood.
Symptoms include: heart disease, damage to nerves and retina or even death if the disease is not treated.
A type of autoimmune disease that is triggered by an external factor: gluten proteins. People with celiac disease have a genetic glitch that causes a malfunction in a specific enzyme, called tissue transglutaminase. This enzyme, in people with celiac disease, identifies gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats) as a pathogenic agent, marking it for attack by the immune system.
As a consequence, whenever gluten enters the body, the immune system mounts an attack, which usually results in damage of the outer layer of small intestine, in particular damaging the villi, tiny hair like structure responsible for nutrient absorption.
Symptoms include: anaemia, bloating and flatulence, diarrhoea or constipation, fatigue, anemia, and many other conditions.
Where immune cells attack the tissue surrounding joints, eventually leading to damage to the actual joints.
Symptoms include: swelling, pain, stiffness and heat in the joints as well as persistent mental and physical tiredness.
Where the protective layers of nerves, called myelin, is targeted by the immune system. Myelin is found all across the body’s nervous system, protecting nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It helps maintain an effective transmission of electrical impulses across the body. People with multiple sclerosis end up with myelin depleted nerves, which don’t function properly.
Symptoms include: deficient motor control (e.g. difficulties walking, talking, or even breathing), fatigue, bladder and bowel disfunction and neurological symptoms.
In the past decade, research has revealed an important connection between gut dysbiosis and the development of autoimmune diseases. Various autoimmune diseases, like Type I Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, and Asthma have been linked to changes in the Gut Microbiota, or even to specific bacterial species. In rheumatoid arthritis, for example, mice that do not carry any gut microbes (germ-free mice) do not seem to develop arthritis, hinting at a potential role of gut microbes in the development and progression of the disease.
Human-based studies have even linked specific gut microbes, like Prevotella copri and Lactobacillus salivarius to rheumatoid arthritis. In multiple sclerosis (MS), the gut microbiota makeup in MS patients is significantly different from healthy people, having reduced species richness. In one animal-based study, the gut microbiota was found to play a role in the development of autoimmune responses related to MS.
Comparable studies, in both humans or animals, have established interesting links between gut microbiota and other autoimmune conditions, like Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and Type 1 diabetes. However, studies so far have only established clear correlations between microbes and autoimmune diseases, and studies establishing the actual mechanisms involved are still scarce.
By combining contemporary medicine with verified holistic practices from other healing traditions, our experienced integrative health practitioners are better able to lessen pain and suffering, reduce stress, and enhance your wellbeing and vitality.
Simply put, our treatment encourages long-term health and relief from autoimmune conditions. To treat your autoimmune disease we get to the root cause of your problem, rather than just focusing on the symptoms.
In order to better understand your condition and offer the best treatment, we may perform the following tests and procedures:
Our approach to Functional Medicine is strictly based on evidence, relying on standard medical procedures, but also employing the latest and more advanced diagnostic testing available.
We understand that the symptoms you are experiencing may be due to problems with more than one system in your body. Through our holistic & integrative approach to medicine, we can cure, not just control, your symptoms and fix your underlying health problems.