Autoimmune disorder:
The Immune System
Throws a Tantrum

An autoimmune disorder and a hyper-inflammatory response are very similar and may have common causes.  The exact definition is subjective but here it will refer to any condition caused by an overactive immune system.

Autoimmune Diseases

An autoimmune disease occurs when our immune system fails to show immune tolerance to our own body tissues.   We should show be showing immunity to all embryogenesis tissue, that is, all tissue and anything else that ended up in the fetus between conception and birth.

Yet in autoimmune disorders, something goes awry and the immune system starts attacking "self" as if it were "non-self" and they are almost always cell mediated responses.

Recall that cell mediated immunity doesn't depend on antibodies but
utilizes the activation of macrophages, natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells.

It is more common in young people and females, where it appears twice as frequently as in males.  The range of autoimmune disorders is vast and the categorization depends on where in the body the attack is occurring and whether it is local or systemic. 

Local is an attack of a single organ or tissue while systemic is widespread throughout the body affecting a total system.

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A Review of Autoimmune
Disorders and Diseases

Systemic autoimmune disorders include:

Walk-In Lab
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis - a chronic inflammation and erosion of the joints. Can hit anyone at any age but usually manifests between ages 30 and 50. NIH estimates place U.S. cases at 2 million people. Is extremely debilitating and can shorten life. It is not related to osteoarthritis, a physical wearing out of the joint.
  • Lupus - a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect skin, joints, blood cells, kidney, heart and lungs. It is ten times more prevalent in females and is increasing in persons of African, Asian, Hispanic and Native American populations. A visible symptom is a red butterfly shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. Other symptoms include fatigue, pain, fever, and inflammation and possible damage to internal organs.
  • Sjogren's Syndrome - A chronic inflammatory autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks the tissue in glands that produce moisture such as tear and salivary glands. Ninety percent of sufferers are women over 40 and the NIH thinks there are between 1 million and 4 million people afflicted in the U.S. That's quite a wide range which could indicate that the condition is either under-reported or very misdiagnosed.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome - An acute autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. Inflammation damages the myelin sheath that insulates the neurons axon causing muscle weakness, paralysis, spasms, numbness or tingling sensations and tenderness. It is a fairly rare condition and NIH estimates about 1 in 100,000 have Guillan-Barre. That should translate to about 3000 cases in the U.S.
  • Local autoimmune disorders include:

  • Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes - An autoimmune disease in which inflammation damages or destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas (pancreatitis) resulting in the body's inability to process glucose (blood sugar). Data from 2005 indicates that 20 million Americans have diabetes but 6 million of those may be undiagnosed. Diabetes claims over 75,000 lives per year in the U.S.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - A chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath of the nerve cells axon. This demyelization can occur anywhere in the Central Nervous System causing a wide variety of symptoms. The process interferes with nerve impulses and causes a progressive loss of motor and sensory control. It affects about 400,000 people in the U.S. and hits more women than men.
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis - The most common form of inflammation of the thyroid gland causing a decrease in the production of the thyroid hormones. It is more frequent in women over 40 and manifests as weight gain, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, weakness, dry skin and constipation. About 1 in 1000 will develop this disease at sometime in their life.
  • Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease - Both are chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorders of the colon. Symptoms include pain, cramping, diarrhea with blood and/or mucus, ulcers and collection of fluid in the lining of the colon. They seem to affect men and women equally and tend to run in families; indicating a genetic component.
  • One striking thing about many of these autoimmune disorders is the prevalence in women over men and the mid-life onset; usually in the 40's or later. 

    Perhaps research needs to be done on the sexual dimension of inflammation.  What are women doing that men don't do that would contribute to the higher incidence of inflammation?  Food for thought as they say.

    Treating the Autoimmune Disorder

    So far in the medical community, there are no effective treatments for an autoimmune diseases.  Treatment depends on the site of the attack, its severity and symptoms. 

    Options are limited but consist of relieving symptoms with medication or surgery; preserving organ function with medications or injections; and, lastly, administering drugs, such as corticosteroids, to suppress the
    immune system.

    Sometimes a process called plasmapheresis is applied wherein the blood is filtered to remove the problem antibodies or antigen/antibody complexes.

    Situation Sad but not Hopeless

    When it comes to autoimmune disorders, traditional medicine leaves a lot to be desired but a couple of natural approaches may offer hope.

    The common denominator of all the autoimmune diseases is a miscommunication between the immune system and the healthy tissue or host body.  The miscommunication results in a failure of the immune system to differentiate between "self" and "non-self". 

    Cell-to-cell communication takes place through the glycoproteins and glycolipids (glycoforms) on the cells surface. 

    These glycoforms are produced in a part of the cells internal machinery known as the endoplasmic reticulum where certain sugars are combined with proteins and fats. 

    Today these specific sugars are highly deficient in our modern food supply for a number of reasons.  Without the sugars, the glycoforms are not present in adequate numbers and intercellular signaling suffers.

    Your Source for News and Education in Glycomics - the science of sugars

    The emergent science of Glycobiology has yielded a treasure trove on the role of sugars in the functioning of the body, especially in the area of immunology.  

    Bio-active sugars taken as a supplement work to enhance cell-to-cell communication by increasing the intake of vital sugars needed to produce the cells external structure discussed above.

    In conjunction with essential sugar supplementation, a second approach is to ensure that the omega-3 and omega-6 balance is a one-to-one ratio. 

    This requires supplementation with a pharmaceutical grade, molecular distilled omega-3 and cutting back on those foods high in omega-6. This action should result in a decrease in the production of certain inflammatory messengers thus mitigating an unwarranted inflammatory response. 

    Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3 - Softgels

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    The National Institutes of Health's Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has kindly put together a comprehensive article on Understanding Autoimmune Diseases. The link is included here as an additional resource.

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