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Seeking 01-07-2013 07:04 PM

What causes autoimmune disorders?
I have been googling and googling and googling and I cannot find a real, solid, scientific answer. A pubmed search for "causes of autoimmune disease" yields too many results (200,000+) and I'm not sure how to narrow that down to under 100.

Typical answers include:
- Gluten (no real proof)
- Heavy metal toxicity (come on, how many people have high levels of heavy metals in their blood stream?)
- Genetics (lol; everyone loves to blame genetics. All this means is that someone is PREDISPOSED to get one, not that they are born with mutated genes that are going to GIVE THEM the disease. Getting a disease means you are pre-disposed to an environmental trigger, and when you encounter that trigger, then boom, you get the disease).

We are all GENETICALLY PRE-DISPOSED to get AIDS. If we get stuck with a dirty needle that was previously used by someone with AIDS, guess what will happen!!!!!!!!!!!

And the last factor that people blame autoimmune disease on: environment. Ok, great, but what aspect of the environment? Can we narrow this down? For some it may be gluten (but again, need proof/evidence). Heavy metal toxicity, sure that is an environmental factor, but again, not that many of us are gonna be exposed.

So, what specific aspect(s) of the environment is/are giving increasing numbers of people autoimmune disease?

And why can't I find a clear, fact-based answer in a google search?

I have a huge stake in finding out the answer. My sister has Celiac Disease, autism, schizophrenia, and depression. Probably more. My mom has Type 2 diabetes (which may end up being shown to be an autoimmune disease), and I have struggled for many years with depression and chronic fatigue. Perhaps I have an autoimmune disease too.

So frustrated!

joyfulgirl 01-08-2013 07:56 AM

hi--I've got Hashimoto's (autoimmune, attacks thyroid) and from the things I've read, there isn't really a definite answer. from my reading and research, it seems like many people have pointed to "gut health" as a contributing factor. basically, our diet (processed, sugars, alcohol, ibuprofen) wrecks our gut lining, and that allows tiny particles to pass through into our bloodstream and body. these are perceived as "foreign", setting of an immune response. you can read about this by researching the GAPS (gut and psychological health) diet. i followed this diet for a few months last year, after cutting gluten out completely 6 months earlier, and noticed a big improvement in my labs. the thing is, i also started other medications at the same time, so i'm not sure how much the improvement was due to the diet, and how much to medication. but since, i've stopped the diet and my labs have declined greatly. so i'm inclined to believe that healing the gut lining is a key step in reducing autoimmune responses.

ouizoid 01-08-2013 09:12 AM

I think for women, hormonal surges associated with menarche, pregnancy, or menopause can often trigger autoimmune issues. The big influx of hormones seems to confuse the immune system, and in the case of pregnancy, the circulating fetal cells trigger the "kill the invader" response of the immune system. This is why women have so many more immune issues than men. Add to that environmental toxins, etc and you have a powderkeg situation.

ravenrose 01-08-2013 12:17 PM

a lot of it is just that these things are being diagnosed now. not necessarily more than before, you know?

I think it's environmental toxins overall. Plastic especially, which touches nearly all our food at some point and leaches into it. Soy is also an issue.

Erin57 01-08-2013 12:46 PM

Seeker- You picked the perfect screen name! I have been wanting this book but am too cheap to pay the price right now and too lazy to go to the library.

"autoimmune the cause and the cure"

You can read the reviews on Amazon and there are some links to various sites where people are discussing this book. I get little bits and pieces from different sites that get me going to another site. Often, you donít need to purchase the book. You can find blogs by the authors online.

I watched Dr. Terry Wahls video on Youtube and it got me thinking about the word Mitochondria. This lead to research on Glutathione, then, Methylation and Homcysteine. Very interesting stuff to me but probably *yawn* for others.

Be careful! This kind of stuff will turn you into a total Geek like me!

Google search Sulphur and Mercury. The Tuberose site has some meaty stuff on this.

Friend a few Paleo people on your Facebook page. They tend to stick together so youíll get a lot of people who friend you there. I get many good links and food for thought from them. Dr. Terry L Wahls sends good links pretty often.

Mistizoom 01-08-2013 10:39 PM

One hypothesis is the "hygiene hypothesis" where because we are "too clean", don't have enough exposure to pathogens, parasites, etc. the immune system starts attacking its own body. Some people have been cured of Crohn's disease (or at least freed from its symptoms) by being infected with hook worms (called helminthic therapy). Also, I think another issue is that certain infections, such as Lyme and other tick-borne infections, are completely under- or mis-diagnosed. When someone has a cluster of ailments such as the OP described it would probably be good to be tested. However it is very hard to find a reputable doctor who is knowledgeable about Lyme. It is really a misunderstood disease.

E.W. 01-09-2013 05:32 AM

Another hypothisis is that there is a type of intestinal bacteria that lives almost exclusively on glutin. When we eat glutin it goes hog wild and the body produses
antibodies to kill it. The problem is that to these antibodies our cartlage ofton looks
a lot like this paticular bacteria. sort of a case of mistaken idenity. There is a discusion
of this somewhere on this blog , not on this page just some where on his blog.


joyfulgirl 01-09-2013 08:25 AM

On the "hygiene hypothesis," I read a really good book--called "The Wild Life of Our Bodies" by Rob Dunn. Really accessible, and explains how hookworms and other parasites can calm down autoimmune responses.

Erin57--thanks for the tips. i am taking glutathione myself, and will look into the other things you mention.

realtor 01-10-2013 02:37 PM

I swear for me it was stress. My sister has Crohns but I didn't have anything until I suffered some hugelosses in my life. I was extremely stressed for about 1.5 years (and beyond because it resulted in 2 deaths) and went from never sick/healthy as a horse to 4 auto-immune diseases.

Lokarbiebarbie 01-11-2013 08:53 AM

After all these years the answer for me, after tons of specialists, hospitals, researchers, the answer is 'genetic, for sure, but 'we don't know' and 'there are lots of 'triggers'.

Triggers for sure...and especially if you are predisposed genetically. I have five autoimmune diseases, one of which is quite rare, but is all through my family line.

Yes to hormonal stressors, and yes to GMO grains/soy, wheat, etc.

Many with thyroid peroxidase antibodies never do need any type of replacement thyroid hormone...but over and over those in stressful positions and in life all of a sudden react with all the symptoms, the thyroid starts being attacked, etc.

My question is: Where's the cure for autoimmune diseases?

dawnyama 01-11-2013 06:42 PM

My daughter was diagnosed at the age of 10 with type 1 diabetes (almost 2 years ago, she is almost 12 now). It was not on our radar as no one in our family on either side has this. When she was in the hospital they did lots of testing and came up with another autoimmune issue. I didn't know that type 1 diabetes was an auto immune disease, but now I know!! She was showing to have the Hashimoto's thyroiditis antibodies. So having those 2 auto-immune issues already she started have skin issues. She now has vitiligo as well as acid reflux. So now we are on 3 auto immune issues and I was convinced the acid reflux is not ar but celiac. So she has had complications since being diagnosed with the one auto immune issues. Anyway, when she was in the hospital they asked all sorts of questions......what was her diet like, was she on formula as a baby--what kind of formula? Those sorts of things. The nutritionist told me they are trying to find a link from an increase in type 1 diabetes among kids. She was thinking it may have to do with things like soy (hence the formula type question), high fructose syrup things like that. We didn't connect any dots, but do know that once she was diagnosed with one she came down with a whole lot more.

In reading Wheat Belly, you think it IS wheat! In reading other books, they make it convincing that there is another cause. It is confusing, but it would be nice to know a definitive answer. I have other kids that I don't want to see riddled with half of what my DD has been through.

I belong to a support group for those with diabetes and we meet every other month. One mom was saying that she understood that there was some talk some time ago that what "caused" her daughters' diabetes was this...the family was at the beach. Her daughter was a tiny tot at the time and got into a patch of mushrooms and before the mom could stop her, the tot had a handful of wild mushrooms in her mouth and was chewing them. I don't remember if her mom thought to get her to the hospital. But think that that event is what "triggered" something in her body to make the pancreas shut down. I do know they were thinking/asking questions of my DD if she had any illnesses that could have triggered this. She had mono as a child, but it was nearly 2 years earlier. So I am thinking that for some a "virus" can trigger this too.

If anyone finds an answer I would hope they can pass it along. My bias in reading "Wheat Belly" is that it is the wheat.

Seeking 01-13-2013 03:51 PM

I have been re-reading some publications by Dr. Alessio Fassano about zonulin, and he seems to be saying that it is the over-production of zonulin that leads to autoimmune diseases (so more diseases than just celiac).

Zonulin overproduction in celiacs is triggered by gluten, but zonulin production can be triggered by many things--specifically things that the body identifies as an antigen.

I'm not 100% clear on everything I've read, but it appears (and I could be wrong) that everyone's bodies (not just celiac) identify gliadin protein as an antigen...can anyone confirm this?

I have also read some things about the book Wheat Belly that seem to say that the modern wheat we eat today has much more of a certain type of gliadin called glia-alpha9, which our bodies are more sensitive to.

So it could be that this glia-alpha9 is mostly what is being identified by the body as an antigen, which is causing overproduction of zonulin, which is then opening the tight junctions in the epithelial walls, which is letting macromolecules through, which is leading to inflammation, which causes autoimmune disease.

I need feedback on this...lol...

MauraV 01-13-2013 08:06 PM

The reason you can't get a definitive answer is because no one KNOWS the answer. There are a lot of theories, though.

I had no symptoms until I got bitten by one of my cats that turned into a huge infection. I was on antibiotics for a month for that and shortly afterward started having issues that ended up being diagnosed as celiac disease. Since then I've been diagnosed with rosacea and psoriasis.

The infection was probably a trigger but the root cause is unknown.

Seeking 01-14-2013 09:07 AM


Originally Posted by MauraV (Post 16193515)
The reason you can't get a definitive answer is because no one KNOWS the answer. There are a lot of theories, though.

I had no symptoms until I got bitten by one of my cats that turned into a huge infection. I was on antibiotics for a month for that and shortly afterward started having issues that ended up being diagnosed as celiac disease. Since then I've been diagnosed with rosacea and psoriasis.

The infection was probably a trigger but the root cause is unknown.

Did you take probiotics along with and/or after your antibiotics?

Mazella09 01-14-2013 09:23 AM

It is always the theories ;). Our foods suck. Plain and simple. Soy is fine as long as it isn't modified. But the ONLY type that is GOOD is the FERMENTED type.
Canola oil is modified and over processed. CORN is MODIFIED and PROCESSED and why would anyone consume cattle feed in any form, be it starch, syrup or on an ear? Really? They feed piggies, cows and chickens with this frankenfeed. Don't trust it yet. There have been NO HUMAN TESTING done with modified. We know synthetics are in our foods - why eat them as well???

My daughter IS hashimoto's hypothyroid. Had left lobe removed at 19 - was given synthroid only and begun her decent into poor health quickly. Weight gain was immediate. Skin issues. Joint problems. Brain--memory failing. Exhaustion. Possible diabetes. Put on Metformin.

NOTHING WAS DONE TO HELP HER. She went on for three years in this state and her husband files for divorce due to her weight issue.

So, each and every time she saw her doctor she was handed some prescription. Anti-biotics for the maybe virus. Anti-depressants for the tiredness. Steroids for the joint pain. And on and on and on. She even had MONO that was NOT tested and NEVER treated while given the vaccine GARDASIL that her DOCTOR INSISTED since her husband filed for separation. The young woman's health was failing. She was back home within the year after school and I found a doc.

He found her numbers to be way off. Her old doc just changed the synthroid: up and down. Up and down to stall for the next blood test. This doc gave her cytomel and BOOM - a change in her! A good one!

Then he found her to have some sensitivities to some foods: CORN, SOY (wonder why) GLUTEN, CASEIN and we removed them. Then she felt even BETTER.

Gave her some helpful supplements for the EpsteinBarr virus they found somehow related to the mono she had? Which helped. Also she was found to have PCOS and he treated her. CHANGED HER DIET ALOT!

Now, he has her on Nystatin and she says she feels GREAT. No joint pain. No constipation (10 days of no bm). NO PMS. NO gut issues. She has ENERGY.

Next she wants him to check out her adrenal glands - just to be sure.

We are on a gluten-grain free, organic diet together and have begun working out. We supplement with 50mg IODINE(iodoral) and magnesium, selenium, coQ10, Vit C, vitamin b complex, Vit B12, Vit D3 and K2. Our sweetener is organic stevia made from the leaf only. We would use xylitol but we have three dogs in the house and it is poisonous to them so we don't use that one. PROBIOTICS. Three on empty stomach 3 times a day. COCONUT oil!! Olive Oil Flax seed/chia seed. Hemp oil butter. Goat cheese. Kefir. Fermented foods (bubbies is great!!) Greens -- chlorophyll/spirulina. Wheat grass shots in our juices.

We use raw organic local honey in tea sometimes. Our teas/coffees are ORGANIC, shade grown and Fair Trade. Or we drink filtered water with a bit of org lemon *but be sure to brush off acid from teeth. :)

I feel pretty darn good. She is a testament to what diet changes and supplementation can do for someone under diagnosed and over prescribed. She was failing before the new doc and new diet.

Good luck and good health to all. :)

dawnyama 01-14-2013 10:51 AM

mazella--that is very unfair of her husband to treat your DD like that. So sorry she had to go through that. What a great mom you are to take of her like that. We would do anything for our babies, huh? I love my DD and would move heaven and earth to get the help she needed. She has the help (insulin for her type 1 diabetes) but there are certain things I just cannot get her to do LOL. She is in love with some foods and unwilling to give them up, so I try baby steps with her. She is only 11 years old and very much like her mom!!

Oh, and my son was just diagnosed with mono and the docs say "we don't treat mono" just the symptoms. So there is nothing to be done for mono. It is a virus that has to run its course is the answer I get when my kids get it. I have 4 children and so far the 3 eldest have had it in some form or another.

MauraV 01-15-2013 12:45 AM


Originally Posted by Seeking (Post 16194397)
Did you take probiotics along with and/or after your antibiotics?

Yep. It was absolutely raging, though. It may have overstimulated my entire immune system. At least that's (a) theory.

Yennie 01-19-2013 02:27 PM

I used to work in Type 1 Diabetes research, and as one of the PP said - the reason there is no answer is because there is no answer. Added to that, not every AI disease is created equal. T1D is a cell based disease (where T-cells attack the insulin producing cells of the Pancreas). We know this as fact, the question is WHY. Don't know. Then there are other diseases, like Graves and Lupus that are antibody based diseases. The pathways that trigger cell attacks and antibody attacks are different. So unless you are willing to undergo generalized immunosuppression (think a transplant regimen) then each specific disease will require specific research and treatment. Added to that, sometimes it's too late because, in the case of T1D, most of the pancreas' insulin producing cells (called "islets") are destroyed by the time the patient becomes symptomatic. So even if you get the immune response under control, the islets are mostly gone and the patient still needs to take exogenous insulin.
The immune response is a tricky thing, and there are many, many redundant pathways. You block one, thinking it will work, and another one steps up. You may dampen the response, but not block it completely. And since, as scientists, they're only going to try one pathway at a time, it takes a long time to get answers. Finally, most AI diseases are studied in mice. Not an ideal model for humans. In my field, we used to joke that we've cured T1D 10,000 times over in mice - but not in humans. Some of the things that work for the mice just plain don't in humans. Some of the things that work in mice have killed humans.
The immune system is a tricky, sensitive thing. Progress is being made, but it's slow.
As for the genetics, we know that there are some diseases that include a genetic predisposition (the most talked about one is breast cancer). However, only something like 5-10% (not positive on this number) of new cases are in women with a family history. A specific gene or multiple combinations of genes may *predispose* an individual to cancer but we know environmental factors play a role as well. The trick is to identify what those environmental factors will be for each individual.
The thing to keep in mind is that each individual (unless you're an identical twin) has a unique genetic make up. So what's good or bad for me is not necessarily good or bad for you. People tend to do the "this is bad for me therefore it should be bad for everyone" thing and that's just not the case. The point being that you need to do what you feel is healthy and works for you, and take advice from others with a grain of salt.
As some of the PPs said, gut health is a huge area of exploration for AI disease. As is the "Hygiene hypothesis" although that's discussed more regarding allergies than AI disease.
Finally, by way of an example, this is how I've explained the correlation between genes and environment causing disease in the past to my students:

Let's say that in order to have symptoms of Disease X you must have 5 specific gene mutations.

Bob is born with 3 of the 5 genes already mutated because his parents carried copies of the mutated genes.

Alice is born with 1 of the 5 genes already mutated.

If Bob chooses to live a healthy life - good diet & exercise, no smoking, etc. the chances of those last 2 genes mutating and him developing Disease X are low.

If Alice chooses to live an unhealthy life - poor diet choices, smoking, drinking, etc then the chances of her 4 "normal" genes converting to the "bad" copies are high.

So even though Bob was maybe born more genetically predisposed to developing Disease X, his lifestyle choices reduced his chances of getting the disease.

Whereas Alice was born with a low genetic probability of getting Disease X, but her lifestyle choices dramatically increased her chances of developing the disease.

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