Common Autoimmune Diseases and How to Treat Them Naturally

autoimmune diseases
Common Autoimmune Diseases and How to Treat Them Naturally

The immune system doesn’t always get everything right.

Sometimes, it tries to heal the body when it doesn’t need to. If this happens to you, you may have an
autoimmune disorder.

Autoimmune diseases are common in the United States. Actually, there are over 80 different kinds, and over 23.5 million Americans suffer from them.

In this article, we explore the most common types of autoimmune diseases and how to treat them naturally.

Let’s get to it!

What Is an Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune disease is a condition where the immune system attacks healthy cells. Thus, autoimmune disease causes inflammation and other harmful side effects.

Common Types of Autoimmune Disease

Some well known autoimmune disorders are multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, they’re becoming much more common.

Poor diet and nutrition is partly to blame, but more on that later…

1. Hypothyroidism

Women between ages 35 and 65 are the most likely to have the disease. Sadly, hypothyroidism can cause changes in energy, weight, skin, hair, and mental health. The thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland in the throat. Further, it affects every organ system in the body. Additionally, thyroid hormones control metabolism and energy levels.

Hypothyroidism Definition:

Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. Unfortunately, this can cause a variety of health problems.

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

Chronic thyroid inflammation is the main cause of hypothyroidism.

Thyroid inflammation can also be caused by…

  • Surgery
  • Over-reaction to medications
  • Side effects of radiation treatment
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

Yet, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease.

Hashimoto’s Disease: The Most Common Cause of Hypothyroidism

Hashimoto’s disease is 8 times more common in women than in men. It occurs in about 5 out of every 100 people in the United States. (1)

Additionally, it also goes by the names autoimmune thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Actually, you’re more likely to have Hashimoto’s disease if you have at least one of these conditions:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Celiac disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Addison’s disease
  • Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Pernicious anemia

Hashimoto’s disease can only be treated. It cannot be cured.

Reference 1: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease

What Causes Hashimoto’s Disease?

Hashimoto’s disease runs in families. Researchers aren’t sure what causes it, but chronic inflammation is part of the puzzle. Therefore, pregnancy, a high-iodine diet, and smoking tobacco increases the risk.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease

One of the trademark symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease is an enlarged thyroid, called a goiter. A goiter can grow into a tumor-like protrusion, but it usually shrinks and disappears after several years.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

As hypothyroidism gets worse, patients may have these symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Joint/muscle pain
  • Thinning/brittle hair
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Slow heart rate

Just because you have these symptoms doesn’t mean you have hypothyroidism. Get your hormone levels tested if you want to know for sure.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects 1.5 million people in the United States. It’s most common in women ages 30 to 60. Family history is not a factor.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Definition:

RA happens when the immune system attacks the joints.

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Researchers don’t know what causes RA.

RA patients experience chronic inflammation. (2)

Hormone imbalances and environmental factors may be involved.

Chronic joint inflammation can damage cartilage and bone. Obesity increases the risk of RA.

Reference 2: https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/ra/

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Common RA symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

The hands, feet, and wrists are affected the most, but RA can affect any joint.

Symptoms take weeks to develop. Sometimes the pain suddenly gets worse. When the pain suddenly gets worse, it’s called a flare.

3. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) gets worse over time. Moreover, it can reduce life expectancy and cause disability. MS is 2 to 3 times more common in women than in men. Symptoms usually begin between ages 20 and 40.

Multiple Sclerosis Definition:

MS attacks the myelin sheath that protects the nerves. It affects sensation, balance, movement, and vision.

What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?

Researchers still don’t know what causes MS. The disease runs in families, and environmental toxins can trigger the disease.

When MS attacks the nervous system, it stops messages between neurons and muscle fibers.

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

MS symptoms can be unpredictable. Some patients have relapses and remissions.

Here are the most common symptoms of MS:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty moving
  • Muscle spasms
  • Weak muscles
  • Stiff muscles
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Problems with sex
  • Wetting the bed
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bad memory
  • Difficulty problem solving (3)

Reference 3: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms/

4. Celiac Disease

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease can’t eat gluten. When they do, the immune system attacks the small intestine. Roughly 2.5 million undiagnosed Americans have celiac disease.

Celiac Disease Definition:

Celiac disease attacks the small intestine when you eat gluten.

What Causes Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease runs in families. You have a 1 in 10 chance of having celiac disease if a close family (brother, sister, parent) has it. (4)

When you eat gluten, the immune system damages the villi in the small intestine. The villi are small tissues that line the small intestine. Consequently, people with celiac disease have a hard time absorbing nutrients.

Reference 4: https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Symptoms of celiac disease are either “classical” or “non-classical.”

Classical symptoms of celiac disease:

  • Difficult to absorb nutrients
  • Weight loss
  • Children grow slower
  • Smelly poop
  • Diarrhea

Non-classical symptoms of celiac disease:

  • Tired all the time
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Iron deficiency
  • Low folic acid
  • Low vitamin B12
  • High liver enzymes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Skin inflammation
  • Infertility
  • Early menopause
  • Weak tooth enamel

5. Fibromyalgia

It is much more common in women. (5) Actually, fibromyalgia affects between 2-4% of Americans. There is no cure, but many patients improve with exercise and better sleep.

Fibromyalgia Definition:

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body.

Reference 5: https://www.theacpa.org/conditions-treatments/conditions-a-z/fibromyalgia/two-takes-on-fibro/quick-facts-on-fibromyalgia/

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Researchers aren’t sure what causes fibromyalgia, but the nervous system is involved. In most cases, fibromyalgia begins for no obvious reason.

Factors that contribute to fibromyalgia:

  • Low levels of dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline
  • High levels of cortisol
  • Poor sleep
  • Genetics (6)

Viral infections, giving birth, injury, and surgery are possible triggers.

You’re more likely to develop fibromyalgia if you have these conditions:

  • Lupus
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)

Reference 6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK492983/

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are pain, feeling tired all the time, and poor sleep.

Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:

  • Muscle stiffness
  • Brain Fog
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Poor coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Painful periods
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor body temperature regulation

How To Reverse Autoimmune Diseases

There is one major upside to autoimmune diseases: you can reduce symptoms by making healthy choices. Therefore, it’s important to avoid foods and activities that cause inflammation. Eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods and take part in activities that reduce inflammation.

Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Choices

You can improve your symptoms by leading a healthier lifestyle.

1. Get Better Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to reduce inflammation. Unfortunately, most people have poor sleep habits. They never go to bed at the same time, eat too late at night, or watch Netflix before bed.

Here are a few tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

  1. The blue light from electronic screens disturbs melatonin production. Stop using your phone and computer at least two hours before bed.
  2. Don’t eat late at night. Eating too close to bedtime prevents the body from repairing damage while your sleep.
  3. Always go to bed and wake up at the same time. Consistent sleep habits leave you feeling rested.
  4. Take a magnesium supplement before bed. Magnesium is calming and can promote sleep.

2. Exercise

Exercise reduces stress and balances hormones. Just be careful not to over-exercise. Too much exercise can trigger inflammation. Listen to your body and get plenty of rest between workouts.

3. Stop Smoking

Smoking is terrible for inflammation. It’s a common trigger for many autoimmune disorders.

4. Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing reduces inflammation by stimulating the vagus nerve. (7)

The vagus nerve runs from the brain to the belly. Not to mention, it affects several major organs. Deep breathing increases acetylcholine, lowers heart rate, and reduces stress.

High stress hormone levels damage the gut and increase inflammation. Activities that reduce stress are great for reversing autoimmune diseases.

Reference 7: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201607/vagus-nerve-stimulation-dramatically-reduces-inflammation

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Anti-inflammatory foods can help treat autoimmune disorders. Some foods reduce inflammation by healing the gut. Others balance the inflammation response.

Here are some of the best foods for reducing inflammation:

1. Wild-Caught Fish

Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatories. Wild-caught fish like salmon, sardines, halibut, anchovies, and mackerel have the highest concentrations of omega-3s. (8)

Reference 8: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257651/

2. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods contain probiotics. These foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, gherkin pickles, and other fermented vegetables. These help healthy bacteria grow in the gut. A healthy gut protects the blood from inflammation.

3. Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Eating high-fiber foods is good for gut bacteria and bad for inflammation. Just make sure to thoroughly cook cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Eating them raw can cause hypothyroidism.

4. Bone Broth

Bone broth has a lot of collagen. Collagen gives structure to you cells and tissues. Eating bone broth can rapidly repair gut damage.

5. Ginger

Ginger root is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Use ginger as a spice in your next meal or take ginger supplements.

6. Turmeric

Turmeric root is closely related to ginger. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric is a common spice in Indian dishes. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. It is responsible for many of turmeric’s health benefits. Season you food with turmeric or take concentrated curcumin extract.

Take Healing Supplements

Take the following supplements to reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and reverse autoimmune disorders:

1. Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, and holy basil reduce stress hormones. Reducing stress repairs the gut and improves thyroid health.

2. Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids. They have the same anti-inflammatory benefits as wild-caught fish. It’s easy for fish oil to go rancid in manufacturing. Only buy high-quality fish oil.

3. Probiotics

Probiotic supplements contain up to 12 types of healthy bacteria. Fill your belly with healthy bacteria and protect your body from inflammation.

4. Vitamin B12

Take vitamin B12 to balance hormones and strengthen the nervous system. People with Hashimoto’s disease usually have low B12.

5. L-tyrosine

The thyroid uses L-tyrosine to make hormones. Actually, the brain uses it to make dopamine. Take L-tyrosine supplements to boost energy, stabilize mood, and support the thyroid.

6. Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is connected to several autoimmune disorders, including costochondritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Take vitamin D supplements and get in the sun.

Foods to Avoid

Avoiding bad foods may be even more important than eating healthy ones.

The following foods are pro-inflammatory, low in nutrients, and bad for the gut.

  1. Sugar increases bad gut bacteria, food cravings, and hormone imbalances. A high-sugar diet increases the risk of mental health disorders and autoimmune disease
  2. High carbohydrate diets increase inflammation and digestive problems.
  3. Gluten can cause inflammation. Obviously, people with celiac disease can’t eat gluten. This means no bread or pasta.
  4. Caffeine promotes inflammation. Avoid coffee and only drink up to 1-2 cups of green tea a day.
  5. Alcohol is an inflammatory toxin. Avoid it entirely.
  6. Soy slows the thyroid and causes hormone imbalance.

By living healthy, you may be able to reverse autoimmune disorders. At the very least, your symptoms won’t be as bad. So, to get the best treatment for your autoimmune disease, contact us at Complete Care Health Centers and see one of our providers today.