Healthy living

Autoimmune Diseases: Types, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Last Updated on 08/02/2024 by Liz @ HealthTenfold

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

Naturally, the immune system is meant to guard your body against foreign organisms like bacteria and viruses. However, in some instances, the body’s defenses turn against its own cells, mistaking them for foreign bodies. When this happens, it results in a condition is known as an autoimmune disease. It causes the body to release auto-antibodies that attack healthy cells. It’s important to know how to notice autoimmune diseases symptoms.

On average, about 24 million people in the US have different types of autoimmune diseases. They are about 80 types of autoimmune diseases that researchers know about. Some of the most common types of autoimmune diseases include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis – a condition where the immune system attacks the joints
  • Lupus – a disease where the immune system attacks the organs and tissues
  • Psoriasis – a condition where skin cells multiply too fast and result in red and scaly patches
  • Thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, hyperthyroidism, and hypothyroidism
  • Psoriatic arthritis – a form of arthritis that affects psoriasis patients
  • Multiple sclerosis – a condition where the myelin sheath in the brain is damaged, slowing down the information transmission speed
  • Celiac disease – an autoimmune disease where eating gluten triggers inflammation and damages the small intestines’ lining 
  • Autoimmune vasculitis – a condition where the immune system attacks the blood vessels
  • Diabetes type 1- a disease where the immune system attacks the pancreas which produces insulin

Autoimmune Diseases Symptoms

There are many types of autoimmune diseases but they have similar symptoms especially in the earlier stages. They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Swollen glands
  • Aching muscles
  • Skin rashes
  • Loss of hair
  • Inflammation and redness
  • Joint pain
  • Tingling sensation and numbness on the hands and feet
  • Digestive problems and abdominal pain
  • Low-grade fever
  • Specific autoimmune diseases may have unique symptoms and in some, symptoms may sometimes come and go. 

What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?

The real cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown but some theories postulate that it could be due to an overactive immune system fighting the body following an injury or infection. However, certain risk factors raise the possibility of people developing autoimmune diseases:

Some autoimmune disorders like lupus and multiple sclerosis are inherited through bloodlines. If you have a relative with these conditions, you are at a higher risk of developing them.

Environmental Factors
The body naturally fights foreign bodies that make their way into it. Therefore, researchers suspect that exposure to chemicals, infections, toxins, or solvents may trigger the overreaction of the immune system.

Some medications like antibiotics and high blood pressure drugs lead to the development of drug-induced lupus. Statins, drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels also trigger the development of myopathy (an autoimmune disease that leads to weakened muscles). 

Smoking has been shown to cause several autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. This may be because smoking introduces toxins in the body that trigger the immune system. 

Obesity or Being Overweight
Too much bodyweight increases the risk of developing psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis. This is because of the pressure and stress on fat tissues promotes inflammation.  

Being a Woman
A 2014 study revealed that women are more likely to develop an autoimmune disease as compared to men. This may be because women have more VGLL3 genes in their skin than men. The VGGL3 gene pushes the immune system to overreact and start attacking the body. The onset of the disease is usually during the child-bearing ages of 15 to 44. 

Eating foods with excess sugar, fats, and processed foods increases the chances of developing inflammation. Inflammations often cause an immune response. 

The hygiene hypothesis claims that the increased use of vaccines and antiseptic on children today has reduced their exposure to disease-causing organisms. As a result, their immune systems may overreact to virtually harmless substances.

Treatment options besides drugs and medication

Modern medicine for autoimmune diseases is administered to suppress the immune system and moderate its reaction. However, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem so the disease is not completely dealt with. An effective way to deal with autoimmune disease is by discovering the underlying cause and dealing with it. 

Autoimmune diseases result from an immune response or inflammation to the body attacking its own cells. Treatment of autoimmune diseases is done by getting to the root of what is causing the inflammation. This approach is known as holistic treatment. 

Identifying the Triggers
Inflammation can be caused by allergens, infections, toxins, stress, diet, and so forth. Identifying these triggers will help you come up with a treatment plan to get rid of the problem once and for all.

Eliminating Toxins
The toxins that cause inflammation should be eliminated to reduce the symptoms of the autoimmune disease. Examples of these toxins include pesticides, mercury, and cigarette smoke. Detoxifying the body of these toxins will help in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. You can detoxify the body by drinking plenty of water, green tea, and fresh juices such as lemon.

Treating Allergens 
Autoimmune diseases are common in people who are allergic to certain foods or eat foods rich in inflammatory properties like gluten and dairy products. You can work with a doctor to help you identify which foods you’re sensitive to so that you can eliminate them from your diet. 

Fix the Leaky Gut
When the walls of the small intestines are damaged, undigested food particles, bacteria, and toxins leak into the bloodstream, it causes inflammation and an autoimmune response. It causes chronic diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches, among other symptoms. A leaky gut can be healed by reducing stress, eliminating toxic foods from your diet, sleeping better, and eating more collagen. 

Reduce Stress
Stress is a major contributing factor that worsens autoimmune responses. Reducing stress will help in the overall treatment of autoimmune diseases. You can do this by exercising, meditating, getting a massage, or aromatherapy. 

Boost Your Immunity
Boosting your immunity while undertaking the holistic treatment will help in making it more effective. You can do this by getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and taking supplements that strengthen your immune

Alternative Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases


It’s an ancient practice of inserting needles at specific points in the skin to promote the flow of energy and stimulate the body to self-heal. It helps in reducing inflammations which is very prominent in autoimmune diseases. It has been found to be especially effective in relieving inflammations in rheumatoid arthritis.


They help in reducing inflammations in different autoimmune diseases. Some of the effective supplements are like vitamin A and E, primrose oil, fish oil, and flaxseed oil.


For autoimmune diseases that cause pain, a massage will help in relieving it. Look for a massage therapist who has experience dealing with autoimmune disease patients for effective service.

Herbal Medicine

Some indigenous herbs are used to treat inflammations that are caused by autoimmune responses, to suppress immune responses, and to fight the agents in the body that cause inflammation. Examples of these are hops, Artemisia Qinghao, Indian Sarsaparilla Vine, Reishi Mushroom, and Nettle.


According to the Ayurvedic approach, autoimmune diseases occur when there is too much ama (undigested food that clogs the system and causes an immune reaction) in the body. To treat autoimmune diseases, Ayurveda uses various herbal medicines and some of them include:

Curcumin is an extract of turmeric that contains excellent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-septic properties so it’s used to treat a number of ailments. The anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent candidate for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

This herb has both anti-inflammatory and immune regulating effects. It also helps in clearing the ama that causes autoimmune diseases.

It is an adaptogen that reduces stress and is also an anti-inflammatory herb so it reduces swellings caused by autoimmune diseases. It also contains the compound Withania somnifera that regulates the immune system. It stimulates a low immune response and also suppresses a hyperactive immune system. 

Other Ayurvedic treatment approaches include getting adequate sleep, eating a diet free of inflammatory foods, and practicing yoga and meditation.

From the natural treatment options, Ayurveda is perhaps the most comprehensive solution in our opinion. That’s because Ayurveda believes that to solve a problem, you first have to dig deep to reach its root cause. Otherwise, you are just fighting the symptoms. We found a great online course that teaches you among other things:

  • Determining and analyzing the root cause of ill-health
  • Why are autoimmune diseases rising at an alarming rate globally 
  • The role your genes play in disease
  • Why the food you eat plays an important role
  • Why cleansing and detoxification are important to healing

Check out the e-course HERE.

Alternative medicine is used to complement mainstream medicine for best results so work with your doctor to find how best you can go about the combined treatment.  
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