By Dr. Chad Larson
Nearly 10 million people in the U.S. have some type of autoimmune disease. That’s about 3 percent of the population. In comparison, cancer affects about 4 percent of the population. While it’s common knowledge that regular cancer screenings are recommended, people rarely screen in advance for autoimmune disease or autoimmune triggers. Why is that? It affects almost the same percentage of the population, but preventative screenings for autoimmune disease are far less common. With a simple test and some lifestyle changes, we might be able to naturally prevent autoimmune disease triggers, thereby reducing the number of people plagued by autoimmune disease.
Early detection is possible
The good news is that it’s possible to detect the signs of certain autoimmune diseases developing in the body before the onset of symptoms. Autoantibodies give us clues. Autoantibodies are antibodies that the immune system makes that attack the patient’s own proteins, causing the autoimmune disease. One study found that predictive autoantibodies can be used as early indicators of future disease. Another study showed that autoantibodies were present up to nine years before the patient noticed symptoms. Additionally, Aristo Vojdani, PhD, notes, “Autoimmune diseases arise when an environmental insult superimposed on genetic susceptibility disrupts normal immune regulation.” All of this means that, in some cases, we will be able to detect the presence of triggers with the presence of autoantibodies or environmental factors far in advance of an autoimmune disease taking hold. We also will be able to naturally decrease risks and reduce the level of autoantibodies.
What can trigger autoimmune disease?
Many things can trigger autoimmune disease. Some triggers can be identified and then steps can be taken to naturally prevent the autoimmune disease from persisting. Sometimes the presence of one autoimmune disease can even lead to the development of another, so it’s vital that we take a look at our patient’s health as a whole to properly diagnose and develop a prevention plan. Autoimmune disease triggers to keep an eye out for include:
Leaky gut – The digestive system is crucial to a person’s health and well-being. Leaky gut occurs when bacteria and other toxins are able to seep through the intestinal wall into the rest of the body. This is also referred to as increased intestinal permeability. While much about leaky gut is still unknown, it’s recognized that a healthful diet, reduction of stress and working toward good gut health in general can minimize the occurrence.
Dietary proteins – Again, diet plays a huge role in our autoimmune health. Diets that are low in protein but high in processed fats and sugar can lead to a dysregulated immune response, thereby allowing some autoimmune diseases to develop. Abnormal reactions to foods – AKA food sensitivities – can also be immune triggers, raising the potential for autoimmune development. Well known examples include the connection between gluten and Celiac disease and dairy and Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes. By identifying this situation early, we can alter a patient’s diet, lowering the likelihood that an autoimmune disease will be able to persist.
Chemicals – Exposure to harmful chemicals has become part of everyday life. These synthetic chemicals can lead to a slew of health problems including disruption of the endocrine system, which may lead to weight gain, obesity and hinder the body’s natural immune response. There are approximately 10 million new chemicals released each year, which is more than 1,000 per hour. Identifying and removing reactive chemicals in a patient’s environment that can disrupt their immune response is a simple and natural way to prevent autoantibodies from developing.
Pathogens – Some autoimmune diseases are caused by pathogens (like viruses, bacteria, and mold) that enter the body. While not everyone that becomes infected with a specific pathogen develops a corresponding autoimmune disease, it’s important to note that it can happen. Staying healthy and reducing risk of certain virus exposure and infection can help patients naturally avoid the development of an autoimmune disease.
Naturally prevent autoimmune triggers
Taking a deep dive into a patient’s autoimmune health can provide helpful insights. Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, has developed a test panel called the Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen™. This test measures predictive autoantibodies, some of which can appear up to 10 years before clinical symptoms. It will efficiently and economically assess possible tissue damage to multiple organs of the body to help physicians diagnose autoimmune disorder as it develops. With this screen as a base, it’s possible that we may be able to reduce the percentage of people affected by autoimmune disease with a simple blood test. We can help our patients identify indicators of future disease and naturally remove triggers before they become symptomatic.
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.
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