Attack of the Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune Disease

You may hear a lot of buzz on the topic of autoimmune diseases, but what exactly does that mean? Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body. According to womenshealth.gov, 23.5 million people living in the US suffer from autoimmune diseases. These diseases are one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years old. A few well-known autoimmune diseases include celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.

CELIAC DISEASE

Celiac disease results from an autoimmune reaction to gluten, which causes the body to attack itself. About 3 million people in the US are affected. The disease can cause weight loss, bloating, diarrhea, and, over time, can harm the brain, nervous system, bones, and liver. Worse, a subgroup of these people never show symptoms of its presence.

Source: National Institutes of Health; Univ. of Chicago Celiac Disease Center; Mayo Clinic

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

MS is an autoimmune disease that primarily impacts women. attacks the healthy tissue in the central nervous system, which is made of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms vary by individual but can include blurred vision, weakness, trouble with coordination, paralysis, tremors and numbness, or tingling feeling in the arms, legs, hands, and feet.

Source: Office of Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; National Multiple Sclerosis Society

PSORIASIS

Psoriasis causes raised, red, scaly, patches on the skin. Those who suffer from it have reported itching, burning, and stinging on the infected areas.

Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; National Psoriasis Foundation

What helps?

Although there is no cure for autoimmune diseases, there are still ways to help ease symptoms.

>> Yucca provides relief from stiff joints and muscles

>> T’ai chi enhances muscle movement and strengthens joints

>> Reishi mushrooms improve and help normalize the functioning of the immune system

>> Yarrow, milk thistle, turmeric, and sarsapilla herb cleanse the blood and are anti-inflammatories

>> Fish oils and ginger also act as anti-inflammatories

Many people try some form of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) at some point in their lives. Some examples of CAM are herbal products, chiropractic, acupuncture, and hypnosis. If you have an autoimmune disease, you might wonder if CAM therapies can help some of your symptoms. This is hard to know. Studies on CAM therapies are limited. Also, some CAM products can cause health problems or interfere with how the medicines you might need work. If you want to try a CAM treatment, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. Your doctor can tell you about the possible benefits and risks of trying CAM.

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