The healthy human body is equipped with a powerful set of tools for resisting invading microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Unfortunately, this set of tools, or the immune system, sometimes goes awry and attacks the body itself. These misdirected immune responses are referred to as autoimmunity. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue in either a small area or throughout the whole body. According to Johns Hopkins Autoimmune Research Center, at least ten million Americans suffer from the more than eighty illnesses caused by autoimmunity. The following are some of the more common ones:
|Celiac Disease||Immune Thrombocytopenic (ITP)||Graves’ Disease|
|Addison’s Disease||Goodpasture’s Syndrome||Pemphigus Vulgaris|
|Alopecia Areata||Wegener’s Granulomatosis||Polymyositis|
|Ankylosing Spondylitis||Guillain-Barré Syndrome||Primary Biliary Cirrhosis|
|Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia||Hashimoto’s Disease||Psoriasis|
|Autoimmune Hepatitis||Hidradenitis Suppurativa||Rheumatoid Arthritis|
|Berger’s disease (IgA Nephropathy)||Giant Cell Arteritis (Temporal A)||Scleroderma (Morphea)|
|Bullous Pemphigoid||Interstitial Cystitis||Sharp Syndrome|
|Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis||Isaacs’ Syndrome (Neuromyotonia)||Sjögren’s Syndrome|
|Crohn’s Disease||Kawasaki Disease||Stiff Person Syndrome|
|Diabetes||Multiple Sclerosis (MS)||Vitiligo|
Autoimmunity is present in everyone to some extent. Although it is usually harmless, in some individuals, autoimmunity can be the cause of a broad spectrum of human illnesses. Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases are a growing threat to the health of all Americans, especially women. Taken as a whole, they represent the fourth-largest cause of disability among women in the United States. Currently, 78 percent of those affected with an autoimmune disease are women.
Patients with autoimmunity and systemic inflammation have much higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, renal insufficiency, and cardiovascular disease than does the rest of the apparently healthy population. These connections between autoimmunity, inflammation, cardiovascular and renal complications can make autoimmune disorders difficult to treat. However, multifaceted holistic interventions such as nutritional immunomodulation can weaken these ties and reduce the incidence of avoidable disease and disability and promote tolerance to self and environmental antigens.
At Merge Medical Center, we are a leader in the holistic medicine approach to managing autoimmune disease in the Charleston area. We view autoimmunity as an ongoing maladaptive process, rather than a static pathological condition. The practical results of the functional medicine model lie in its ability to detect diseases at a much earlier stage in their development and to assess the body as a whole. The model also opens the door to a much broader range of nontoxic strategies for prevention and treatment of existing diseases.
The following are considered in the evaluation and treatment of all patients who are suffering from an autoimmune disorder:
|Food Sensitivities||Balance of Microorganisms|
|Inflammation Markers||Hormone Deficiency or Imbalance|
|Toxin Exposures||Detoxification Pathways|
|Latent or Subclinical Infections||Digestive Function|
|Family History||Nutritional Deficiencies|
In addition to ordering the appropriate tests to assess your condition, our team will develop a personalized herbal and nutritional support program to enhance overall health and wellness, educate you in certain lifestyle modifications and recommend certain nutritional supplements to address your condition. In some cases, prescription medications or natural hormone replacement may be recommended. Body work such as acupuncture or Chinese therapeutic massage may also be advised to support you.