Autoimmune disorders (ADs) are characterised as a condition in which dysfunction of the acquired immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells of the body. (1)(2) ADs affect more than 5% of the global population, (3) with a greater prevalence amongst women, occurring at a rate of 2 to 1. (1) Genetic susceptibility is regarded as the key aetiology in the development, (3) while from a naturopathic perspective, gut health is the focal point to prevent, manage and address ADs.
A-Z of Autoimmune Disorders
There are over 150 conditions classified as autoimmune diseases and with an extensive list, about 25% of patients tend to develop concurrent ADs aside from their primary condition. (4) These disorders cause the immune system to cause a systemic reaction by attacking multiple organs or may be localised to attacking one specific organ, such as the skin. (1) Some of the more commonly known conditions classified as autoimmune diseases include: (2)(4)
Addison’s disease – Alopecia areata – Amyloidosis – Ankylosing spondylitis – Antiphospholipid syndrome – Coeliac disease – CREST syndrome – Crohn disease – Graves disease – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – Hemolytic anaemia – Interstitial cystitis – Lichen planus – Lichen sclerosis – Multiple sclerosis – Myasthenia gravis – Pernicious anaemia – Psoriasis – Psoriatic arthritis – Raynaud’s phenomenon – Rheumatoid arthritis – Sarcoidosis – Scleroderma – Sjogren’s syndrome – Systemic lupus erythematosus – Type 1 Diabetes – Ulcerative colitis – Vasculitis – Vitiligo
Another Reason for Good Gut Health
The impact of an imbalanced gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity has been suggested by an increasing amount of experimental evidence. (5) Alterations in gut microbiota composition has consequences in the gut immune system including food intolerances, intestinal inflammation, and enhanced gut permeability. (5) Gut permeability is measured via Zonulin, the only known physiological modulator of gut wall intercellular tight junctions that is involved in in tolerance/immune response balance. (6) When the Zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, autoimmune disorders can occur. (7) Treating the gut can play an integral role in addressing autoimmune disease, with research suggesting that these processes can be arrested if the interplay between genes and environmental triggers is prevented by re-establishing the Zonulin-dependent intestinal barrier function. (6)
A Range of Supportive Strategies
Beyond treating the gut, other treatment strategies vary based on the specific disease, its stage of presentation, and patient symptoms. (2) The primary goal of treatment is to decrease inflammation, minimise symptoms, and lessen the potential for relapse. (2) Clinical trials (while limited) of natural compounds resveratrol, curcumin, boswellic acids and Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, have demonstrated therapeutic effect in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and psoriasis. (8) The power of diet to reduce inflammation has been observed with a higher intake of fish and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), linked to decreased risk for AI disease. (9)
Living Well with an Autoimmune Condition
With advances in the understanding of Autoimmune disorders pointing more towards the role of gut health, Naturopathy offers the strategies needed to promote wellbeing in this area. Naturopathic care is also a worthwhile plan of action to incorporate anti-inflammatory support to complement conventional treatment options.
Discussing your health is our passion, while improving your health is our ultimate goal. While some people may feel their health concerns are complex, autoimmune conditions are manageable and seeking support is certainly well founded. Our experienced practitioners are here to give the kind of advice that is unique to you and unique to the natural healthcare industry, which can make all the difference to your experience of Wellbeing.
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