From 50 to 75 million Americans have an autoimmune disease and it ranks as the third leading chronic illness in the U.S. An autoimmune disease develops when the body is actively defending itself against a potentially dangerous invader (a toxin, virus, bacteria, parasite, etc.), for some reason, the immune system fails to recognize the body’s own cells; consequently, turning the antibodies against itself. Because these healthy cells are believed to be foreign, the immune system begins attacking them, causing abnormal organ growth. Thus, leading to changes in the way the affected organ functions.
There are nearly 100 documented autoimmune diseases, as well as another 40 disease processes with an autoimmune component. Since many autoimmune diseases display similar symptoms, determining the type of disease an individual has can be challenging. Moreover, it is possible to have multiple autoimmune diseases, simultaneously. In addition, autoimmune diseases typically fluctuate with periods of just a few symptoms (or no symptoms at all), to a variety of symptoms. When symptoms are few or absent altogether, the disease is said to be in ‘remission.’ However, when numerous symptoms are present, this is referred to as a ‘flare-up.’
Many people who have an autoimmune disease just live with their symptoms: Once they finally do decide to find out why they are feeling sick, conventional medicine can diagnose their condition but offers them very few treatment options.
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Graves' disease
- Celiac disease
- Autoimmune spectrum disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Parkinson’s Disease
To diagnose an autoimmune disease, the antibodies being produced by the body need to be identified.
The blood tests listed below can help diagnose an autoimmune disease:
Complete blood count (CBC) – to measure the ratio of red cells (RBC) and white cells (WBC) in the blood. When the body is actively in battle, the white blood cell count is elevated.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – to measure the amount of inflammation in the body through measuring the speed of the RBCs as they fall to the bottom of the tube. In addition, if there are abnormal proteins in the blood the RBCs will clump together (these abnormal proteins denote inflammation).
C-reactive protein (CRP) – when inflammation is present, the liver produces CRP. Therefore, high levels of CRP indicate inflammation.
Antinuclear antibody tests (ANA) – antinuclear antibodies attack the healthy proteins in the nucleus of the cells. While it is normal to have some ANA in the blood, high levels of ANA can be present when an individual has an autoimmune disorder.
Autoantibody tests – these tests look for specific antibodies that have been created against the body’s own tissues.
If you have any of the symptoms listed below, or a combination of them, you could have an autoimmune disease:
- Difficulty focusing/concentrating
- Insomnia, a rapid heartbeat, unintended weight loss or heat intolerance
- Muscle pain/weakness, joint pain or a tremor
- Weight gain, fatigue or cold intolerance
- Recurrent hives or rashes, sensitivity to the sun, a rash across the cheeks and nose that resembles a butterfly
- Dry eyes, skin or mouth
- Hair loss or white patches inside the mouth or on the skin
- Tingling or numbness in the feet or hands
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, mucus or blood in stool
- Recurrent miscarriages or blood clots
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Conventional medicine concentrates on the fact that autoimmune diseases are inherited and, therefore, treats the symptoms and not the root of the problem. While it is true that genetics play a role in autoimmune diseases, they only increase the chance of developing an autoimmune disorder by 25 percent. The remaining 75 percent is environmental, which means certain lifestyle changes can be beneficial for those with autoimmune disorders.
At Dr. Jorge Peláez ‘s Florida Health & Wellness Institute, we proactively help our patients balance their immune systems, reduce the number of inflammatory attacks they experience, and work towards putting their autoimmune response into remission. We accomplish this by addressing the issues that are causing them to experience these symptoms.
Diagnosing and treating autoimmune disorders requires lab work: Therefore, Dr. Jorge Peláez will order a variety of tests. He may check the patient's intestinal health, salivary cortisol, metabolic and hormonal profiles, nutrient levels to see if he or she has any nutrient absorption issues. Determining whether or not the patient has any food sensitivities and intolerances to specific foods is important when creating the patient's personalized treatment program. Some patients have trigger foods that cause them to have an autoimmune response: Dr. Peláez works with his patients to find out if any particular foods trigger their symptoms.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, contact Florida Health & Wellness to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jorge Peláez. His experience and dedication to helping his patients live a life of optimal health and wellness have made him one of the top integrative medicine physicians in Northwest Florida. Click below to schedule your consultation.