Autoimmune diseases are those conditions where the body's immune defenses attack parts and tissues of the same body of which they are an integral part. They do so under a skewed cognizance of its surroundings which causes it to mistake the identity of the host body's tissues and organs with that of a foreign particle or a harmful pathogen. While it is pretty simple to fight off foreign pathogens and external disease-causing agents, when it comes to bringing your body's own defense system to task for misfiring the host tissues, things get a little complicated.
The pathway is two-fold - first, you need to reverse the damage to host tissues caused by misfiring by an overactive immune system; next, you need to disable this erroneous disease response mechanism, taking heed not to disable the correctly working disease response mechanisms. So, how can autoimmune diseases be treated without causing further harm to the body's inherent, natural defense system? Well, the following segment attempts to lift the layers of complexity and bring the various aspects of autoimmune disease treatment to the surface.
Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases - An Overview of the Aspects Involved
When treating autoimmune diseases, whatever course of medical or other alternative therapeutic action is taken, three things must be kept in mind:-
- First, relief from the symptoms of an autoimmune reaction (such as inflammation, allergic breakouts, etc.) must be sought, in order to alleviate the evident physical discomfort experienced by the subject;
- Secondly, it is necessary to pinpoint the exact disease mechanism and administer medications and treatment very specific to it and such medication and treatment should have minimum possible side effects as you wouldn't want an already misguided immune system to go any more awry;
- Lastly, care should be taken to protect the health and functions of the organ or physiological system which is the target of autoimmune disease and any undesirable medicinal reactions.
Now, let's take a brief tour of how the above three objectives of autoimmune disease treatment are fulfilled. As with most other diseases and afflictions, various autoimmune diseases physically manifest in the form of different sets of symptoms of biological discomfort. Take, for instance, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid gland's cellular architecture and functions. This condition results in hypothyroidism with symptoms ranging from weight gain, fatigue, constipation, migraines, muscular weakness and cramps, high cholesterol levels, hyperglycemia to depression, panic attacks, mania, memory loss, infertility and tachycardia.
Speaking of providing symptomatic relief, separate medications to ease the individual symptoms would be an integral part of treating this autoimmune thyroid condition in order to ease the sufferings of the patient. Moving on to the second level, the exact disease mechanism needs to be diagnosed and the organ or physiological system that is being affected needs to be pinpointed.
A thorough diagnosis of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis would invariably reveal that the thyroid gland is undergoing gradual destruction under constant attack from immune defenses which are being triggered by lymphocytes and certain antibodies. Now, the final chapter of the treatment would comprise preserving the thyroid gland's functions to relieve the adverse repercussions of glandular destruction and this is usually done with the help of synthetic or natural thyroid hormone replacements.
Diet Adjustments for Autoimmune Disease
Depending upon which parts of the entire body gets affected by a particular autoimmune disease, diet and lifestyle changes can be incorporated to enhance the effects of a particular treatment. For instance, in case of an autoimmune disease affecting the muscles, a diet high in proteins helps restore muscular health and repair degenerated tissues. In case of an autoimmune disease affecting the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, a diet rich in vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds help provide relief from joint inflammation and stiffness, besides protecting the rest of the body from opportunistic afflictions that would, otherwise, take advantage of this phenomenon of immune functions mismanagement.
A lot of autoimmune diseases fail to get identified as such and, as a result, only receive organ or function specific treatment. For instance, type 1 diabetes is a very common autoimmune disease in children as well as adults but very few people realize that it is an autoimmune reaction of the body which causes the destruction of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Timely and accurate diagnosis, coupled with an attitude that is open to different possibilities, is tantamount to correct and effective treatment which can save you a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort.