So many theories for autoimmunityAkarat-Thongsatid/Shutterstock
Another theory for autoimmunity’s rise is the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that in developed countries we’ve gotten so good at fighting off germs through cleanliness, vaccines, and medicine that our bodies have become out of whack and forget what they’re supposed to attack. “Some researchers believe this health trade-off is no coincidence, and suggest that the decrease in acquiring natural infections has caused the increase in allergies and autoimmune disorders,” Andrew Weil, MD, an integrative immunologist at the University of Arizona, wrote on his blog. Another theory is that we’ve messed up the bacteria in our gut through eating too much refined and processed food in our western diet—which could account for the rise in gluten allergies and celiac disease. “The bacteria in the gut regulate the immune system heavily,” Robin Berzin, MD, of Parsley Health, told Huffington Post. Read about seven signs you have leaky gut syndrome.
Some lifestyle factors may protect against itbaibaz/Shutterstock
Because of the gut connection, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be one way to ward off autoimmune conditions. “A well-balanced diet and weight control are key,” Dr. Cihakova says. “We have considerable evidence now that fat tissue is immunologically active, and that overweight and obese people have more a pro-inflammatory environment in their bodies.” Because the main symptom of autoimmunity is inflammation, weight could be a contributing factor. Dr. Cihakova also recommends exercise, which can “prevent debilitating fatigue that is often associated with an autoimmune disease.” Dr. Somers advises getting enough vitamin D and omega-3s, both of which have been shown to have a protective effect. Finally, try to avoid stress, which has also been linked with autoimmunity in studies. Here are 16 foods that fight inflammation.
Lupus is difficult to diagnoseBuckner_Variety/Shutterstock
There are many autoimmune diseases, but here are a few you should know about. Famous millennial Selena Gomez has very publicly revealed she has the autoimmune condition lupus. This disease causes inflammation in many different parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, brain, blood vessels, heart, and lungs. The Lupus Foundation of America says 16,000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S., with 1.5 million Americans living with lupus. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can mimic other diseases and all symptoms aren’t always present, making lupus hard to diagnose. Common signs are a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, joint pain, fatigue, skin lesions, and headaches. Because lupus affects major organs, it can have life-threatening effects if not controlled with medications such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressants. Find out more silent signs of lupus you should never ignore.