Autoimmune Diseases

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.

The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them.

Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells.

In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells.

Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ. Type 1 diabetes damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affect the whole body.

What are the most common autoimmune diseases?
According to The Autoimmune Registry, the top 10 most common autoimmune diseases include:
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis.
  • Celiac disease.
  • Graves’ disease.
  • Diabetes mellitus, type 1.
  • Vitiligo.
  • Rheumatic fever.
  • Pernicious anemia/atrophic gastritis.
What are the 3 most common autoimmune diseases?
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. …
  • The systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). …
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). …
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). …
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus. …
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome. …
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. …
  • Psoriasis.
What are the worst autoimmune diseases?
  • Autoimmune myocarditis. …
  • Multiple sclerosis. …
  • Lupus. …
  • Type 1 diabetes. …
  • Vasculitis. …
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. …
  • Psoriasis. Just as rheumatoid arthritis can impact health well beyond inflaming joints, psoriasis is more than a skin disease. …
  • Some autoimmune conditions that may affect life expectancy: Autoimmune myocarditis.
How do you know if you have an autoimmune disease?
“There’s usually no single test to diagnose autoimmune disease. You have to have certain symptoms combined with specific blood markers and in some cases, even a tissue biopsy. It’s not just one factor.” Diagnosis can also be difficult because these symptoms can come from other common conditions.
Can vitamin D reverse autoimmune disease?
These studies show that treatment with active vitamin D is effective in modulating immune function and ameliorating autoimmune disease.
Can stress and anxiety cause autoimmune disease?
A new study has raised the possibility that stress may cause autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis because it found a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases among people who were previously diagnosed with stress-related disorders.
What triggers autoimmune disease?
On a basic level, the autoimmune disease occurs because the body’s natural defenses — the immune system — attack the body’s own healthy tissue. Researchers have several ideas about why this happens. When the body senses danger from a virus or infection, the immune system kicks into gear and attacks it.
What is the best diet for autoimmune disease?
Foods for Calming Autoimmune Disease Symptoms
  • Leafy Greens. Caffeine and stress deplete magnesium, so incorporating food sources that add these nutrients back into your diet is increasingly more important in our fast-paced world. …
  • Turmeric. …
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower. …
  • Salmon. …
  • Berries. …
  • Sauerkraut.
How long can you live with autoimmune disease?
For people with lupus, some treatments can increase the risk of developing potentially fatal infections. However, the majority of people with lupus can expect a normal or near-normal life expectancy. Research has shown that many people with a lupus diagnosis have been living with the disease for up to 40 years.
Do you get sick easier with autoimmune disease?

Getting a Cold With Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune conditions can weaken or alter your immune response. Because of this, when you do get sick, you may experience more severe symptoms, be sick for a longer duration, and experience a longer recovery period.

Can you reverse autoimmune disease?
A functional medicine approach to autoimmune disorders has the possibility of reversing the disease process by enabling your body to heal itself.
At what age do autoimmune diseases show up?
Autoimmune diseases (ADs) affect approximately 5% of the world population [1, 2]. The age at onset varies widely depending on the disease. For example, sixty-five percent of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) start manifesting their symptoms between ages 16 and 55.
Can you reset your immune system?
Fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system, study finds. Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.
How can you tell if your immune system is strong?
Your body shows signs of a strong immune system pretty often. One example is when you get a mosquito bite. The red, bumpy itch is a sign of your immune system at work. The flu or a cold is a typical example of your body failing to stop the germs/bacteria before they get in.
Who’s at risk for autoimmune diseases?
7 Risk Factors for Autoimmune Disease
  • Sex. Overall, 78% of people affected by the autoimmune disease are female (1). …
  • Genetics. Certain disorders, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis (MS), tend to run in families (3, 4). …
  • Having an autoimmune disease. …
  • Obesity. …
  • Smoking and Exposure to Toxic Agents. …
  • Certain Medications. …
  • Infections.
At what age is your immune system the strongest?
The immune system consists of a team of cells, proteins, tissues, and organs that fight off illness, germs, and other invaders. When an unsafe substance enters the body, the immune system kicks into gear and attacks. Children do not have fully developed immune systems until they are about 7-8 years old.
At what age does your immune system weaken?
How to Keep Your Body’s Defenses Strong After Age 65. Your immune system naturally weakens as you age.
How can I boost my immune system as I age?
If you’re over age 65, here’s what you can do to strengthen your immune system and prevent the flu and its complications.
  1. Get a flu vaccination. …
  2. Eat a healthy diet. …
  3. Get active. …
  4. Lower your stress level. …
  5. Get plenty of sleep. …
  6. Maintain a healthy weight. …
  7. Quit smoking. …
  8. Spend time outdoors.

Your body’s immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of the body.

No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. They do tend to run in families. Women – particularly African American, Hispanic American, and Native American women – have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This makes it hard for your health care provider to know if you really have one of these diseases, and if so, which one. Getting a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful. Often, the first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches, and a low fever. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain, and swelling.

The diseases may also have flare-ups when they get worse, and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear. Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases, one important goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response.

Collectively, these diseases affect more than 24 million people in the United States. An additional eight million people have auto-antibodies, blood molecules that indicate a person’s chance of developing an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are affecting more people for reasons unknown. Likewise, the causes of these diseases remain a mystery.

Studies indicate these diseases likely result from interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Gender, race, and ethnicity characteristics are linked to the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are more common when people are in contact with certain environmental exposures.

  • Sunlight associated with autoimmune disease – This NIEHS study suggests exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight may be connected to the development of juvenile dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disease associated with muscle weakness and skin rashes.
  • Childhood poverty linked to rheumatoid arthritis in adulthood – NIEHS researchers discovered a link between lower socioeconomic status in childhood and rheumatoid arthritis in adulthood. The effect of lower childhood socioeconomic status and lower adult education level equaled the combined effect of having both a paternal and personal history of smoking.
  • Agricultural chemicals and rheumatoid arthritis – Researchers at NIEHS found that exposure to some pesticides may play a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis in male farmworkers.
  • Organic mercury may trigger autoimmune disease – In a study funded by NIEHS, methylmercury, even at exposure levels generally considered safe, may be linked to the development of autoimmune antibodies in women of reproductive age. These antibodies could lead in turn to autoimmune diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Genetic factors in autoimmune muscle disease – NIEHS researchers identified the primary genetic risk factors associated with autoimmune muscle disease in Caucasian populations in Europe and the United States.
  • Gene-environment interaction in rheumatoid arthritis – A study funded by NIEHS pinpointed the mechanics of a gene-environment interaction that could explain why the genetic risk for rheumatoid arthritis is amplified by environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke.
  • Role of nutrition in the development of the autoimmune disease – NIEHS-funded research indicates that vitamin D may be important for preventing immune dysfunction in older populations. Another study funded by NIEHS found that dietary micronutrients could either improve or worsen lupus symptoms

Benefits of Massage for Autoimmune Diseases

For people with autoimmune diseases, Dr. Blazek-O’Neill says the most common outcomes of massage therapy are decreased stress, improved sleep, and decreased pain symptoms.

Massage and Autoimmune Disease

A massage therapist needs to be mindful of the waxing-and-waning effects within a client’s body in accordance with any autoimmune condition. Generally, full-body circulatory massage is not recommended, as this circulates white blood cells more rapidly, thereby increasing their efficiency. This greater efficiency can exacerbate the client’s condition.

The following is a list of recommendations regarding massage therapy for an autoimmune disease to alleviate body systems, yet not increase circulation significantly:

  1. Abdominal massage to affect organs will greatly improve organ efficiency. A form of abdominal massage called Chi Nei Tsang, presented in many Chinese-medicine-related programs, can be a welcome addition to one’s practice in this regard.
  2. Stretching allows a client to receive myofascial benefits with minimal circulatory impact. Great stress relief comes from longer myofascial tissue.
  3. Myofascial release is a gentle means of freeing restrictions within the myofascial network of the body. This approach may be more easily received by a client, especially during flare-ups.
  4. Thai massage and shiatsu are practices that combine stretching with focused intention upon certain muscle regions and musculotendon pathways. These modalities can easily be more or less intense depending on the client’s state on any given date.

Final considerations involve procedures with treatment planning. Be flexible with session timing, for example. Sessions may need to be shorter in duration and may need to be skipped when a client is having flare-ups.


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PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT
PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.