Recent research has revealed more and more people are affected by autoimmune disease. In this article we’ll look at what may be behind this rise.
It’s estimated four million people, or 1 in 16 of us in the UK, are living with an autoimmune disease. There are thought to be over 80 autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, coeliac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.
The number of people affected by autoimmune disease has increased in recent years. Globally, type 1 diabetes is increasing by 2.8% per year, while coeliac disease has shown the greatest increase, becoming four times more common over the 22 years to 2011.
Overall in the UK, the incidence of autoimmunity is thought to be increasing by as much as 9%.
The cost to the UK of three autoimmune diseases – type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and MS – adds up to more than £13 billion per year.
Autoimmune diseases are all characterised by the body’s immune system becoming confused and attacking its own cells. Symptoms depend on which parts of the body are affected.
Many people live with more than one autoimmune condition, because once immune system function is compromised, many different organs may be affected.
Your immune system has the job of defending you against invaders. In autoimmune disease, the immune system is no longer able to distinguish between enemies and friendly organisms such as your body cells.
What causes the immune system to lose this selectivity and to attack us in this way isn’t entirely clear. Although genetics do play a role, the rapid rise in autoimmune disease cannot be explained by genetics alone. This is where our environment comes in. If we have a genetic tendency towards developing an autoimmune disease, whether this predisposition is expressed depends on environmental factors.
Functional medicine practitioners always try to discover the root causes of illness and to put these right.
In the case of autoimmune disease, conventional medicine usually prescribes immune suppressant medication. Functional medicine, on the other hand, would examine the reasons why the immune system is not functioning as it should, and use methods to support, rather than suppress, a healthy immune response.
All the above factors work in combination and they are all commonplace in today’s world, so it’s no wonder autoimmune diseases are on the rise.
As gut health is so important for immune health, it makes sense to heal the gut and by so doing restore healthy immune system function.
A functional medicine practitioner may test for hidden infections, food sensitivities and increased intestinal permeability. A blood test can detect antibodies to your own cells, which can sometimes be seen years before symptoms occur, giving the opportunity to prevent autoimmunity from developing.
If you would like to improve your gut health in just 30 days by natural nutritional interventions and lifestyle changes, contact me today.
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