The incidence of autoimmune disease has skyrocketed over the past few decades. More than 700 million people around the world are now estimated to be affected, and sadly, conventional treatment has little to offer in most cases.
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body essentially attacks itself and the immune system stays on high alert, resulting in chronic inflammation. It is one of the top ten causes of death in women and the elderly, and now affects one in ten people worldwide.
Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, over a hundred distinct autoimmune diseases have been identified that affect almost every organ system and tissue in the body. Another forty diseases are suspected of being autoimmune related.
Unfortunately, there’s no sign of this trend slowing down with the prevalence of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis increasing at an alarming rate. In just eight years, from 2001–2009, the incidence of type 1 diabetes increased by 23 percent!
This dramatic rise in autoimmune disease over the past fifty years, suggests that both environmental factors and genetics are at play. We think of this as the genetics setting the stage for autoimmunity and environmental factors activating autoimmunity. This suggests that environmental factors are the critical triggering factor that sets off the autoimmune response.
Some of these key environmental factors include:
- Diet – The modern, western diet or Standard American Diet (SAD) is low in nutrient dense foods like vegetables and fruits, and high in sugars, salt, and high-calorie processed foods.
- Infections – Viruses, parasites and other infections, along with the use of antibiotics and other drugs to address these infections affect the gut microbiota. All of this disturbs the balance of bacteria in our gut and profoundly affects our immune system. There is typically some kind of infection at the root of most autoimmune disease.
- Environment toxins – pesticides, herbicides, exposure to chemicals, drugs, molds and other toxins can initiate autoimmunity by altering the expression of immune system genes or disrupting other immune system functions.
- Stress – A BIG contributor. Stress may trigger autoimmunity by altering the gut microbiota and by dysregulating the body’s primary stress-response system that also influences immune function.
- Lack of sleep – Chronic insomnia and sleep apnea are both associated with significantly increased risks of autoimmune disease. Similarly, a disruption in circadian rhythms, such as shift work, or frequent international travel has been associated with increased autoimmune disease.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help
There are a number of ways that we work with our patients to help with autoimmune disease. Some of these include:
- Diet Therapy is key in addressing autoimmune issues. We want to remove foods that may trigger or exacerbate an immune response , and increase intake of nutrients that promote optimal immune function. Finally, we will increase intake of foods that support a healthy gut microbiota. We can help determine the best approach for your condition.
- Acupuncture works by calming the body’s immune system and reversing the body’s sensitivity to the “trigger.” Acupuncture can reverse or stabilizes the progression of autoimmune disease for the majority of patients. Acupuncture is used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while specifically addressing the symptoms that are unique to each individual.
- Lifestyle modification is also crucial for people with autoimmune disease. This includes exercise (the right kinds, and the right amount), sun exposure, stress management, sleep, and pleasure and social connection.
We will develop a treatment program specifically for you to manage your autoimmune disorder. This may involve a combination of therapies including acupuncture, stress-reducing exercises, moderate physical activity, herbal medicine, and nutritional support.
We are here to support you in your journey toward improved health. If you’d like more information or would like to schedule a consultation to understand how we can help, give us a call.