Developing an Autoimmune Disease: Are You at Risk?

two your girls smiling in the sunshine

It’s common to know someone who suffers from an autoimmune disease.

And, if you know someone with an autoimmune disease, you may notice him or her dealing with a variety of symptoms from hair loss and fatigue to joint pain and impaired coordination.

It’s often easy to look at someone who is dealing with an illness and say, “I’m healthy and active–that will never happen to me.”

But, unfortunately, we can’t guarantee our own health. This is why it’s so important to be aware of what might trigger an autoimmune disease.

In fact, there are many factors that play into a person’s likelihood to develop an autoimmune disease.

The good news…if you’re aware of what these risk factors might be, you can do things to protect yourself or ease the symptoms of an autoimmune disease issue that might pop up down the road.

Keep reading to discover if you’re at risk of developing an autoimmune disease…

Genetics

blue DNA strands

Like many health issues, there is a genetic risk factor that’s linked to developing autoimmune diseases.

For starters, studies in humans and animals suggest that polymorphisms of multiple genes are involved in putting a person at risk from developing an autoimmune disease.

To prove the point further, a study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine shares that…

“Twin studies of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), type I diabetes, and multiple sclerosis (MS) indicate that disease concordance in monozygotic twins is 4 or more times higher than in dizygotic twins. Strong familial associations (odds ratio ranging from 5-10) are seen in studies of MS, type I diabetes, Graves disease, discoid lupus, and SLE.

Familial association studies have also reported an increased risk of several systemic autoimmune diseases among relatives of patients with a systemic autoimmune disease.”

It’s never a bad idea to take note of your family history. If any of your family members have a history with an autoimmune disease, ask your doctor about genetic risk factors.

Your doctor should be able to give you info on what symptoms to watch out for as well as how to start protecting yourself via diet, exercise, supplements, etc., in order to lessen your chances of developing an autoimmune disease.

Gender

young woman on a beach

Sorry, ladies, but statistics prove that autoimmune diseases tend to affect 75% more women than men.

There still isn’t a ton of data on why; however, many scientists and doctors believe it has something to do with women’s immune systems and hormones.

If you’re a woman and are experiencing unusual fatigue, aches and pains, hair loss, etc., take it seriously and go see your doctor.

Infection

cartoon purple infection

If you’ve ever had a bad infection and then later experience the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, it’s not unrealistic to think that an autoimmune disease might be in play.

Certain viruses resemble specific parts of the human body. As your body fights the infection, it produces antibodies. During this time, it’s very possible that your immune system could get confused and start making antibodies against your own body.

This process is known as molecular mimicry and is a leading theory as to why autoimmune diseases are triggered by viral infections.

Diet

The digestive system hosts your immune system. And, it’s the immune system that is the trigger for autoimmune diseases.

For this reason, it only makes sense that autoimmune disease symptoms can arise if you’re not taking proper care of your gut.

One of the best ways to prevent and/or manage an autoimmune disease is to ensure you have a healthy, balanced gut.

There are many things you can do to keep your digestive system healthy, which include…

  • Taking a probiotic
  • Removing gluten from your diet
  • Staying away from inflammatory foods
  • Cutting out sugary or processed foods from your diet
  • Increasing plant-based dietary fiber intake
  • Lowering your stress levels
  • Introducing fermented foods to your diet

For a more in-depth diet plan that will work to keep your gut healthy, I recommend talking with your primary physician.

Worried about symptoms associated with an autoimmune disease? Check out this post on signs of autoimmune diseases you should watch out for.

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