Autoimmune diseases affect over 1 million Australians and are a leading cause of death in women under the age of 65. There are over 80 different types of auto-immune diseases including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves disease, psoriasis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, alopecia areata, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and so many more.

Women make up over 75% of those affected by auto-immune conditions and are something that Belinda sees and tests for in her clinic on a daily basis.

These auto-immune diseases are a result of systemic inflammation which creates an abnormal immune response in which the body starts to attack itself. They often begin when the body is working hard to defend itself against an allergen, infection, toxin or food and it fails to differentiate between this substance and your own body. There are many underlying factors that can predispose someone to developing an autoimmune disease. There is a genetic link – having a close relative with an autoimmune disease increases your risk of developing that or any other autoimmune disease.

Interestingly, a 2015 study (1) showed that being married to someone with coeliac disease increases your chances of developing a different autoimmune condition such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus. “While spouses may not share the same genes, they are exposed to many of the same environmental factors and infections,” that also play a role in the development of autoimmune issues, says Noel Rose, MD, PhD, chair of AARDA’s scientific advisory board.

Sadly, around 25% of people with an autoimmune condition will end up developing other autoimmune conditions also.

Common symptoms of auto-immunity include:

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Recurrent rashes or hives
  • Fatigue
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Weight gain or cold intolerance
  • Dry eyes, skin or mouth
  • Difficulty conceiving or multiple miscarriages
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive upset
  • Weight gain

Naturopathic and nutritional treatment can work very effectively alongside the traditional medical model. Naturopathic treatment aims to identify and treat the underlying causes (such as inflammation, immune dysfunction and gut health) while also addressing symptoms such as fatigue, pain, weight gain and those listed above. It may be necessary to remove food triggers from the diet, measure antibody blood markers to assess and evaluate treatment in addition to looking at the digestive system and potentially undertaking a comprehensive stool test to look at levels of good bacteria, infections and leaky gut. Any diet and lifestyle changes will be implemented with the aim of long term change at the client’s pace and designed to fit with their needs and lifestyle.

(1). Emilsson L et al, 2015. ‘Autoimmune Disease in First-Degree Relatives and Spouses of Individuals With Celiac Disease’. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Volume 13, issue 7, pp 1271-1277. e2.