What is Autoimmune Disease?

Your immune system is a state of the art security network that monitors and protects your body from attack. The immune system detects infectious organisms and launches an attack called the immune response.

The immune system does an excellent job keeping out harmful invaders. Sometimes, though, it gets confused and starts producing antibodies that attack healthy cells in your body. When that happens, it means you’ve developed an autoimmune disease.

Put simply, autoimmune disease is a rogue immune system. It perceives healthy tissue as a threat, and attacks it. The specific disease that develops depends upon which area of the body the immune system targets. It’s possible to develop several different autoimmune diseases at once.

Causes of autoimmune disease

Conventional medicine actually doesn’t know of any definite trigger. Autoimmune disease tends to run in families, and women appear to have a higher risk of developing one. However, the specific causes are still unknown.

Holistic practitioners claim that inflammation is the cause of autoimmune responses, since it’s the classic sign of all autoimmune disease. The inflammation, according to this school of thought, is caused by food sensitivity—most commonly gluten and dairy. While there is little research to support these claims, proponents insist that patients see drastic improvements from holistic treatments and lifestyle changes.

Common autoimmune diseases

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the linings of the joints. This causes inflammation, swelling and pain to joints.


In lupus, the immune system’s antibodies attach themselves to tissues throughout the body, affecting the joints, lungs, blood cells, nerves, and kidneys. Symptoms include achy and swollen joints, pain in the chest when breathing deeply, and a butterfly-shaped rash across the face.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Immune system antibodies attack the thyroid, slowing down thyroid function. This causes hypothyroidism to develop. Symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, and sensitivity to cold.

Graves’ disease

The opposite of Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease occurs when antibodies stimulate the thyroid to release too much thyroid hormone. People with Graves’ disease develop hyperthyroidism. One classic symptom is bulging eyes, but weight loss, rapid heart rate, and brittle hair are also common symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis

The immune system attacks the nervous system in this degenerating disease, causing pain, muscle spasms, poor coordination, and blindness.


Immune system T-cells stimulate skin cells to grow too fast, forming thick red patches covered by silvery scales. They most commonly appear on the scalp, lower back, elbows, and knees.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Two common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In both, the intestines’ linings are attacked by the immune system. Symptoms include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, stomach pain, and weight loss.

Conventional vs. Holistic Approaches to Autoimmune Treatment

There is a huge difference between conventional and alternative approaches to treatment in the case of autoimmune disease.

Conventional medicine treats the specific autoimmune disease that is presented. That means if you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, you’ll be given synthetic thyroid hormone to improve your thyroid function. Multiple sclerosis patients receive medication to slow down the effects on the nervous system. People with psoriasis are prescribed topical ointments, sometimes in conjunction with oral medications for more severe cases.

The alternative approach heavily relies on the premise that lifestyle and eating habits trigger the autoimmune response. If you choose to go the holistic route in treating your autoimmune disease, your practitioner will do a lot of food sensitivity testing, and will recommend lifestyle changes to improve your condition.

Some doctors integrate conventional and holistic approaches in autoimmune disease treatment.

If you have or think you may have an autoimmune disease, get it checked out right away. The earlier you catch it, the earlier it is to treat.