All of us have a superpower within us; our ability to fight off diseases. Thanks to our immune system that acts as a shield to our body. But what happens when the immune system starts working against your body?
The condition termed as Autoimmune disease  causes your immune cells mistakenly attack your body’s healthy cells and destroys them. Wondering why it happens?
Let’s take a closer look at what autoimmune diseases are and how you can treat them.
- What Is An Autoimmune Disease?
- Types Of Autoimmune Diseases
- How Does AutoImmune Disease Affect Your Body?
- Why Do You Have Multiple Autoimmune Diseases?
- Common Symptoms Of Autoimmune Diseases
- Treatment For Autoimmune Diseases
- Diet For Autoimmune Disease
- How To Prevent Autoimmune Disease?
- Diagnostic Tests For Autoimmune Diseases
- When To Consult A Doctor?
What Is An Autoimmune Disease?
Your immune system is meant for fighting against foreign pathogens such as bacteria and viruses when they enter your body. The immunity cells (white blood cells) will identify the foreign cells, attack and wipe them off your body. But, if a person has an autoimmune disease, then the immunity cells stop differentiating the foreign cells from the body cells. As a result, the immune system releases auto-antibodies that attack the healthy cells of the body tissues instead of just fighting the infection.
Though we don’t know the exact triggering factors for this over-activity of the immune system, researchers suspect that genetics, infections, exposure to chemicals and solvents in the environment, and western diets  which contain high-sugars, high fats, and processed foods are the risk factors of autoimmune diseases.
Types Of Autoimmune Diseases
Based on the location of the attack, autoimmune diseases can be classified into the following two types:
1. Organ-Specific Autoimmune Disorders (Affects One Main Organ)
In these conditions, the immune system usually targets a particular tissue or organ in the body.
- The thyroid gland is targeted in Graves disease
- The endocrine pancreas is targeted in type 1 diabetes
- Skin cells are targeted in vitiligo
2. Systemic Autoimmune Disorders (Affects Multiple Organs)
In these conditions, the immune system produces auto-antibodies in almost any kind of tissue or body cells. This results in the damage of multiple tissues and organs in the body.
The terms ‘rheumatic autoimmune disorders’ and ‘systemic autoimmune diseases’ are often used interchangeably while these diseases are mostly treated by rheumatologists.
How Does AutoImmune Disease Affect Your Body?
Usually, autoimmune disorders can affect the functioning of the following cells or organs of your body:
2. Thyroid gland
4. Blood vessels
5. Red blood cells
6. Connective tissue
“While the immune cells destroy the cells and tissues of these body parts, inflammation or abnormal growth of the organs is noticed. Also, one can have multiple distinct autoimmune disorders coexisting at the same time,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
Why Do You Have Multiple Autoimmune Diseases?
Multiple autoimmune syndrome (MAS) is an unusual condition that mostly occurs in people who already have a history of another autoimmune disease, especially a skin-related disease such as scleroderma or psoriasis. Genetics, psychological, immunologic, and environmental factors can also play a major role in the development of multiple autoimmune syndrome (MAS).
“The gene defect that causes one autoimmune disease could cause another one too. While MAS with three distinct autoimmune diseases is the most common type, more than three autoimmune conditions coexisting is an extremely rare type of MAS,” says Dr. Zeel.
Common Symptoms Of Autoimmune Diseases
The following are the most common early symptoms for various autoimmune diseases:
- Low-grade fever
- Rashes on skin
- Tingling and numbness in the arms and feet
- Swelling and redness
- Hair loss
- Difficulty in concentrating
Apart from the above symptoms, individual autoimmune disorders can result in their own unique symptoms, which can come and go over time. And, this period when the symptoms subside is called ‘remission’.
Treatment For Autoimmune Diseases
1. Ayurvedic Treatments
“Ayurveda perceives autoimmune diseases in a slightly different way. As per Ayurveda, the immune cells do not attack body cells accidentally, but to defend against harmful metabolites termed as ‘Ama’,” says Dr. Zeel.
Poor digestion capacity, pollutants, synthetic chemicals, toxic drugs, etc. result in the build-up of ‘Ama’ deeply in your body tissues or physiological systems, which can result in a variety of ailments in your body organs.
Ayurveda describes a vast number of herbs as ‘immunomodulators’ , which can help you in controlling autoimmune conditions while eliminating ama from your body. These immunomodulatory herbs can act as immunostimulants, immune adjuvants as well as immunosuppressants when needed, thus, regulating and balancing the activity of your immune cells depending on your body’s condition.
A. Immunomodulating Herbs
Tulasi(basil), brahmi(bacopa monerie), biranjasipha(yarrow), anantmool(hemidesmus-indicus), kumari(aloe vera), shatavari(asparagus racemosus), ashwagandha (withania somnifera), hops, guduchi(tinospora cordifolia), haldi(turmeric), nimba(neem), akanadi (cissampelos pareira), shankapushpi (morning glory), shalaparni (desmodium gangeticum), amla (Indian gooseberry), vidang ( embelia ribes in), yashtimadhu(licorice), haritaki(terminalia chebula), etc. are some of the herbal immunomodulators that can help you control autoimmune disorders naturally.
“The phytoconstituents such as flavonoids, sapogenins, thiosulfinates, terpenoids, volatile oils, alkaloids, coumarins, and glycosides present in these herbs are responsible for stronger immunomodulatory activity,” says Dr. Zeel.
Immunomodulator herbs are chosen and used for a series of Ayurvedic processes as per your specific autoimmune conditions and dosha levels.
How Are They Used?
A. Toxin Removal
As the first step, Ayurveda works to eliminate the accumulated ‘ama’ from your body tissues. Herbs such as haritaki, maricha, saindhav lavan, hingu, pippali, shunthi are used for this detoxification process.
B. Metabolism Correction
The next step to control your autoimmune activity involves correcting your vitiated metabolism. Herbs such as guggulu, vasa, ghrita, patola patra, guduchi, nimba, etc. are used in this therapy.
C. Enhancing Ojas Production
The dysfunctioning of your immune system occurs when the ojas production in your body depletes. Hence, Ayurveda focuses on increasing ojas production with herbs such as haridra, amalaki, yashtimadhu, pippali, nirgundi, manjistha, guduchi, etc.
D. Immune System Correction
Finally, Ayurvedic treatments work to correct your immune system by modulating the response of your immune cells along with rejuvenating your immune system. Herbs such as haritaki, amalaki, dadim, ela, bahera, ghrita, etc, can help in bringing your immune system to normal functioning.
“Ayurveda works with a holistic approach to find out the root causes that trigger autoimmune responses in your body. Besides, these herbs also help in reducing the inflammation in the body,” says Dr. Zeel.
2. Medical Treatments
Conventional medical treatments for autoimmune diseases focus on reducing the inflammation in the body tissues by controlling the overactivity of the immune response.
- Ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib, mefenamic acid, etoricoxib, etc. are some of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used in autoimmune condition treatments.
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone, calcineurin inhibitors such as cyclosporine and tacrolimus, mTOR inhibitors such as sirolimus, etc. are some of the other immunosuppressants used to control the inflammation.
- Hormone replacement and blood transfusions are involved if necessary, especially in cases where blood cells are attacked.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to relieve you from specific symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as skin rashes, muscle pain, fatigue, etc.
You need to intake immunosuppressants  only as per the prescription of your doctor as they may interfere with many other medications and preexisting conditions.
Diet For Autoimmune Disease
A. Foods To Consume
1. Seasonal fruits in moderation
2. Green leafy vegetables and tubers such as sweet potatoes, yams, etc.
3. Herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic basil, cilantro, lemongrass, sage, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, saffron, etc. that are not derived from seeds.
4. Healthy fats from minimally processed vegetable oils, coconut oil, or olive oil.
5. Fish, other seafood, poultry, and organ meat, which is minimally processed.
6. Bone broth
7. Black and green tea along with other herbal teas made of ginger, chamomile, mint, etc.
8. Natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup in moderate levels.
9. Sugar-free vinegars
Vedix Tip: Ensure you include the foods that keep your Ayurvedic doshas in balance in your diet. The balanced functioning of your immune system also depends on the equilibrium of your Ayurvedic doshas.
B. Foods To Avoid
3. Red meat
7. Nightshade vegetables
9. Processed vegetable oils
12. Refined and processed sugars 
13. Food additives and artificial sweeteners
How To Prevent Autoimmune Disease?
1. Avoid the following toxins from your diet, living conditions, and lifestyle:
- Air pollution
- Synthetic estrogens such as hormonal birth control pills
- Residential or agricultural pesticides 
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Chemical-based cosmetics such as lipstick and nail polish
2. Avoid eating foods with omega-6 fatty acids, grains, and sugars as they increase the risk of autoimmune diseases by causing inflammation.
3. Maintaining a healthy weight and even losing weight if you are obese can reduce the risk of developing autoimmune disorders. Engaging yourself in regular physical exercise is the best way to maintain balanced body weight.
4. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome through dietary fiber, prebiotic and probiotic supplements can help you prevent autoimmune diseases.
5. Quit smoking completely as it alters your immune functions by damaging your DNA. This, in turn, causes inflammation in your body.
6. Having an adequate sound sleep for at least 6 hours can lower your risk of autoimmunity .
Diagnostic Tests For Autoimmune Diseases
As it is hard to determine most of the autoimmune diseases with a single test, doctors may depend upon a combination of tests along with tracking symptoms and physical examination to diagnose your condition.
Typically, a positive antinuclear antibody test (ANA) indicates the presence of an autoimmune disease. However, it cannot help in identifying which autoimmune disorder has been developed.
Testing for specific auto-antibodies based on symptoms can help in determining certain autoimmune diseases. And, testing C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) in your blood can help doctors measure the level of inflammation in your body.
When To Consult A Doctor?
It is better to consult your doctor immediately as you notice the symptoms of autoimmune diseases as some of the conditions can eventually result in multi-organ failure.
- You can visit a rheumatologist for treating autoimmune conditions related to joints such as rheumatoid arthritis, SLE, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Visit a gastroenterologist for treating autoimmune conditions related to the GI tract such as Crohn’s disease and celiac condition.
- Consult an endocrinologist to treat conditions related to glands such as Graves’ disease, Addison’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, etc.
- When you notice autoimmune symptoms related to the skin as in the case of psoriasis, consult your dermatologist immediately.
Never administer any Ayurvedic or conventional medications and treatments mentioned in this article to treat autoimmune disorders without consulting your doctor.
The Last Word
Often, autoimmune diseases are difficult to diagnose as the symptoms of most of the conditions overlap and there are more than 80 different autoimmune disorders known to us. Ayurveda recommends the right diet that reduces inflammation naturally while maintaining your dosha balance to control autoimmune diseases. Also, there are immunomodulating medicinal herbs that work to improve the functioning of specific organs that are attacked by auto-antibodies.
At Vedix, we formulate customized immune-boosting Ayurvedic capsules based on your doshas and unique health concerns.Know Your Dosha Now