Recent studies show that autoimmune diseases are rising in the United States. So first, we need to answer the questions: what is an autoimmune disease, why are these conditions on the rise, and what can we do to prevent or manage them?

An important immune system function is responding to invading microorganisms (viruses, bacteria) by producing antibodies. This is how the immune system protects the body. Under normal conditions, the immune system would not trigger an attack against your cells. However, the immune system sometimes makes mistakes and invades the cells they are meant to protect. This leads to “autoimmune” diseases, which include more than 100 different conditions in which a person’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. Here are some examples of autoimmune diseases:

  • Alopecia areata
  • Asthma/allergies
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Dermatitis herpatiformis
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Food sensitivities & allergies
  • Grave’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Lupus
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Vasculitis

The breakdown or failure of immune tolerance can be a consequence of an unfavorable lifestyle and result in autoimmune conditions and reactions to food. According to recent research, autoimmunity is on the rise. Here are some possible reasons why.

The Hygiene Hypothesis

This theory suggests that a lack of immune system stimulation in childhood results in health problems such as allergies and asthma. If the environment is “too clean,” the immune system may not mature properly or react appropriately when the child’s immune system encounters germs or other environmental substances (pollen, animal dander) later in life. For example, growing up on a farm with exposure to farm microorganisms can protect such individuals from allergies, hay fever, and asthma. The hygiene hypothesis suggests that children may be “too protected” from other children and the environment (indoor and outdoor). When this happens, they do not develop a regular immune system, leading to autoimmune disease. Be careful about excessively sanitized environments.

Gut Microbiota Imbalance

The Standard American Diet (SAD) has altered the gut microbiome, communities of beneficial bacteria that support immune health. These diet-induced changes are now suspected to contribute to growing epidemics of chronic illness, including obesity and autoimmunity. Environmental triggers such as viral infections that alter the microbiome may also play a role in autoimmunity. Reducing processed foods high in fat, salt, and food additives may be a good start to balancing the gut microbiota.

Chemical Residues in Food

When insecticides on plants, fruits, and vegetables get into our bodies, they bind with proteins in a process called “haptenation.” When haptens, such as pesticides, are bound in human tissue, it can trigger the immune system to attack those tissue-bound chemicals and set the stage for autoimmunity.

Genetically Modified Foods

Most genetically modified (GM) crops have genes inserted into their DNA, which can add toxins and allergens to food. For example, most GM corn produces a toxin linked with allergies and gut damage, leading to immune dysfunction. The most common GM crops include soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa. These crops, used as food for humans and animals, also contain high glyphosate residues (weed killer). Glyphosate is classified as a “probably human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization and can also lead to an autoimmune disease.

Other Reasons for Increasing Autoimmune Disease

Other reasons for the increase in autoimmunity include food hybridization (wheat), food additives and colorants, processed salt, emulsifiers, solvents, sugars, and food glue. What is food glue? It’s a substance called microbial transglutaminase used in various food products to hold pieces of food together and improve appearance. When used to glue pieces of meat together, it is called “meat glue.” If a person has intestinal permeability (leaky gut), this substance can create an immune response and produce antibodies. These antibodies can react with human transglutaminases that play a role in some autoimmune diseases.

To prevent and improve autoimmune diseases, Sanoviv recommends a whole-food diet that eliminates common immune triggers: gluten, dairy, sugar, and GM foods (foods that cause gut inflammation). Eating organic is essential to avoid chemical residues on fruits and vegetables. Changing your diet and exercising can improve the gut microbiome and help manage symptoms.

Sanoviv Treats Autoimmune Disease

Sanoviv provides an ideal environment and educational opportunity to help prevent and manage autoimmune conditions. The treatment you receive at Sanoviv depends on your autoimmune condition; we offer many different immune-modulating therapies. Contact the Sanoviv Admissions Department to learn how we might treat your specific condition.