Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system malfunctions and produces antibodies which attack the body itself rather than foreign invaders. When the immune system is working normally, it can distinguish between native proteins and those that are foreign.
Autoimmune disease can effect any part of the body. The list of autoimmune diseases is extensive and growing rapidly. Some of the more common of these “rare” diseases are systemic lupus, pemphigus, diabetes, Addison’s disease, keratitis sicca, autoimmune thyroiditis, polymyositis, polyarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, immune mediated thrombocytopenia, and atopy. These diseases are considered rare because they are difficult to diagnose. Estimates in humans are that autoimmune diseases are twice as common as cardiovascular disease and 4 times more common than cancer. If the same is true in dogs, these diseases are not rare at all.
The conventional medicine approach to autoimmune disease involves making a diagnosis by demonstrating the presence of auto-antibodies and then suppressing the immune system with very toxic drugs. The difficulties associated with testing for autoimmune disease often result in diagnosis being delayed for years.
Functional medicine approaches autoimmune disease the same way it does other diseases. It attempts to identify systems in the body that are malfunctioning. It does this by testing for and identifying imbalances and deficiencies in the body. Thus, it is not necessary to definitively diagnose the disease before treating it. With autoimmune disease, there are 3 main areas of concern. These are inflammation, toxins, and deficiencies of nutrients and hormones. These issues are addressed by dietary changes, vitamins and minerals, hormone replacement, and herbs.
It is unlikely that autoimmune disease can be cured, but it can be controlled so that a normal life is possible. An amazing example of this is the case of Terry Wahls, MD. She was definitively diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was confined to a wheel chair for 5 years before starting functional treatment of her disease. She is now walking, practicing medicine again, and lecturing around the world about her experience. She has developed her method called the Wahls Protocol for treating autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease does not need to be a death sentence. Neither does it have to be disabling. By controlling inflammation, the immune system can be restored to normal.