What is an Autoimmune Disease?
Stated in the simplest way, an autoimmune disease is when the body attacks itself. Normally, our immune systems attack foreign invaders, (i.e. viruses, cancer, bacteria, etc). When an autoimmune disease is present in the body, healthy cells are mistaken for foreign invaders and are attacked. In Sarah Ballantyne’s (The Paleo Mom) book, The Paleo Approach, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne explains that unlike many other genetic disorders that evolve from a mutation of a single gene, autoimmune diseases occur when there are many mutated genes. When these genes interact with the environment, the possibility of autoimmune disease arises.
The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA) provides a provides a list of known autoimmune disorders. However, many other diseases are thought to be of autoimmune origin, according to Sarah Ballantyne. Just a few of these include: Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Schizophrenia, and possibly Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Some other Autoimmune Disease facts I found interesting courtesy of AARDA
• Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age
• Medical education provides minimal learning about autoimmune disease
• Initial symptoms are often intermittent and unspecific until the disease becomes acute
• NIH research funding for AD in 2003 came to $591 million. In comparison, cancer funding came to $6.1 billion; and heart and stroke, to $2.4 billion (source: NIH).
• In the U.S. 12 million are affected with cancer and 25 million are affected with heart disease compared to 50 million affected with an autoimmune disease (The Paleo Mom)