What are Autoimmune Diseases?
Autoimmune diseases are medical conditions that occur when the immune system mis-identifies the body’s own cells or tissues as “foreign” and launches an immune attack against them. More than 50 million people in the United States have some type of autoimmune disease-nearly 20% of the population. Overall, autoimmune diseases impact three times more women than men, however, for some autoimmune diseases that ratio is as high as nine to one. There are more than 100 different documented autoimmune diseases.
A few of the more common autoimmune diseases include:
- Addison’s disease
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Grave’s disease
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Meniere’s disease
Once the autoimmune activity is triggered in the body, it often impacts multiple systems in the body. Thus, it is very common for patients with an autoimmune disease to eventually develop or be diagnosed with other autoimmune conditions. In fact, some “clusters” of autoimmune diseases are found to co-occur in patients all over the world. Many autoimmune diseases have a genetic predisposition and run in families.
What causes autoimmune diseases?
While many autoimmune diseases demonstrate some form of genetic predisposition and often run in families, not all people who are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases have such family history. The development of autoimmunity is thought to be a combination of influencing factors, that together trigger the inflammation and overactivity of the immune system that appears to “switch on” the autoimmune reaction. These influential factors may include bacterial or viral infections, environmental toxins, some types of medications, food allergies or sensitivities, intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and certain nutritional deficiencies.
How are autoimmune diseases treated?
Because there are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases, there is no “one size fits all” treatment. Treatment can be particularly complex with patients who have more than one autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are best treated based on the individual patient and their specific diagnoses. However, there are various approaches to treatment of autoimmune diseases. One such approach, and the one Dr. Thomas advocates, is to uncover the root cause(s) that initially triggered the autoimmune reaction in the body, whenever possible, in order to resolve the factors initiating that autoimmune response. Finding the root cause(s) may not be possible for every patient as it is very common for people suffering with autoimmune diseases to be misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for a number of years before their autoimmune condition is identified. Dr. Thomas performs testing and searches for evidence to identify as many contributing factors involved in each patient’s unique case. She uses this evidence to create a treatment plan to address a number of factors, such as hormone deficiencies, nutritional deficiencies, immune system malfunction, inflammation, and food allergies/sensitivities. Dr. Thomas works closely with patients to not only address the conditions they already have but to hopefully prevent additional autoimmune damage going forward.