Autoimmune disease are illnesses that occurs when the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Individuals with autoimmune diseases produce special proteins or antibodies in their blood that target tissues within their own body rather than foreign infectious agents like viruses or bacteria, resulting in inflammation.Healthy tissue or cells are being attacked instead of an infection or virus as seen in the body’s natural defense response.There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that can affect the body. Women are more often affected.


Some common autoimmune diseases in women are:
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)Grave’s Disease ( Hyperthyoidism) – overproduction of thyroid hormoneHashimoto’s Thyoiditis (Hypothyroidism)- underproduction of thyroid hormoneRheumatoid ArthritisSjorgren’s SyndromePsoriasis and Psoriatic ArthritisMultiple Sclerosis

Type I Diabetes, Celiac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis) are also examples.


While it is not clearly known what exactly causes autoimmune diseases, there are several hypotheses why the immune system can become overactive. There are certain risk factors that have been studied such as genetics, smoking, certain medications, hormones, and inflammation from fat cells that may play a role in the risk of autoimmune disease.It is important to know that certain autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis increases risk for atherosclerosis (heart disease).


The challenging part about diagnosing an autoimmune condition is that the symptoms may be seen in so many other diseases. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Joint swelling or redness
  • Skin abnormalities, rashes, sensitivity to sun
  • Hair loss
  • Problems with the gastrointestinal tract, abdominal pain and bloating
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Difficulties with concentration, memory


Other challenges include not always being able to diagnose the condition at the time of the evaluation or onset of symptoms solely based on testing. Usually, no single test can diagnose most autoimmune diseases. A combination of a complete history of symptoms and physical exam as well as tests is needed for the evaluation. A physician may look for specific proteins or autoantibodies produced in certain autoimmune diseases such as the antinuclear antibody test (ANA). There are other autoantibodies and tests assessing inflammation that can be associated with different diseases.


Another challenge may be having an individual be compliant with therapy including medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressive therapy) to help relieve symptoms and combat inflammation. Some of these drugs such as steroids may have side effects such as bloating, weight gain, hair growth, acne that can affect a person’s appearance and self image especially if he or she is younger in age. Other therapies may have other significant side effects on the body. Although these pharmaceutical drugs may be crucial in fighting the autoimmune disease, a physician and loved one must be aware and sensitive to the feelings of the person taking the medication.Like any chronic illness, always be supportive and be vigilant about looking for signs of depression while someone is battling an autoimmune disease.

Anyone diagnosed with an autoimmune disease may seek evaluation and treatment from different specialists including a rheumatologist, endocrinologist, dermatologist, or gastroenterologist. Individuals living with autoimmune disease should be encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle including controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing stress, staying active with regular exercise, eating well, and finding support. 
I always encourage my patients to pay attention and always listen to their bodies while also identifying specific triggers that can cause a flare of their disease. 

Disclaimer:  This blog contains my personal opinion based on personal and clinical experience, tips from trainers, health coaches and lastly research.  This blog does not endorse specific treatments, procedures, products.  You should always consult with a doctor, nutritionist, or other healthcare professional to discuss your own health and lifestyle goals and regimen based on your medical history.  Thank you for reading!