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Intolerance to Self By Sarah Buck, ND A


utoimmune hypothyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, celiac, lupus, and psoriasis. These constitute a sampling of the over 100 identi-


fi ed autoimmune diseases. It is estimated by the NIH that between 3-5% of the population suffers from an autoimmune condition (and between 23.5-50 million Americans). They can be debilitat- ing, confusing, heart-breaking, deadly, and frustrating.


What is Autoimmunity? The standard line when defi ning autoimmunity is that the


body’s immune system becomes “confused” and begins to at- tack and destroy various self-tissues. Basically, an immunological intolerance to self. It is not uncommon for someone to suffer from more than one autoimmune condition at a time, or for several


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types of autoimmune conditions to show up in a single family line (e.g. grandmother, mother, daughter). Susceptibility to autoimmu- nity often has a genetic component, but what activates those genes is almost always environmental, which means you are not at the mercy of your genes. Autoimmune conditions affect women more often than men, the AARDA (aarda.org) states that autoimmune diseases are in the top 10 leading causes for death in females from birth to age 64. This means that autoimmunity is often a women’s health issue.


A Background on the Human Immune System


The immune system is divided into two subcategories: the in- nate and adaptive. The innate system is what we are born with as a natural shield (both physical and chemical) to foreign materials. This includes our skin, digestive and respiratory tract lining, saliva, tears, and stomach acid. The effects of the innate immune system are non-specifi c but usually include an infl ammation and debris- clearing response. The response of the innate immune system is the same regardless of the invader and there is no memory generated. If the innate immune system cannot keep an invading pathogen (disease agent) out of the body, it works with the adaptive immune system for targeted pathogen removal/destruction. The adaptive immune system is more specifi c in what it chooses to react to and can decrease the body’s reaction to specifi c invaders over time. Once activated the adaptive immune system sets to work creating antibodies and recruiting cells and chemicals that will work to neu- tralize a pathogen or pathogen-infected cell. At the same time the


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