Autoimmune diseases are a group of chronic disorders in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy cells.
The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is not entirely understood.
A genetic predisposition to autoimmunity combined with environmental exposures likely triggers the onset or exacerbation of Vitiligo or any other autoimmune condition in susceptible individuals.
The University of Chicago Medical Center states that more than 50 million Americans have autoimmune diseases.
Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, Vitiligo, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.
I’ve been studying autoimmune conditions for some time now, and the top 5 factors which might be emphasized while understanding the rise in autoimmune diseases are:
1: Females are more prone to autoimmune conditions:
It’s now well known that autoimmune diseases affect women disproportionately more than men.
By some estimates, women account for 75% of the U.S. population affected by autoimmunity, or some 30 million people.
(Women account for nearly three times as many sufferers as men)
Doctors aren’t sure why autoimmune disease happens in the first place or why women are affected more than men.
One theory is that higher levels of hormones in women, especially during the childbearing or menopausal years, could make women more susceptible to autoimmune diseases.
2: A sterile modern environment is not adequate for our immune system:
Scientists began noticing a steep uptick in cases of autoimmune disease and allergies in the 1980s and 1990s, while infectious diseases such as mumps, measles, and tuberculosis were falling, mainly due to the widespread use of vaccines and antibiotics.
Immune systems are designed to protect the body from infectious diseases. But, in our modern world, where infections are rare, and antibiotics can be found on every corner, the malfunction of our immune system could be responsible for allergies, asthma, and other conditions.
This observation was the genesis of the so-called hygiene hypothesis, the theory that sterile modern environments leave children vulnerable in unpredictable ways. Researchers thought children should be introduced to more pathogens at a young age to build the immune system, and scientists have refined this theory.
Gut microbiota plays a significant role in our health, with over 400 metabolic functions. The greater the diversity of organisms in our gut, the healthier we are.
People who live in developed countries have higher rates of autoimmune diseases than those in the least developed countries, and people living in rapidly modernizing nations are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases as their countries modernize.
In summary, a rapidly emerging body of data indicates that changing gut microbiota and cleaner indoor and outdoor environments could contribute to developing immune disorders.
3: Chemical Exposure should be avoided:
According to Miller of the Environmental Autoimmunity Group, some 80,000 chemicals approved for commercial use in the United States have not been adequately studied to determine their effects on autoimmunity, and some 5,000 are added every year.
The environmental toxins and chemicals we are increasingly exposed to interfere with the immune system’s ability to distinguish self from non-self.
A 2003 study tested for the presence of 210 chemicals in Americans’ blood and urine, including industrial compounds, pollutants, insecticides, dioxins, and mercury, and found that the study subjects tested positive for an average of 91 of them.
Research in 2005 revealed that 287 industrial chemicals, including insecticides, herbicides, and other known toxicants, were present in the cord blood of 10 newborns from different locations around the United States. These chemicals were thought to have been transmitted to each child during pregnancy and delivery by their mothers.
There is some evidence that certain chemicals may set off an autoimmune response.
Several chemicals, drugs, and prescription medications cause or exacerbate autoimmune disease. Many of these types of chemicals include procainamide, hydralazine, iodine, metals, mineral oils, and chemicals such as phenols.
4: Vitamin D is essential for our immune system:
In addition to its crucial role in bone metabolism, vitamin D has been associated with multiple autoimmune diseases in several epidemiological studies. Due to its unique capability to bind to VDR and serve as a transcriptional factor, vitamin D can regulate gene expression and further exert its immunomodulatory effects on immune cells.
Some studies have indicated a link between low vitamin D levels and the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and others.
As a result, detecting vitamin D deficiency and restoring vitamin D status to adequate levels may be considered part of the clinical treatment of various autoimmune diseases.
In fact, vitamin D intervention has been implemented in several studies.
Still, other environmental factors could be at play. Smoking is shown to potentially trigger rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and more (though some studies have been inconclusive).
Some meteorological components, such as ultraviolet radiation, temperature, and humidity, could trigger autoimmunity.
5: Avoid Mental Stress :
A new study suggests that trauma or intense Stress may increase your odds of developing an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis.
A new study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that the risk of developing an autoimmune disease is twice as high in people with a stress-related disorder compared to their siblings.
Researchers analyzed more than 100,000 people diagnosed with stress-related conditions and compared their tendency to develop the autoimmune disease at least one year later with 126,000 of their siblings and another million people who did not have stress-related disorders.
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