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Why Are There So Many Autoimmune Diseases?

From the Show: Mindful Medicine
Summary: Did you know there are over 80 illnesses that are caused by autoimmunity?
Air Date: 4/1/15
Duration: 10
Host: Holly Lucille, ND, RN
Guest Bio: Jacob Teitelbaum, MD
Jacob Teitelbaum head shotJacob Teitelbaum, MD, is Director of the Fatigue & Fibromyalgia Practitioners Network and author of the best-selling book, From Fatigued to Fantastic! He is also the creator of the popular free iPhone & Android application "Cures A-Z."

He is the lead author of four studies on effective treatment for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and a study on effective treatment of autism using NAET.

Dr. Teitelbaum does frequent media appearances including Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News Channel, the Dr. Oz Show and Oprah & Friends. He lives in Kona, Hawaii.
Why Are There So Many Autoimmune Diseases?
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According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 23.5 million Americans suffer from a lifelong autoimmune disease. There has been a recent spike in autoimmune disease occurrence, and today it feels like practically every child is allergic to something.

What exactly is causing this?

Autoimmune Diseases on the Rise

An autoimmune disease is one where your body’s natural defenses turn against you. There are approximately 80 illnesses that are caused by autoimmunity, including allergies, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and adrenal fatigue.

Autoimmune diseases were once less common; but, it’s no coincidence that occurrences have increased as infectious disease levels have dropped. As vaccines, antibiotics, improved hygiene and heavy use of hand sanitizers all came into play, your body is able to experience fewer infections. These infections, while harmful to your health, were once used to build up your immune system.

Researchers believe it’s this drop in infections that’s caused the human body to see an increase in the risk of allergies and autoimmune disease.

The Gut Connection

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, believes it all starts in the gut. If you don’t digest food completely due to fewer enzymes and stomach acids, you won’t break food down completely. Things like leaky gut and other infections can cause more problems, and excess food can end up getting absorbed into the bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream, your immune system now has to work on destroying the remainder of your burger, which is a “massive amount of work,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. Add to that the 85,000 chemicals in the environment that humans have never been exposed to before, and the whole thing can be overwhelming to your immune system.

It’s this “perfect storm” of factors that may be causing your immune system to be confused, not knowing whether it is encountering friend or foe. The resulting complications and diseases likely need strong medications that may leave behind negative side effects. Pain medication can be an additional component that can be hard to avoid.

Naturally Treat Autoimmune Symptoms

Dr. Teitelbaum is an advocate for natural treatments that may help prevent or treat autoimmune illnesses. For example, dry eye and mouth may be treated with omega-7 oils, which have been shown to improve tear and saliva production if used a few times a day for at least two months. It’s not just your eyes or mouth that will moisten, either. Your skin will regain elasticity, your fine wrinkles will decrease, and even production of vaginal fluids can improve.

If problems arise in your gut, take a good digestive enzyme instead of acid blockers to help heal digestion. Surprisingly, apple cider vinegar also makes a great digestive solution.

If your family has a history of autoimmune disease, you are also more likely to develop one at some point in your life. This should be an indicator that a closer eye on your immune system is needed, and switching to a healthier, more natural lifestyle may help decrease the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

In the accompanying audio segment, Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, joins Dr. Holly to discuss why you're seeing such a huge increase in autoimmune diseases.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.