Updated: Aug 2
One of the concerns I hear often from people is that they are afraid they will develop an autoimmune disease because someone in their family has one.
Are you one of them? While your risk for developing an autoimmune diseases does increase if you have a family member with one, it doesn't mean that you will get one too. Here's why... Genes play a role in developing autoimmune diseases. This is why autoimmune diseases occur in families. When family members have the same autoimmune disease it is called a familial autoimmune disease. When family members have a variety of autoimmune diseases it is called familial autoimmunity. Genes strongly influence whether or not you develop an autoimmune disease, BUT it is not the only reason.
"Scientist have often observed that less than 10% of people with a genetic susceptibility to autoimmunity progress to an autoimmune disease in their lifetime. This suggests that environmental factors like toxic chemicals, infections, and dietary proteins are involved in the development of autoimmune disease."- Aristo Vojdani, PhD. A good example of this is identical twins. Identical twins have the same genetic material. If one twin has an autoimmune disease, then the other twin does have a higher rate of developing an autoimmune disease and you would think every twin would get the same autoimmune disease too, but again, this doesn't happen with every twin! So what's going on where one twin can develop an autoimmune disease and one doesn't? One reason is that there is not one autoimmune genes. It's multiple genes that are affected that lead to an autoimmune disease and each gene defect increase susceptibility to an autoimmune disease. (It's very rare cases that a single gene defect will cause autoimmune diseases, but it does happen) One of the most studied genetic factors is called the Human Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) also known as the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) which encodes many things for your immune system and inflammation regulation indicating its importance in immune-mediated, autoimmune, and infectious diseases. HLA has been associated with Sjögren syndrome, Type 1 Diabetes, Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (Hashimoto's & Graves' Disease), Celiac disease, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Multiple Sclerosis, Inflammatory bowel disease, & Ankylosing Spondylitis. Although these gene can increase your susceptibility for an autoimmune disease, it's not simply inheriting these genes that puts you at risk. It's also depends on your lifestyle and your environment. This is why one twin can develop and autoimmune disease and one doesn't. They have the same genes, but if one twin smokes, eats fast food everyday, drinks diet soda everyday, sleeps 5 hours a night, doesn't exercise, lives in a polluted area, has high amounts of stress, had food poisoning many times, has a chronic infection, drinks socially every night, taken multiple rounds of antibiotics, but the other twin has a completely different lifestyle of sleeping 8 hours a night, exercising 3 days a week, eating a whole foods diet, uses a water filter, avoids plastics, drinks occasionally, meditates to reduce stress, lives in the same polluted area, but uses an air filter, etc.
You can see how one lifestyle promotes autoimmunity while the other one reduces your risk of autoimmunity. Autoimmune disease begin to develop years before you start noticing any symptoms, so researchers are working on ways to predict autoimmunity and have found several risk factors associated with the onset of autoimmune diseases. These are the few they've discovered so far:
Being female (it has to do with our genes--> HLA)
Autoantibodies (usually appears years before disease)
Using these markers + a family history of autoimmunity and evaluation of your current medical history is how I create a personalized treatment for you. Like I mentioned before, I don't do protocols and this is one of the reasons why. So just because someone in your family has Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, Lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, doesn't mean you will too! That is great news! The key is to start doing things NOW to prevent developing an autoimmune disease in the first place. If you already have one, then the goal is to stop progression and further damage to your body and calm your immune system down. If you're ready to get started, then click HERE.