Jennifer had tried everything to get rid of her psoriasis. She made major changes tp her diet and lifestyle with only modest improvements in the red, scaly patches on her hands and elbows. A 45 year old woman with 2 school-aged children, she always wore long-sleeved shirts, even in the summer. Powerful prescriptions medications did help, but only temporarily. She stopped taking these medications due to their side effects. Three months after using CPAP for her moderately severe obstructive sleep apnea, she was ecstatic to let me know that her psoriasis was finally gone. Even her joint pains were mostly gone.
Autoimmune disease is a condition when the body attacks its own tissues mistakenly, unlike a reaction to viruses, bacteria or toxins. As a result, inflammation occurs. This can happen in any part of the body. Symptoms are too numerous to list, but can can range from fatigue and lack of energy to rashes, to poor digestion, or memory loss. Various autoimmune conditions include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even Ménière’s disease.
The most commonly blamed reasons for autoimmune disease are genetics, toxins, certain foods, and infections. I distinctly remember learning about autoimmune diseases during medical school, and even now, the explanations by doctors for the causes and treatment for autoimmune conditions are not very satisfying. Back then, in the early 1990s, autoimmunity was relatively rare, but now it’s more common than not.
If you look up information about this on your typical medical website, you’ll see that there’s no specific pattern, explanation, diagnostic test or standard way of treatment. It’s all over the place. Notice that nowhere in the treatment section does it mention removal of potentially offending food, toxins, or irritants, but only lists various medications.
Why Traditional Explanations Fail
In our textbooks, the most common reason for autoimmune disease is stated to be from your genes. There are a myriad of genetic predispositions to various conditions, such as genes for Sjogren’s disease or HLA-DRB1 for Meniere’s disease. But notice that for most studies that link certain genes to classic autoimmune conditions, there’s a wide range of different genes, with no one certain gene. Since emphasis is placed more on your genes (rather than your environment), medical and biochemical treatment tends to be favored over environmental modifications. If most autoimmune conditions are due to our genes, then why was autoimmunity so rare even 50 years ago? This observation supports the suspicion that what’s in our environment may be a better explanation. Epigenetics is a concept that supports this idea, that your environment can modify how your …