Autoimmune diseases are diseases where the your immune system attacks your own body. Usually, the immune system recognizes the difference between foreign invaders (pathogens such as bacteria and viruses). Approximately 8% of Americans have an autoimmune disorder of some sort. When a person has an autoimmune condition, however, their body’s antibodies sees parts of their own body as foreign and starts attacking them. Examples include:
- Type 1 Diabetes, which damages the pancreas and its ability to produce insulin
Lupus, which affects the whole body
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which damages the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells
Some IBDs mimic some of the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, and some IBDs such as diversion colitis are autoimmune disorders
- Psoriasis, a genetic disease where antibodies target the skin
- Arthritis, where antibodies attack the joints
Genetics, environmental factors (e.g. exposure to radiation or chemicals) and diet are thought to be the main causes of various autoimmune disorders. Some, like MS, run in the family, whereas others may have other triggers. As there is a rising incidence of autoimmune disorders in the western world, some postulate that there might be environmental factors involved.