Well Women guide to Autoimmune Diseases


Antibodies



There are many autoimmune diseases and classification of the term “Auto-immune” is complex. Some diseases are not actually classified but are thought to have a connection or are brought about by an auto-immune response of some kind.

What are they

Although our immune systems are there to protect us from viruses, bacteria and disease, sometimes it attacks itself resulting in any one or more of a variety of diseases and you therefore become ill.

They can affect connective tissue (Lupus) or glands like the Thyroid (Graves disease and Hashimoto’s disease) or the adrenal glands (Addisons disease),and pancreas (Diabetes Mellitus)

They can also affect muscles (Multiple Sclerosis) There are more than 80 kinds of auto-immune diseases and many of them are hard to diagnose as their symptoms can be identical to each other and many of them have typical symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness and weight loss.

Blood tests will establish which type you have. For Thyroid diseases the TSH in your blood (Thyroid stimulating hormone) is measured.

Rheumatoid arthritis is determined by a blood test which will usually show that you have anaemia and an antibody called RF (rheumatoid factor)

Tests for Lupus are more complicated and Lupus can be extremely hard to diagnose. The blood test will be carried out to find out if you test positive for ANA (anti nuclear antibodies) as well as urine tests and other blood tests.

For Multiple Sclerosis, MRI and MRS scans, neurological tests, and more will need to be carried out which may also involve testing spinal cord fluid.

blood test With Autoimmune disorders there can be symptom “flare ups” which means that the symptoms come and go. A Flare-up is a return of symptoms after a period of remission. Flare ups can vary from severe to mild. Some diseases can be treated with medication which will reduce the severity of the symptoms. Although generally symptoms will come and go. There is no cure for autoimmune diseases but they can be managed and generally women lead full active lives.

It is something that puzzles doctors and scientists as to why they develope in the first place, and there are many possible answers be it genetic, heriditary, environmentals or otherwise. But something definately triggers them.

Please Click HERE to see a list of possible reasons why I may have developed an autoimmune disease

You can learn to manage your symptoms and take supplements that will help you. (within moderation, too much could aggravate the condition so be sensible. Often a good multivitamin and one other beneficial supplement will be all you need) However, don’t neglect yourself either. Supplements can be the difference between being very unwell after a flare up or just being a bit off colour. Please Click HERE to see important Do's and Don't s for Autoimmune Disease The more you do to help yourself, the better. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and calcium rich foods, and taking daily gentle exercise will help your well being.

Get plenty of rest. Without sleep your body is more prone to stress, which when allowed to get out of hand, will worsen your condition and affect your ability to resist illness. Aim for 8 hours sleep per night and don’t forget to take time during the day too. Practise relaxation and deep breathing techniques to relieve stress. Have an enjoyable pastime or hobby like reading, listening to music, painting and drawing, crafts, or make a website like I did!! (see my working from home page) You can do this about anything that interests you and it keeps you occupied, is surprisingly easy and lots of fun. My cousin has lupus, Scleroderma and Raynauds syndrome but is suprisingly active. She won't let them beat her, although she does have some very off days too.

Serrapeptase may help with inflammatory conditions

Please click here to read about more conditions helped by Serrapeptase and also see Detox your World's website for plenty of information.

Click HERE to go to the Working from Home page

List of some diseases Classified as Autoimmune diseases

Addisons Disease Caused by autoimmune destruction of the Adrenal Cortex

Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 Caused by an autoimmune attack on the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas. This is characterized by a deficiency or absence of insulin production.

Graves Disease Caused by anti thyroid antibodies stimulating the thyroid into overproduction of thyroid hormone.

Hashimoto’s Disease Characterized by initial inflammation of the thyroid, followed later by goitre and complete dysfunction. There are several characteristic antibodies, e.g anti-thyroglobulin

Lupus Erythematosus This is a chronic autoimmune disease where the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal tissues. The attack causes inflammation. This is a non organ-specific type of autoimmune disease and it is not known why the immune system becomes hyperactive.

Rheumatoid Arthritis. This disorder causes antibodies to attack the bone joints.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not actually classified as an autoimmune disease, but is suspected to be linked to autoimmunity. It is one of the more frustrating illnesses for the sufferer as it is so hard to diagnose. Generally though, symptoms have to be present for 6 months or more before it can be categorically said that you have this condition. More on this later.

Who is at risk?

Autoimmune diseases generally run in families although some races are more susceptible than others. Your genetic make up will therefore affect the way your immune systems responds to certain triggers, whether they are environmental or other triggers.

There are many many others which are rarer and many more illnesses suspected to be connected to autoimmunity like Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome..

We will cover some of the more familiar autoimmune diseases in much more detail below.

Mary Shomon has once again written a brilliant comprehensive guide Living Well with Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know (Living Well (Collins))

For some unknown reason, 75 per cent of autoimmune diseases occur in women, therefore, hormones are suspected as playing a part in this. They are more noticeable during menopause, can improve (or get worse) during pregnancy and in those who improve during pregnancy, symptoms almost always flare up again after delivery.

Another thing that is strange is that while these diseases occur in families and are therefore thought to be genetic, they can materialise as different illnesses. For example, while a grandmother may have rheumatoid arthritis, the mother (her daughter) may have diabetes and the daughter (her great granddaughter) Lupus. This also illustrates that when you have one autoimmune disease, you are far more likely to develop another. It is also important that if you are aware of autoimmune disease in your family, to ensure that if you become unwell with symptoms that may indicate autoimmune disease, that your family history is made aware to your doctor.

Lupus, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves disease, and diabetes are by far the most common autoimmune diseases, although individually, they are not that common. However, they represent the fourth largest cause of disability in women.

Autoimmune diseases are the most poorly understood of all medical conditions. The reasons for this is because they range from being severe and potentially life threatening to being mild, and symptoms, whilst often being similar to each other, can be misleading and therefore hard to accurately diagnose.

Connective Tissue Diseases

Lupus. This is also known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE

Lupus is an inflammation of the connective tissues and can affect every organ in the body. It is 9 times more common in women than men and 3 times more likely in black women than white.

It is aggravated by sunlight and presents symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, depression, joint pain and inflammation, a “butterfly” rash on the face, (mainly the nose and cheeks), mouth ulcers and sores in the nose, hair loss and fever and symptoms like ‘flu, amongst others.

Another syndrome called “Raynauds Syndrome” appears in about 20 per cent of SLE patients. My own cousin has Lupus and Raynauds syndrome and also Scleroderma.

Factors that could indicate a flare up include rash on the face, bumpy rash, small ulcers, fatigue, hair loss, enlarged lymph nodes, muscle inflammation, sore throat, backache, severe headaches,

Common triggers are: Infections, sunlight and ultraviolet light, surgery, pregnancy, synthetic sex hormone drugs like the contraceptive pill, stress, certain drugs.

Most lupus patients chronically run a temperature that is above 98.6F but a fever can also be caused by other complications of lupus, such as urinary tract or respiratory infections.

Diagnosis is critical and generally, this autoimmune disease is complex in it's diagnosis and a number of tests are required. Anyone who has a relative or children with Lupus should have themselves checked and the relavent blood tests carried out to check so that an early diagnosis can be made. This involves 5 specific tests to determine this together with a full blood count, which in Lupus, will show low white cell count, a low red cell count and low platelet count. Other levels will be measured to check for kidney damage and ESR and CRP (C-reactive protein) are used as markers for disease activity.

Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) This is the first step in diagnosing Lupus, although it is not just specific to Lupus and can not be used on it’s own to confirm the presence of the disease. However, this test will be positive in 90per cent of Lupus cases. Not all people testing positive for ANA will have SLE and many healthy people may test positive. Other autoimmune disease can mean a positive ANA result and indeed, I myself tested positive for ANA, but I do not have Lupus.

DNA antibodies This test is the highly specific test for Lupus. For reasons unknown, antibodies will be present against the double stranded DNA. Testing positive for anti DNA antibodies is almost total clarification of lupus diagnosis.

ENA (extractable nuclear antigens) This test is to determine if other antibodies found in other varities of lupus such as Sjogrens syndrome.are present.

Antiphospholipid antibodies

This test is associated with “sticky blood” problem. Pregnant women who have these antibodies can develop thrombosis of the placenta which inevitably leads to miscarriage and if treatment is carried out by prescribing an anticoagulant or asprin, they can go on to have a successful pregnancy.. People with these antibodies are more susceptible to clots in the veins and arteries.

There is also another test to check the activity of a group of proteins in the blood which are involved in the immune process, and in active Lupus, these levels will be low. (Known as C3 and C4 levels) This will determine the activity of the disease.

Urine tests will also be carried out to check for protein and other things like white cells, red cells or clumps of cells. The urine tests are further checks for the presence of kidney disease and bacterial infections.

Also, it is necessary to determine whether there is any wide spread organ damage and echocardiograms, brain scans, and kidney scans can also be carried out. If there is any evidence if kidney damage or inflammation, a biopsy will be performed. However, for the majority of patients, blood tests and urine tests are all that will be needed as well as regular monitoring at a Lupus clinic.

Treatment

Various drugs are used like antimalarial drugs which treat the disease itself or medications that treat conditions associated with having Lupus. One of these is Hydroxychloroquine is widely used. It helps with joint pain as it has some anti inflammatory properties, rashes and the crushing fatigue that is present in the disease. It also protects against blood clotting. However, I prefer the more natural holistic therapies and one which is know to help enormously is Serrapeptase

Please click here to read about more conditions helped by Serrapeptase and also see Detox your World's website for plenty of information.

Also, please read this article about Autoimmune Disease and effective Natural protocols

Non Steroidal drugs are used for pain and inflammation and Corticosteroids are of extreme importance in acute Lupus and their importance is paramount in treating the disease. Most Lupus patients can be kept on low doses and some may be weaned off them after some time. However, they have side effects as do all steroidal drugs including osteoporosis, thinning of the skin, muscle wasting and weight gain.

Please note that while steroids are routinely prescribed in many inflammatory conditions, they are often "over prescribed" like anti biotics and can cause more harm than good. Please try a more holistic approach first and natural therapies like Serrapeptase can go a long way to helping these conditions without resorting to steroids or DMD's (disease modifying drugs)

Please click here to read about more conditions helped by Serrapeptase and also see Detox your World's website for plenty of information.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

In this autoimmune disease, antibodies attack the tissue surrounding the joint and cause inflammation. It is also a chronic systemic condition which can affect the heart and lungs, and also the eyes. It affects 4 times more women than men. The symptoms flare up, last for a few days then die down. Sometimes months or even years can pass between flare up’s, although most people experience a regular pattern with more frequent flare up’s. It is not know why the symptoms flare up.

Symptoms are inflammation, swelling, deformity and pain in joints. Fever, fatigue, stiffness, weakness and lethargy, irritability and depression. Anaemia is also common. It can start off in one or two joints, usually the knees, and gradually spread. It is progressive and can cause disability quite rapidly. Once again the cause is unknown and reasons are thought to be genetic or environmental.

Once again early diagnosis is difficult as when joint pain first starts, the doctor can not say definitely that you have R.A. Joint pain can be caused by a number of things. Blood tests can detect inflammation, rheumatoid factor (antibodies) and any anaemia, but this can not clarify the condition completely as these things can also be the cause of other illnesses.

After some time, X-rays will show damage to the joints and then diagnosis will be more conclusive.

There are other illnesses that people with R.A have a higher risk of developing, and these include heart disease (due to reduced exercise), strokes, stomach disorders, joint infections, other infections, osteoporosis and some cancers.

Medications used to treat R.A can increase blood pressure and also suppress the immune system which in turn can increase the risk of certain cancers and also infections.

The aims of treatment are to reduce the likelihood of disability and to reduce joint damage and pain as much as possible.

Rest is important when flare up’s occur as the affected joint needs time to recover.

Massage and the application of heat may also help. Non-steroidal anti inflammatory painkillers are good at easing pain. A doctor will need to decide the right dose and whether there are any likely side effects and sometimes a few different brands may need to be tried before the right one is found.

However, the most common side effect of this type of medication is upset stomach with pain and also on a more serious note, bleeding in the stomach. The doctor can also prescribe medication to reduce the risk of this and to protect the stomach from any likelihood. Standard paracetemol can be used alongside anti inflammatory medication for additional pain relief, or instead of anti inflammatory medication if preferred.

Steroid tablets can also be used or a steroid injection directly into the joint if the flare up is particularly severe. Please consider a product like Serrapeptase over steroids as a natural holistic approach will benefit the condition in many ways that steroids won't. Long term use of steroids is dangerous and it has been shown that damage occurs in the body even on low dose and short term use.

Please click here to read about more conditions helped by Serrapeptase and also see Detox your World's website for plenty of information.

Steroids are best used in short courses, but they do have side effects and used more regularly can cause more serious problems such as osteoporosis, weight gain, muscle wasting, thinning of the skin and bones and other problems,

Even taking low dose steroids over a long period can be dangerous, but if you are taking a long course of steroids you should not stop them suddenly and your doctor should first be consulted. Remember too, that they are only used for pain relief when flare up’s occur and will not stop the disease progressing nor prevent damage or deformity to joints. See Serrapeptase as an alternative.

There are also drugs called Disease modifying drugs which are designed to not only reduce symptoms but assist in reducing damage caused by the disease. They include methotrexate, gold injections, penicillamine, leflunomide, sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine. Their effect is not immediate and can take up to 6 months before anything is noticed. Patients usually continue with their anti inflammatory drugs and/or steroid treatment until they take effect. Sometimes it is even possible to reduce the pain killers and steroids or stop them altogether. They are not without side effects either and usually blood tests are regularly taken as a precaution. Other newer drugs have been developed that require injection and their long term effects have not yet been evaluated. Once again, try Serrapeptase for it's natural approach in treating these conditions without using dangerous steroid or DMD's, one of which, Methotrexate, isn particularly dangerous.

Please click here to read about more conditions helped by Serrapeptase and also see Detox your World's website for plenty of information.

Exercise is very important as much as you are able and surgery is also sometimes needed if the joint is very badly damaged. A healthy diet will reduce the risk of diseases associated with the condition and of course supplements will always help long term and a ‘flu jab once a year is wise. Any other illnesses should also be well managed, such as diabetes or high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. Lifestyle choices like smoking are a big No No. Smoking will aggravate the symptoms.

Some important facts about R.A 1 in 10 will become disabled

It can range from very mild to very severe

It is difficult to determine how a person will progress once diagnosed

Disease modifying drugs have improved the outlook for patients with R.A and these should be taken all the time with no exception.

Whilst it is a type of arthritis as it affects the joint tissues, that is where the similarity ends and it is an autoimmune disease so therefore different from general arthritis and not caused by wear and tear, but by an autoimmune attack on the joint tissues.

There are other serious and rarer autoimmune diseases, but I will only cover the more common types and Hashimoto's Disease and Graves Disease are covered on my Thyroid pages.

Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is very different to type 2. Type 1 is a chronic lifelong autoimmune disease of the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas for which there is no cure. Also referred to as insulin dependent Diabetes Mellitus or juvenile onset diabetes, it generally strikes those under 40 and it is the general thought that a virus triggers the immune system to attack the cells in the pancreas, destroying them so that insulin can no longer be produced. However like most autoimmune diseases genetics play a major role. Once destroyed, the cells will then not have glucose for energy as insulin is not present to transport sugars in the blood to these cells. There is then a build up of sugar in the bloodstream which can then cause severe damage to other organs and blood vessels.

We can not live without insulin so if the body is without it, it needs to be replaced every day directly into the bloodstream. Once the autoimmune attack has started, it takes approximately 5 to 10 years for the beta cells to be completely destroyed rendering insulin production non existent.

A person with Type 1 diabetes has to take insulin every day between 1 and 4 times in order to live and this is always intravenously. They also have to check their blood sugar level several times a day using a personal blood glucose monitor and then inject the correct amount of insulin to keep their blood sugar level normal just as the pancreas would under normal circumstances. Monitoring the blood is simple and involves cleaning and drying the area properly to reduce risk of infection, then using a special finger prick to draw a tiny amount of blood from the finger. The drop of blood is then put on a special strip containing a chemical. The strip is inserted into the machine which then provides a digital reading of the level of sugar in the blood. This allows for correction of any hypo or hyperglycaemic state. If the result shows a “Hypo” then food will need to be eaten to correct this and with a “Hyper” then additional insulin will be required.

When a person is diagnosed with this autoimmune disease, they are shown how to inject the insulin, although with children, a parent usually administers the injection. As the child gets older, they can then be taught to inject themselves since it is important for their future.

The onset of type 1 diabetes comes on quickly and a number of symptoms arise such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, nausea and vomitting, blurred vision and weight loss being the usual signs. As the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, the levels of blood sugar rise and cause a “Hyperglycaemic” state. A diabetic may also suffer a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis Ketones are produced in the body due to the body breaking down fats to make energy to fuel the cells.(Similar to a state of malnutrition) The ketones present in the blood make it acidic and this can cause the person to go into a diabetic coma where hospitalization will be urgently needed. A diabetic coma can also cause death.

What tests are there to confirm type 1 diabetes?

Urine tests will confirm the presence of ketones and sugar but blood tests are required for clarification. This will usually be a Fasting glucose test or a Random glucose test. A test to measure C-peptide levels or a blood test to measure insulin in the blood can also be done.

Since balancing blood sugar is tricky, regular testing is the best way and testing before meals, before exercise and before bedtime is best. However sometimes it is a good idea to check levels a couple of hours after meals too. You must also ensure that your blood sugar levels do not drop too low either causing hypoglycaemia. Diet is very important and meals should be at regular times. The diet should be low in sugar and also low in fats and salt to protect against high blood pressure, so healthy eating of fruit and vegetables (preferably organic) and rich in vitamins and minerals is very important. Avoiding sugary snacks and junk or fast food is of utmost importance and regular exercise beneficial, although care should be taken before any extreme or vigorous exercise is performed since this will also affect blood sugar levels. The diet eaten will work in conjunction with the insulin injections to keep blood sugar normal. Sometimes a dietician will help with meal planning and advising on the best foods for all round maintenance of the condition.

Improper maintenance of diabetes can culminate in amputation of limbs, blindness and kidney failure or a diabetic coma resulting in death so it is within the patients interest to ensure that they look after themselves so that they can live as full and healthy a life as possible. Like a lot of autoimmune diseases it is also possible to have more than one so complicating treatment.

Gestational Diabetes

Whilst not an autoimmune disease, this is a condition diagnosed in pregnancy when blood or urine is taken for testing. Since urine is regularly assessed in pregnancy, the repeated presence of sugar may indicate gestational diabetes. A blood test will confirm this. High blood sugar levels are a sign of this condition.

What causes it?

Impaired glucose intolerance is something that many pregnant women experience during pregnancy due to the high level of hormones and hormonal changes. It is in the third trimester that the hormonal changes can cause a pregnant woman to become at risk.

Due to increased levels of various hormones a strain is put on the pancreas which needs to produce three times the normal amount of insulin in pregnancy to counteract the increasing blood sugar levels due to pregnancy hormones. However the pancreas may not be able to produce sufficient levels of insulin to counteract this rise and then blood sugar will continue to rise and Gestational diabetes will result.

Since diabetes can affect the developing baby by possibly causing birth defects and also contributing to increased growth of the baby in the womb due to a higher level of nutrition, the baby may be largeer than normal at delivery which can cause problems to both mother and baby and more risks at delivery.

Also after the birth the baby will no longer be receiving nourishment from it's mother so the sudden drop in blood sugar can cause some problems for the baby.

Who is a risk of getting Gestational Diabetes?

Constantly having the presence of glucose in your urine

Being overweight prior to pregnancy

Impaired glucose tolerance or fasting glucose

Family history of diabetes

Having given birth to previous large babies

Previous gestational diabetes

Polyhydramnios. A condition where the mother has too much amniotic fluid.

How will I know?

Women are now screened at 24+ weeks. High risk women will be screened earlier. This involves a glucose tolerance test where a sweet drink is consumed and about an hour later, a blood sample is taken. This checks as to how the glucose was metabolised by the body.

Can it be treated?

You will monitor your blood sugar yourself throughout the remaining weeks of your pregnancy. You will be given a blood glucose meter by your hospital or doctor and asked to test your blood several times a day by pricking your finger with a special lancet and putting a small drop of blood on a test strip which is then put into the meter.

The meter then reads the results which should be written in a specially provided book for inspection at anti natal and/or doctors visits. You may be referred to a special clinic who can monitor your diet and advise of what you can and can't eat to keep blood sugar as normal as possible. The midwife will also test your urine at each visit to check for ketones which is an acid indicating that your diabetes is not being properly controlled. It may be the case that diet alone will not be enogh to control it and insulin may be needed by injection. You will be shown how to do this yourself and will be closely monitored and advised regarding this procedure in case of hypoglycemia.

Symptoms of this include dizziness and fainting, feeling shaky, weakness, headaches, excessive sweating etc.

Should you feel like this, test your blood and drink some fruit juice or a soft drink and then after about 15 minutes, check your blood again.

If it is still low, take some more fruit juice or eat in advance of your next meal if it is some way off.

This should all be carefully recorded in your book.

I myself had gestational diabetes with my fourth pregnancy which was controlled with diet and I went on to have an 8 pound 1 oz baby, although my birth was medically managed due to the diabetes and high blood pressure. I also had an epidural as the stress of the delivery was pushing my blood pressure to an all time high. One week before she was due, they asked me to come in early and I refused. Fortunately, I went into labour that night.

Your blood pressure and any resulting rise will also need to be carefully monitored. Persistant high blood pressure may indicate that your baby may need to be delivered early and you may be asked to come in to hospital for bed rest. Foetal monitoring will also be a matter of course and expect to sit on a monitor for up to an hour while your babies heart is recorded.

What happens afer the birth

Your baby's blood glucose will be tested at birth. With gestational diabetes there is an increased risk of jaundice in the baby. Treatment includes either feeding the baby regularly or light treatment where the baby is put under special lights that remove the pigment resposible for jaundice called bilirubin. Jaundice goes away quickly when these treatments are carried out.

My son, Sean had jaundice after he was born and this was eliminated with lots of feeding. I had to stay in hospital for 5 days during this time so that the staff could monitor him.

I particularly remember my father saying "God, what a great sun tan he has!" and he nicknamed him "Golden Child"

Will the diabetes remain after my baby is born?

Normally your blood glucose levels will return to normal within 6 weeks post natal because the placenta is no longer present and producing hormones responsible for the disruption.

Your blood sugar will once again be checked at the hospital in the form of a glucose tolerance test around 6 weeks after delivery to ensure things have returned to normal.

However women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of going on to develope type 2 diabetes in later life. You also have a much greater risk of devloping gestational diabetes with further pregnancies.

In these cases it would be a good idea to keep to a healthy diet reducing sugar in your diet, stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight in order to reduce your risk in the future.

Essiac Tea is thought to help with blood sugar Please click here to read information about Essiac Tea which also boots the immune system and can be used to help many conditions including autoimmune diseases or just for general health.

Please also read this important page regarding Autoimmune Disorders and treatment

Autoimmune Disease Factors involved

There are also supplements that can help and sufferers of autoimmune diseases of any kind are usually low or even without many important nutrients that would otherwise benefit them and their condition. Take a look at the vitamin guide, the amino acid page and other supplement page to see how supplements can help with autoimmune disease as well as Serrapeptase a marvellous natural product.

Please click here to read about more conditions helped by Serrapeptase and also see Detox your World's website for plenty of information.

Also, please note, I am not affiliated with the Serrapeptase store. I have mentioned it so many times as I feel that a more natural approach could far outweigh the taking of corticosteroids and DMD'S such as Methotrexate

If it works for you, then you can kiss all the dangerous drug therapy goodbye. Please also see my list of important do's and don'ts about autoimmune disease and getting well

Please Click HERE to go to the Vitamin Guide

Please Click HERE to see Books about Autoimmune Disease

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