Understanding autoimmunityJun 30, 2020
A normal and healthy human body has proper system comprising of tools that function to resist attack of invading foreign particles such as bacteria, virus and other parasites. This set of tools is termed as immune system. Sometimes, immune system attacks the body itself. These misdirected responses by the immune system are known as autoimmunity.
Autoimmune diseases are have nonspecific symptoms and initially include fatigue, ache, pains and low grade fevers. Because of the vagueness, people are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases long after they are unable to function properly.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases include
Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Type 1 diabetes mellitus
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
Autoimmune diseases occur in an organism when there is progression from autoimmunity to pathogenic immunity. One can determine this progression by genetic influences and environmental triggers. Autoimmunity is shown by the existence of T cells that are reactive to the host antigens and autoantibodies. Autoantibodies function against the person who produced them.
To be precise, autoimmune disease occurs when tissues are attacked by immune system. Just like all immune responses, its focus is on specific antigens by B-cell receptors and T-cell receptors.
Unlike in infection, the antigens recognized by B-cell receptors and T-cell receptors are processed by proteins. This process takes place in target organs and leads to chronic inflammatory process that hinders the normal functioning of the body tissues.
In case of human diseases, the trigger for disruptive process is usually undetermined. There is some evidence that autoimmunity can take place after infection and more than one infection is responsible for the initiation of disease. Other environmental factors also play a role.
Role of genetic factors in developing autoimmunity
There is a lot of research going on to understand the influence of inheritance on autoimmune diseases. It has been observed that vulnerability to autoimmune diseases is contributed by a variety of polymorphic genes. In singular capacity, these genes have small effect but in aggregate they are responsible for vulnerability to autoimmunity.
Role of lifestyle factors in developing autoimmunity
Physical activities, stress, nutrition, hydration, sleep and lymphatic functions play their certain roles in developing autoimmunity. All these factors are responsible for creating neurotransmitter imbalances, mitochondrial dysfunction, hormonal imbalances and oxidative stress that increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
Role of environmental factors in developing autoimmunity
Infections (bacterial or chronic viral infections or intestinal dysbiosis) and toxins (heavy metals and chemical compounds found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics and other products) can influence, trigger or aggravate an autoimmune diseases.
For instance, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) exposure is associated with the autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Lupus is linked to mercury toxicity.
Ankylosing spondylitis is associated to the presence of Klebsiella bacteria in the digestive tract.
The infections and toxins trigger autoimmunity in different ways. They either trigger autoimmunity by damaging cells or the infections also have the ability of molecular mimicry.
The existence of these infections and toxins will continue to encourage the autoimmune response.
In a sensible approach to autoimmunity, it is vital to identify and remove these environmental triggers.
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