When your immune system is not working the way it should, as in the case of autoimmune disease, it starts attacking the wrong target, your own body and organs. For example, in type I Diabetes your immune system will go after the pancreas. There are many other autoimmune diseases, all with their own specific pathways and symptoms. Some examples of autoimmune diseases that may sound familiar are Celiac disease, thyroiditis, fibromyalgia, Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The cause behind these may be bacterial or viral, perhaps caused by our environment, or possibly even toxins in the food we consume.
In the past, when there were limited treatment methods for autoimmune diseases, steroids were used to mitigate and treat symptoms. But are steroids as a treatment effective? All steroids (for example: Prednisone) will reduce the amount of inflammation in the body. However, this is only temporary fix. Steroids will take care of the symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders, but not the disease itself. Newer therapies using your own immune system to fight off any immune deficiencies are currently in development. One example is novel treatment for Multiple Sclerosis which is still currently in the works. The process involves pulling out your T-cells (immune cells), radiating them, cleaning them and re-injecting them back in your body to fight off those infected antibodies. This treatment is still not readily available but provides hope that a more permanent solution exists aside from steroids.
In the meantime, is it possible to treat these disorders from the inside out, rather than looking for steroids or some type of medication to treat the symptoms? Making changes to what we put in our body and the food we consume could be a better answer for those suffering from autoimmune disease. For instance, dairy will cause endotoxin (a toxin that is released by bacteria into the environment). Staying away from trans-fat, gluten, sugar, red meat, processed foods, fast foods, and fried food which can have adverse effects on the body can also be a great help. Sticking to healthy vegetables and fruits is key, and simple things like adding Turmeric to your diet can help reduce inflammation. Switching to olive oil and getting the right amount of Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the symptoms and lessen the likelihood of development of autoimmune disease. In other areas of the country they are using probiotic supplements, whose the goal is to prevent the immune cells from attacking your own body.
In conclusion, steroids are not the answer as this will only mask the condition. You first need to identify the underlying problem, and attempt to figure out the cause of your autoimmune response. If the cause is environmental or lifestyle related, changing daily habits could be the answer you are looking for.
A life style change can help decrease the possibility of you getting an auto-immune disease or to help minimize your symptoms. Here is a take home message, don’t make drastic changes all at once. Take small steps get used to one change before moving to the next one. Keeping this in mind will give you a healthier lifestyle that will lead to a healthier you.
Dr. David B. Samadi
Chairman, Department of Urology
Chief of Robotics at Lenox Hill Hospital