adaptive immune system is creating cells that store the memory of the specific invad- er so that if it is encountered in the future, the immune system kicks into action much more efficiently. These adaptive cells must be taught by the body what is self and what is non-self. When cells get this right and can distinguish between the two it is called tolerance. If the body does not complete its job in teaching these cells to be tolerant, the confused cells can become problem- atic, mounting an immune response to self- tissues, resulting in autoimmunity.

Environmental Triggers for Autoimmunity

The following are the external factors that exert pressure on the immune system:

1.Microorganisms: infections of bacteria (e.g. Strep), viruses (e.g. Epstein-Barr), parasites, and/or fungi.

2.Xenobiotics: tobacco, UV light, pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals.

3.Microbiota: the composition of bacterial communities living in your gut.

4.Nutrition: various nutrients such as vitamin D, iodine, and food additives.

Not mentioned above is the impor- tance of maintaining balance within the body’s own systems. Hormone imbalanc- es can lead to dysfunctional innate and adaptive immune responses, especially in women who experience normal cyclic fluctuations in their hormones. Nervous system imbalances can also lead to dysfunction, cortisol (the stress hormone) and epinephrine (adrenaline) contribute to a suppressed immune response which can decrease our ability to fight off mi- croorganism infection and lead to faulty self vs. non-self recognition.

Assessing Autoimmunity Assessing autoimmunity includes

a comprehensive list of testing, mostly through bloodwork, to determine if there are specific products of autoimmunity present in the body. These include antimi- tochondrial antibodies (AMA), rheumatoid factor (RF), and antithyroperoxidase anti- bodies (TPO). More extensive testing can include tissue biopsy, x-rays, MRI, hormone and genetic testing. All of the testing gives a clue to what kind of autoimmune condition is occurring in the body and allows doctors to diagnose the disease. A diagnosis will guide the treatment options and approaches considered by medical practitioners.

Marna Ringel Independent Distributor

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