The body is inherently prepared for any disease and infection. This is due to our body’s immune system, which attacks anything labeled “non-self” that enters the body. However, there are rare cases when the body’s immune system fails to recognize healthy, “self” cells and targets these by mistake. The umbrella term for these diseases is autoimmune disorder.
The prevalence of autoimmune diseases is dramatically on the rise, and often tend to run in families. Women have a higher risk for these diseases, particularly those of African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American descent.
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders and they often manifest with quite similar symptoms. This makes diagnosis more difficult for physicians.
The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. However, there have been theories that stipulate how exposure to some microorganisms, drugs, or chemicals may trigger changes that confuse the immune system; making those genetically prone to these disorders develop them.
One of these theories was the result of a 2011 study that linked farming and agricultural pesticides to the development of two autoimmune rheumatic diseases: rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
The study, spearheaded by Dr. Christine G. Parks of the National Institute for Environmental Health Science, suggested that women’s risk of developing autoimmune rheumatic diseases increases according to the frequency and duration of their exposure to insecticides.
The researchers looked at more than 75,000 women and showed that those who spray insecticides at least six times per year have almost two and a half times the risk of developing RA and SLE compared to those who do not use insecticides. The risk even doubles for those who used insecticides in the home for 20 years or more.
SLE, which is more commonly known as lupus, causes inflammation and damage to healthy tissues and organs including the heart, lungs, and brain. Most patients are female, indicating the disease may have a hormonal or gender-specific component. RA, on the other hand, causes joint inflammation and pain, fatigue, and other symptoms that may continue for a long time. This disease is also more prominent in women.
The study by Dr. Parks and her colleagues suggests that the environment has a role to play in the development of these disorders. The more foreign chemicals we introduce to our environment, the greater the risk for diseases, some of which are serious and quite debilitating.
What is encouraging is that autoimmune disease responds well to natural, alternative and holistic health methods. It is a safer, often more effective, and almost always a more cost effective way to improve or even recover from an autoimmune illness.