BACKGROUND: Humans have an immune system that protects our bodies from disease and infection. But in patients with an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks itself by mistake. These diseases can affect our connective tissues, nerves, muscles, digestive system and endocrine system. Millions of people worldwide suffer with autoimmune diseases. These diseases occur most commonly in women during their reproductive years. Some affect black, Latina and Native Americans more than whites. These diseases tend to run in families, so genes, along with environmental responses, can increase one's chances of developing an autoimmune disease. The most common symptoms of autoimmune diseases are chronic pain and fatigue. Some of the most commonly known autoimmune diseases include juvenile diabetes, lupus, diseases of the thyroid, multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but there are more than 80 known types of autoimmune diseases.
TREATING AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES: There are treatments for autoimmune diseases. Most treat the symptoms of the disease, while others may help slow the progression. Over the counter pain medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can reduce mild to moderate pain. For those with more severe pain, prescription drugs can treat pain, swelling, fatigue, depression, anxiety and sleeping problems. There are no known cures for autoimmune disease, but now, researchers found nature may hold the key to finding a cure.
FROM UNLIKELY SOURCES: Researchers at the University of California, Irvine derived natural compounds from a component of venom from a Cuban sea anemone and the rue shrub plant to block the autoimmune disease response in type 1 diabetes and RA. They work by deterring the effect of autoimmune T-cells, white blood cells that attack the body. The trick is targeting the destructive T-cells while allowing other white blood cells to fight real diseases and infection, not the body. Both compounds block an ion channel in the destructive T-cells that prevents them from producing dangerous chemicals that attack the body.
If one is suffering from an autoimmune disease one should consider trying a natural protocol, especially since Western medicine has so little to offer for autoimmune sufferers. A natural diet as described in the diet section, nutritional counseling, supplementation, herbal therapy and detoxification may be helpful. It's very important to work with a qualified doctor who will try to figure out why your immune system is reacting to your own body. Is it something in your diet? Is it a chemical or a pollutant? Is there an underlying food sensitivity or intestinal problems?
Autoimmune diseases are the leading cause for death in the United States, especially among women. However, their exact impact is unknown because the National Statistical Center did not include all the diseases in their list of possible causes for death; thus doctors do not list them on the death certificates. At the same time, analysis of the data from the Center of Disease Control from 1995 show that this group of diseases is in the top ten (Am J Public Health, Sep, 2000). According to the National Health Institute, 23.5 million of Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases; this is 1.5 million more cases than cases of cardio-vascular disease and 14.5 million more cases than cases of cancer.