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Why Are Autoimmune Disorders Becoming So Common?

Why Are Autoimmune Disorders Becoming So Common?

Lupus, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are among dozens of known autoimmune diseases. This group of diseases involves your immune system attacking your body’s own healthy cells and tissues. 

We’re still learning about autoimmune diseases. Some doctors and researchers raise concerns that these diseases may be increasing in this country and around the world.

Dr. Nichelle Renk, Dr. Mary Beth Scott-Calor, and the team at Alpenglow Pain & Wellness care about the health and wellness of people living in and around Anchorage, Alaska, and globally.

Amid the rising incidences of autoimmune diseases, we’re reaching out to let you know more about your health risks and treatment options.

Autoimmune disorders: when your immune system attacks you

Your immune system is supposed to battle invading germs like viruses and bacteria. If you have an autoimmune condition, the strength of your immune response turns against you, causing painful, disruptive, and potentially debilitating symptoms.

More than 23 million people in the United States live with an autoimmune condition. It’s important to note that nearly 80% of autoimmune patients are women, most likely related to the differences in women’s immune systems, which are more complex due to the demands of potential pregnancies.

Causes of autoimmune disorders

Scientists have several theories why individuals may develop autoimmune disorders.

Immune response

One theory relates to overactive immune response. When a virus invades or an infection develops, your immune system activates to fight it off. Some of your healthy cells and tissues might become incidentally involved in your immune response, triggering an autoimmune disorder.

Evidence indicates that this may be how rheumatoid arthritis begins. The autoimmune skin condition psoriasis commonly develops after a strep throat infection, another example of this phenomenon.

Cancer or stress triggers

Some autoimmune diseases appear to develop when your body attempts to repel cancer cells or cope with physical trauma after an injury. 

For example, psoriatic arthritis may be more likely to arise after an injury. You can also develop an autoimmune response when specific parts of your body, like your heel, experience a high degree of physical stress or damage to tendons.

Genetic factors

Autoimmune conditions like lupus and multiple sclerosis appear to run in families. However, genetic factors don’t account for the whole picture of autoimmune diagnosis domestically and worldwide.

As you can see, accounting for the causes of autoimmune conditions isn’t simple. Looking at other factors, including changes in lifestyle and environment, may be important toward explaining the current high rate of autoimmune diagnosis.

Why autoimmune diagnoses are increasing

It’s true that the number of autoimmune diagnoses have been increasing in recent years, as much as 3-12% annually worldwide. Researchers suggest that the rise might go beyond better screening and increased awareness.

Our modern lifestyle involves a number of changes that may be to blame for the increasing prevalence of autoimmunity. Our diet is different from our ancestors’, and we see increasing rates of obesity. 

The way we sleep and experience stress are also different in this day and age. And, we’re exposed to more toxic chemicals and pollutants than previous generations.

Dr. Renk and her team stay up-to-date with the most current research on autoimmune patients’ needs. Often, autoimmune diseases can’t be cured. However, effective, knowledgeable treatment can relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Treating your autoimmune disorder

Once you have your diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, regardless of its trigger, you need strategies to support your body. Dr. Renk and the Alpenglow Pain & Wellness team assist you in setting up the right plan to reduce inflammation, pain, fatigue, and other autoimmune symptoms.

One of the first areas of focus is your diet. Switching to an autoimmune diet that is low in inflammation triggers and heavy in nutrients gives your body a break from gut stress. You also get the nutritional resources necessary to recover from autoimmune attacks.

Your autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet starts with eliminating likely trigger foods and chemicals, such as gluten. You may also benefit from vitamin D and omega-3 supplements.

Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) often works well in treating patients who have autoimmune disorders. 

This medication regulates your immune system and inflammation levels, and also temporarily blocks opioid receptors in your brain, leading to increased natural opioid production. LDN can end harmful reaction cycles related to conditions like fibromyalgia.

To learn more about autoimmune disease and discuss the care you or a loved one needs, contact Dr. Renk, Dr. Calor, and the team at Alpenglow Pain & Wellness today. Schedule your initial consultation online or over the phone.

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