What are Autoimmune Diseases: Causes and treatment

In most of other the diseases the treatment involves in enhancing the body’s immune system, in autoimmune diseases, the immune system itself is the problem.

By Dr K Arul

Auto-immune disease is a process in which the immune system starts attacking your own body thinking it to be a foreign agent. It is the third leading cause of mortality and morbidity next to cancer and heart disease. Female sex is more susceptible to this group of diseases than males. It affects millions of people around the world and can have detrimental effects on longevity and quality of life. Despite advances in medical science, many autoimmune diseases have evaded treatment because the underlying mechanisms are complex and poorly understood. In most of other the diseases the treatment involves in enhancing the body’s immune system, in autoimmune diseases, the immune system itself is the problem. This makes the conventional treatment much more difficult. There are many conditions which fall under Auto immunity such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Psoriasis, Eczema, Inflammatory bowel disorders, Systemic lupus erythematous, Ankylosing Spondylitis, etc.

Causative factors

The causes of autoimmune diseases are multiple and differs in each patient. A genetic tendency when combined with other factors can result in autoimmune disease. Some common causes include

  • Chronic Stress

  • Chronic Infections

  • Increased intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut)

  • Gut Bacterial Dysbiosis

  • Mitochondrial Dysfunction

  • Toxins (Heavy Metals and Organic chemicals)

  • Free Radicals

Stages of Autoimmune disease

Stage One: Silent disease, no symptoms or loss of function but antibodies against self are increased. Caught at this early stage, development of severe disease can be prevented.

Stage Two: In this stage, auto immune reactivity starts. Antibodies are increased with mild symptoms and loss of function, but no severe destruction of the tissue associated with the disease.

Stage Three: In this stage, there is significant symptoms along with rise in lab parameters, changes in imaging and the loss of function is very severe.


Autoimmune disease results in severe uncontrolled inflammation and oxidative damage to the body. Conventional medicine focuses on treating the downstream effects by suppressing this inflammation with the help of powerful steroids and immunosuppressant medications which come with their own list of negative effects. Whereas Functional medicine works upstream by addressing the underlying causes that initiate the inflammation. Functional medicine, as the name suggests, focusses on restoring function and optimal health. Though steroids are required in some severe cases, in most instances autoimmune disease can be put into remission by addressing the root cases mentioned above and by making changes in lifestyle and dietary factors.

Here is a small glimpse on how autoimmune diseases are addressed from a Functional medicine perspective.

  • Meditation practices to de-stress the mind and the body

  • Dietary changes – avoiding hidden allergens and increasing consumption of foods that will improve gut health

  • Improving quality of sleep

  • Correcting micronutrient deficiencies

  • Balancing hormone levels

  • Employing natural antibiotics and antifungals to treat chronic infections

  • The right probiotics to correct gut bacterial dysbiosis

  • Natural anti-inflammatory supplements

  • IV Anti-oxidants to repair cellular damage and to improve mitochondrial function

  • Oxygen Therapies

No two patients are alike and the treatment protocol is tailored according to each individual. Functional medicine provides an individualized approach to treat chronic diseases.

(The author is Integrative Medicine Physician at Mirakle Wellness Clinic. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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