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A Natural Perspective on Autoimmune Disorders

By Michelle Newport Published 11/5/2006 | Alternative Medicine

Autoimmunity involves the immune system failing to recognize the body's cells and tissues as being a part of the body, which results in the immune system attacking those cells and tissues. Any disease resulting from autoimmunity is called an auto-immune disorder.

There are over 60 known disorders thought to be related to autoimmunity. Below is a summarized list of conditions related to autoimmune disorders :

Alopecia Areata An autoimmune disorder that is characterized by hair loss. It is found commonly in men and women and can occur at any age, including childhood.

Alzheimer's Disease Characterized as a progressive brain disorder, which involves a decline in social and intellectual abilities. Alzheimer's Disease is thought to be associated with free radical damage in the brain and inorganic aluminum.

Celiac Disease A chronic inflammation of the colon that creates an intestinal breakdown due to an allergic reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, oat and rye.

Crohn's Disease A chronic inflammatory bowel disease, which is characterized by severe inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This disorder is typically seen in persons between the ages of 15 and 35, but can also be found in young children and the elderly as well.

Fibromyalgia This disorder is characterized by aches and pains in the muscles along with chronic fatigue and insomnia. It is estimated between 3 to 6 million people in the US suffer with Fibromyalgia. Ninety percent of them being women.

Graves Disease A disorder affecting the thyroid gland. In this disease auto-antibodies bind to the thyroid gland, which increases the production of thyroid hormone, which plays a major role in metabolism. Symptoms include nervousness, diarrhea, insomnia, sweating, and weight loss with increased appetite. More serious symptoms include irregular heart beat, tachycardia (increased heart rate), swelling of eyes and legs. In rare cases, cardiovascular collapse, shock or coma could occur.

Lupus A disorder which instead of the body's immune system functioning properly as protection from harmful invaders, it forms antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs. Symptoms include aching joints, inflammation, swelling, fatigue, fevers and rashes. Lupus is a mild disease affecting only a few organs, but for others it may cause serious, even life-threatening problems.

Multiple Sclerosis A chronic inflammatory condition which involves the central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord. This chronic inflammation causes severe damage to the myelin sheath (covering of the nerves). Symptoms include blurred vision, numbness and paralysis. Mercury toxicity may be a causal factor.

Psoriasis A common chronic skin condition which is characterized by symptoms similar to eczema. It involves the hyperactivity of the immune system which creates a form of inflammation. This inflammatory reaction causes skin cells to multiply seven to twelve times faster than normal. The skin is often dry and itchy as well as being cracked or blistered.

Rheumatoid Arthritis This disorder can affect many joints, but most commonly the small joints of the hands. An autoimmune attack on the tissues causes inflammation along with pain and swelling. If uncontrolled it could lead to destruction of the bones, deformity and eventually disability. It is thought that a factor of rheumatoid arthritis is holding onto bitterness.

What are natural ways that can be used which are helpful for autoimmune disorders?

  • Most people with autoimmune disorders suffer from exhausted adrenals. The adrenals produce a hormone that controls the immune response called cortisol. Cortico-steroid drugs are used to treat autoimmune disorders to mimic the action of cortisol, but have undesirable side effects. A natural alternative to consider is Licorice, which is an herb that supports the adrenals, as well as having anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Yucca also has anti-inflammatory properties as well as mimics the effects of cortisol. It also has a detoxifying effect as well as a blood thinning property. Wild Yam is another herb that can be taken as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. Willow bark also has an anti-inflammatory property and can help bring relief from pain in autoimmune disorders.
  • Stress management is a key factor in dealing with autoimmune disorders as stress adversely affects the adrenal glands. Getting an adequate amount of sleep as well as having a positive mental attitude can be very helpful.
  • Antioxidants aid the body in balancing immune activity and also fight free radical damage.
  • Essential Oils that may be beneficial for autoimmune disorders include Bergamot, Clary Sage, Lavender and Roman Chamomile.
  • Adding essential fatty acids to your diet like Flax Seed Oil and Omega-3 EPA can help to reduce inflammatory responses.
  • Magnesium deficiency is also common in cases of autoimmune disorders.
  • Moderate exercise such as walking or swimming can be helpful but care should be taken not to over exert the body.
  • Taking a digestive enzyme is very beneficial.
  • Taking a Probiotic daily is recommended to help put healthy bacteria into the intestines which may help reduce allergic responses.

What should be avoided?

  • Immune stimulants are contraindicated as this could only make the problem worse. Avoid taking herbs and supplements that boost the immune system such as Colostrum, Dandelion Root, Echinacea, Goldenseal, and Yarrow.
  • Avoid essential oils that stimulate the immune system such as Geranium, Thyme and Ylang Ylang.
  • Food allergies may also be a factor in autoimmune disorders. Common allergens are hydrogenated fats and oils such as margarine and shortening, grains such as wheat and corn and dairy products. Foods that aggravate the condition should be avoided.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars which feeds Candida, a fungus that may also be a contributing factor for autoimmune disorders.
Toxicity and Heavy Metal Poisoning

It is believed that heavy metal poisoning, such as with vaccines that contain mercury and other toxins that are injected directly into the bloodstream as well as other toxic chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, are a major factor in the underlying cause of autoimmune disorders. A gentle detoxification is recommended so as not to detoxify the body too quickly causing a healing crisis. SAM-e can be helpful in detoxifying the liver and has been beneficial in some cases of Fibromyalgia.


American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association