Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between its own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that affect a wide range of body parts. The most common autoimmune diseases are Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Lupus, and Thyroid diseases, etc. Symptoms of autoimmune disease may be severe in some people and mild in others. Much of this can be due to factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle.
Why is my body attacking itself? This is often a question people will ask when they are told by their doctor that they have an autoimmune condition happening in the body. While this may sound like a crazy concept, that the body would turn against itself, there are reasons why this can occur. The immune system is designed to protect the body from infection and injury, however, an overactive immune response can damage organs or lead to inflammatory diseases. When we look at autoimmunity, says Dr. John Thomas, we need to consider a few things to look at such as blood sugar regulation, the function of the adrenal glands, and the impact on our nervous system as a start to figuring out why the immune system is turning against the body.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Why is blood sugar regulation such a big factor in keeping the body’s immune system in check? One reason we would want to keep glucose within healthy ranges is that glucose is our brain’s fuel source. Stable blood sugar is vital to healthy balanced brain chemistry and may possibly help avoid neurological degeneration (early brain cell breakdown). When our blood sugar spikes consistently it puts a lot of undue stress on the immune system. For most people normal blood sugar ranges are between 80 to 100. These ranges will vary depending on if you have blood sugar issues that have not been monitored and/or you don’t know your fasting ranges. If the blood sugar levels get too high or too low then the body cannot function properly. If this continues, unchecked over time, then it can be a strong trigger for the immune system to ramp up. Insulin resistance may be the result of the immune system cells attacking the body’s tissues. Your immune cells are designed to produce antibodies that fight invading bacteria, germs, and viruses so you really don’t want them ramping up constantly and attacking the body.
Healthy Adrenal Glands
What is the connection between the adrenal glands and autoimmunity? The role of the adrenal gland is to produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, stress response, and other essential functions in the body. These glands are two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They are made up of two distinct parts, the adrenal cortex, and adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex is the outer part of the gland which produces hormones that are vital to life. Some of these hormones are called cortisol which helps to regulate metabolism and your body’s response to stress. Another hormone, aldosterone helps to control blood pressure. The adrenal medulla or the inner part of the gland produces nonessential hormones such as adrenaline which also helps your body deal with stress. When these glands are not working optimally we can experience extreme exhaustion or fatigue, which can be a big trigger for the immune system to ramp up.
When you think of the adrenal glands stress might come to mind. This is because the adrenal glands are best known for secreting the hormone adrenaline, which is designed to rapidly prepare your body to spring into action in a stressful situation. However, did you know the adrenal glands contribute to your health even at times when your body isn’t under extreme stress? In fact, they release hormones that are essential for your body to live in a healthy state. Next question we might ask is if blood sugar is not regulated and our adrenals are in constant fight or flight, what effect does this have on our neurological system?
The nervous and endocrine systems modulate the immune system’s functions by releasing neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and endocrine hormones to regulate the physiological demands of the body. The immune system in turn communicates with the nervous and endocrine systems. The vagus nerve connects the brain to the body and controls the inflammatory response. Autoimmune brain diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the brain or spinal cord, which results in inflammation. This inflammation may then cause impaired functioning, resulting in neurological or psychiatric symptoms. When the neurotransmitters in the brain become unbalanced this can create deficiencies in dopamine or serotonin. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that regulate countless functions and processes in your body, from sleep to metabolism. When these neurotransmitters become imbalanced they can cause your immune system to go haywire and start attacking the normal healthy tissues of the nervous system.
What Can We Do To Find Out What Might Be Causing An Immune Dis-regulation In The Body?
If you’re looking for answers for autoimmunity symptoms you might want to start with the basics to find out what might be causing the dis-regulation in your immune system. Dr. John Thomas suggests proper testing considering a functional medicine approach. Get your blood sugar tested to find out if there are blood sugar spikes happening and creating stress on the immune system. Next, take a look at the adrenals with hormone testing to determine if the hormone levels are out of balance especially if you’re dealing with stressful situations. Finally, consider testing for bacteria, mold, parasites, and food sensitivities that could be creating havoc in the body and adding additional stress on the immune system.
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