When the Body Attacks Itself - Understanding Autoimmune Disorders

Instead of protecting itself, the body starts destroying its own cells in case of an autoimmune disorder.

Published18 Jun 2019, 07:08 AM IST
Fit
4 min read
Snapshot

When we talk of autoimmune disorders, it simply means that your body is acting against itself. It may or may not have definite triggers. But the main question remains, what can you do to reverse this action of your body against itself? Can they be addressed by altering your diet? Are some people more predisposed to them than others by virtue of their genes?

Let’s begin by first understanding what is an autoimmune disorder.

When the Body Attacks Itself - Understanding Autoimmune Disorders

  1. 1. What is an Autoimmune Disorder?

    Instead of protecting itself, the body starts destroying its own cells in case of an autoimmune disorder.
    Instead of protecting itself, the body starts destroying its own cells in case of an autoimmune disorder.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Dr Alok Kalyani, Consultant, Rheumatology, Max Super Speciality Hospital Shalimar Bagh, defines autoimmune disorder as a situation in which the body’s immune system or defence mechanism is not working properly. Instead of protecting itself from infections or other diseases, the body starts destroying its own cells.

    Dr Gaurav Seth, Associate Consultant, Rheumatology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital Dwarka, emphasises the same, that the condition is characterised by the body mistakenly attacking itself.

    The immune system generally guards against germs and can differentiate between foreign cells and your own cells. But in case of an autoimmune disorder, it mistakes its own cells to be foreign and attacks them.
    Dr Gaurav Seth

    This could result in several things that include joint pain, skin rashes, muscle pain, along with effects on eyes and other organs. Some very commonly occurring autoimmune disorders are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, vitiligo, Type 1 diabetes mellitus.

    Expand
  2. 2. Causes of Autoimmune Disorders

    Exposure to infection, drugs and smoking can all trigger an autoimmune disorder.
    Exposure to infection, drugs and smoking can all trigger an autoimmune disorder.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Autoimmune disorders can range from being mild to life-threatening and can be determined by several factors including age, sex and other illnesses that might already be present, says Dr Kalyani. He further adds:

    “There are many causes for autoimmune diseases. They include genetic factors, stress, viral infections, smoking, but no specific cause has been found or determined. In many autoimmune diseases, genetics are an important causative factor.”

    Dr Seth agrees that though no single cause for the disorder has been determined, factors range from genetics, diet, infection, pollution and even drugs. He further says that most autoimmune diseases are multi-factorial. For instance, exposure to infection, drugs and smoking can precipitate the disease in genetically predisposed individual.

    Expand
  3. 3. Symptoms of an Autoimmune Condition

    Dr Kalyani points out that the symptoms can be varied.
    Dr Kalyani points out that the symptoms can be varied.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Dr Kalyani points out that the symptoms can be varied.

    For instance, in case of soriasis, skin rashes appear. Similarly, rheumatoid arthritis might lead to joint pain and stiffness in the morning. Sometimes, even low grade fever may be the starting of an autoimmune disease.
    Dr Alok Kalyani

    Dr Seth lists the symptoms down in the following manner:

    • Fatigue
    • Joint pain
    • Muscle pain
    • Low grade fever
    • Alopecia
    • Mouth ulcers
    • Skin rashes
    • Decreased urine output
    • Weight loss
    • Redness of eyes
    • Lower back ache
    • Neck pain
    Expand
  4. 4. Role of Diet in Autoimmune Disorders

    Both doctors agree too that a balanced diet can help fight autoimmune disorders.
    Both doctors agree too that a balanced diet can help fight autoimmune disorders.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    According to Amy Meyers, MD, physician and US author who has written extensively on the topic, an auto-immune disorder can be addressed by diet.

    “Fortunately, by removing toxic and inflammatory foods from your diet and adding in nourishing foods that support your health, you can reduce your inflammation and work your way back down the autoimmune spectrum”, says the expert.

    Both doctors agree too that a balanced diet can help fight it. Dr Seth comments on this and says that though diet cannot reverse an autoimmune disorder, it can control it.

    Autoimmune diseases cannot be prevented, but consuming a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, omega-3 fatty acids, and limiting alcohol, smoking, salt and sugar may lower the risk of getting autoimmune diseases, or controlling it if it has occurred.
    Dr Gaurav Seth
    Expand
  5. 5. But How Bad Can an Autoimmune Condition Truly Get?

    Symptoms of arthritis may vary according to the type of arthritis.
    Symptoms of arthritis may vary according to the type of arthritis.
    (Photo: iStockphoto)

    Dr Seth cites examples to explain how severe the consequences of an autoimmune condition can be.

    If autoimmune diseases are not properly recognised or treated, they can damage your whole body or different organs. Like in rheumatoid arthritis, joints of hands and feet can be badly affected interfering with your daily routine activities. Similarly, in lupus, skin, joints and kidneys can be involved leading to disfigurement of the skin, lesions and even kidney failure.
    Dr Gaurav Seth

    Consequently, as mentioned previously, it can also be life-threatening in some cases.

    Autoimmune diseases can be life threatening and any body part can be involved, be it skin, brain, eyes, lungs, kidney, intestine depending on the autoimmune disease the patient is suffering from. It can lead to failure of these organs if the disease is not properly recognised and treated. Patients are also at a high risk of developing  infections, certain kinds of blood cancer and even heart failure due to blockage of heart vessels if the disease is not properly managed.
    Dr Gaurav Seth

    (This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

    (The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

    We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

    Expand

What is an Autoimmune Disorder?

Instead of protecting itself, the body starts destroying its own cells in case of an autoimmune disorder.
Instead of protecting itself, the body starts destroying its own cells in case of an autoimmune disorder.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Dr Alok Kalyani, Consultant, Rheumatology, Max Super Speciality Hospital Shalimar Bagh, defines autoimmune disorder as a situation in which the body’s immune system or defence mechanism is not working properly. Instead of protecting itself from infections or other diseases, the body starts destroying its own cells.

Dr Gaurav Seth, Associate Consultant, Rheumatology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital Dwarka, emphasises the same, that the condition is characterised by the body mistakenly attacking itself.

The immune system generally guards against germs and can differentiate between foreign cells and your own cells. But in case of an autoimmune disorder, it mistakes its own cells to be foreign and attacks them.
Dr Gaurav Seth

This could result in several things that include joint pain, skin rashes, muscle pain, along with effects on eyes and other organs. Some very commonly occurring autoimmune disorders are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, vitiligo, Type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Causes of Autoimmune Disorders

Exposure to infection, drugs and smoking can all trigger an autoimmune disorder.
Exposure to infection, drugs and smoking can all trigger an autoimmune disorder.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Autoimmune disorders can range from being mild to life-threatening and can be determined by several factors including age, sex and other illnesses that might already be present, says Dr Kalyani. He further adds:

“There are many causes for autoimmune diseases. They include genetic factors, stress, viral infections, smoking, but no specific cause has been found or determined. In many autoimmune diseases, genetics are an important causative factor.”

Dr Seth agrees that though no single cause for the disorder has been determined, factors range from genetics, diet, infection, pollution and even drugs. He further says that most autoimmune diseases are multi-factorial. For instance, exposure to infection, drugs and smoking can precipitate the disease in genetically predisposed individual.

Symptoms of an Autoimmune Condition

Dr Kalyani points out that the symptoms can be varied.
Dr Kalyani points out that the symptoms can be varied.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Dr Kalyani points out that the symptoms can be varied.

For instance, in case of soriasis, skin rashes appear. Similarly, rheumatoid arthritis might lead to joint pain and stiffness in the morning. Sometimes, even low grade fever may be the starting of an autoimmune disease.
Dr Alok Kalyani

Dr Seth lists the symptoms down in the following manner:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Low grade fever
  • Alopecia
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Skin rashes
  • Decreased urine output
  • Weight loss
  • Redness of eyes
  • Lower back ache
  • Neck pain

Role of Diet in Autoimmune Disorders

Both doctors agree too that a balanced diet can help fight autoimmune disorders.
Both doctors agree too that a balanced diet can help fight autoimmune disorders.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

According to Amy Meyers, MD, physician and US author who has written extensively on the topic, an auto-immune disorder can be addressed by diet.

“Fortunately, by removing toxic and inflammatory foods from your diet and adding in nourishing foods that support your health, you can reduce your inflammation and work your way back down the autoimmune spectrum”, says the expert.

Both doctors agree too that a balanced diet can help fight it. Dr Seth comments on this and says that though diet cannot reverse an autoimmune disorder, it can control it.

Autoimmune diseases cannot be prevented, but consuming a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, omega-3 fatty acids, and limiting alcohol, smoking, salt and sugar may lower the risk of getting autoimmune diseases, or controlling it if it has occurred.
Dr Gaurav Seth

But How Bad Can an Autoimmune Condition Truly Get?

Symptoms of arthritis may vary according to the type of arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis may vary according to the type of arthritis.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Dr Seth cites examples to explain how severe the consequences of an autoimmune condition can be.

If autoimmune diseases are not properly recognised or treated, they can damage your whole body or different organs. Like in rheumatoid arthritis, joints of hands and feet can be badly affected interfering with your daily routine activities. Similarly, in lupus, skin, joints and kidneys can be involved leading to disfigurement of the skin, lesions and even kidney failure.
Dr Gaurav Seth

Consequently, as mentioned previously, it can also be life-threatening in some cases.

Autoimmune diseases can be life threatening and any body part can be involved, be it skin, brain, eyes, lungs, kidney, intestine depending on the autoimmune disease the patient is suffering from. It can lead to failure of these organs if the disease is not properly recognised and treated. Patients are also at a high risk of developing  infections, certain kinds of blood cancer and even heart failure due to blockage of heart vessels if the disease is not properly managed.
Dr Gaurav Seth

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

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