Auto-immune disease - what and why
Auto-immune diseases have tripled in the last few decades.
They affect more women than heart disease and breast cancer combined.
In the US, 24 million Americans are now affected.
In Canada, the figure is proportionately similar at 2 million. What are these diseases and why do they happen?
What is an “auto-immune” disease?
When the body’s immune system begins to attack healthy tissues and organs at the cellular level, this is a referred to as an auto-immune disease. Depending on the type, one or many different types of body tissue can be affected. For example, the joints are affected in rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis; the skin and the kidneys are affected in lupus; psoriasis affects the skin, and inflammatory bowel diseases affect the intestines.
Common symptoms are fatigue, fever, general malaise, joint pain, and rashes.
What is causing an autoimmune disease and why?
The scientific and medical community are increasingly of the opinion that environmental pollution is to blame:
Dr. Mark Hyman of West Stockbridge, Massachusetts explains,“Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, rather than a foreign molecule like virus or bacteria. This happens when something confuses the immune system. Increasingly, that “something” appears to be an enormous load of environmental toxins to which we are all exposed.”
Dr. Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine, and author of “The Auto-immune Epidemic”, adds, “there is no doubt that auto-immune diseases are on the rise and our increasing environmental exposure to toxins and chemicals is fueling the risk. The research is sound. The conclusions, unassailable.”
What is the connection with heavy metals?
Heavy metals contained in environmental pollution are the principal cause. Studies have shown that metals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead have been associated with the development of auto-immune diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus, auto-immune hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, pernicious anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and type 1 diabetes.
In a large number of cases, the cause of auto-immune diseases can be traced to the overload of toxicity that the body has had to deal with over many years, particularly heavy metals and that toxicity has now accumulated in the cells.
Why does it affect certain parts of the body and not others?
Dr. Stephen B. Edelson, one of the top auto-immune disease specialists in the United States explains, “Heredity predisposes you to develop an auto-immune disorder, and environmental toxins trigger the conditions into being. So, for instance, some people who are genetically predisposed to auto-immune disorders do not develop auto-immune conditions, and not everyone who is exposed to environmental toxins develops these conditions either. But the combination of heredity and environmental toxins, as well as a stressful life event may be all that is needed.”
What does it mean: “at the cellular” level”?
Professor Patrick Bouic, a scientist at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, has conducted several double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on autoimmunity.
He refers to the “Th-1” and “Th-2” immune cells as protecting us from fungi, bacteria, and parasites:
“When our Th-1 cells are suppressed and not releasing immune factors, we get sick with cancer, colds, cases of flu and other infectious diseases. When our Th-2 cells are overactive and secreting too many inflammatory immune factors, we have allergies, auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.”
“The key to healthy immunity is to regulate both sides of the T-cell function.”
How significant is environment pollution?
It is really significant. In the US, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 2.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released yearly by large industrial facilities. And 6 million pounds of mercury are poured into our air every year. Mercury, in particular, directly damages our tissues, by making them unrecognizable to the immune system.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is no safe level of mercury in humans at which cells are not killed or body processes harmed. Governments around the world and in the United States are waking up to the new scientific evidence about mercury. In Sweden, it is against the law to use mercury amalgams. In Canada, Health Canada has urged the nation's dentists to stop giving mercury amalgam to children, pregnant woman and people with kidney disorders.
Back in 1991, Boyd Haley, Ph.D., a research toxicologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington made discoveries that changed the mercury debate for good. “I identified two environmental sources that could be responsible: Cadmium, mainly found in cigarette smoke, and mercury. I put mercury amalgam in water. Then, I placed a sample of brain tissue in that water and checked on it over time. After a period of several weeks, I noticed that the exposure to mercury had suppressed the secretion from the brain tissue of tubulin – a major enzyme that performs critical functions in the brain. This finding was consistent both with mercury toxicity and with brain tissue as affected by Alzheimer's disease."
How does all of this affect us?
It affects everyone, even before coming into this world. The Environmental Working Group examined the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies right at birth. They found 287 industrial chemicals, including pesticides, phthalates, dioxins, flame retardants, Teflon, and toxic metals like mercury. And this had accumulated before these infants even entered the world!
Heavy metals induce auto-antibodies, the cause of auto-immune diseases. Smoking and second-hand smoke increase the risk of several auto-immune diseases, primarily because of the chemicals and heavy metals contained in cigarettes.
Dr. Thomas Nissen, a specialist in Environmental Medicine, explains his theory about all diseases:
“We all have hereditary tendencies towards certain diseases. If a person is exposed to environmental toxins over long periods of time, this creates an enormous amount of free radicals in the body. These free radicals then alter the body's pH (which must be kept constant). An altered pH allows viruses, bacteria, Candida and other pathogens to thrive, which then sets the stage for more free radicals. The free radicals damage the cells, making it impossible for the cells to communicate with each other.”
"Autoimmunity results when the immune system attacks the damaged cells.”
Is detoxification a solution?
Dr. Hyman believes it is: “Years ago, I had chronic fatigue syndrome. This condition has auto-immune features and my blood tests clearly showed that my body was attacking itself. Getting rid of my mercury poisoning reversed my chronic fatigue and auto-immune problems. Similarly, my wife developed debilitating autoimmunity with joint pain and fatigue. Getting rid of the heavy metals in her body with an intensive detoxification program cured her, too.”
What can you do about it?
If you need to reclaim your health balance, you have to address the cause, not just the symptoms. The accumulation of internal pollution, such as heavy metals, may be setting off continuous alerts and alarm signals in your body before causing your immune system to attack.
Where heavy metal toxicity is the cause, as was the case for Dr. Hyman, the process of detoxification would reduce the toxicity that has accumulated in your cells and help you to rebalance your health.