An autoimmune disease is different in that the immune system may be attacking “self” - parts of you. It’s an immune system gone awry.
There’s no organ or bodily system excluded from potential attack. “Your finest weapon can become your greatest enemy. Like any other part of the body, defects can arise in the immune system.
Autoimmunity can be caused by defects in almost any part of the immune process…. In most European countries and the USA, it is realistic to say that at least 5% of the population (1 in 20) will suffer from a self-destructive autoimmune disease during their lifetime.” Dr. John Morrow. Dr. David Isenberg Friendly Fire: Explaining Autoimmune Disease
Some examples of overactive or autoimmune dysfunction are:
Lupus (considered a classic autoimmune disease)
For an autoimmune disease list as compiled by the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (63) click here
Where Do Autoimmune Diseases Come From?
According to Drs. Isenberg and Morrow the onset of an autoimmune disease would require a combination of several factors going wrong at the same time.
Cited as possibilities are: genetic predisposition, hormonal influences, enzyme abnormalities, stress, diet, ultraviolet light and micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses.
These types of factors influence immune system health and status. They also state, “Autoimmune diseases can result from several different defects, combinations of defects, in the immune system…”
It might be worthy to note that in spite of the fact that there are over 60 autoimmune related diseases recognized with over 60 different symptoms, the reason they all exist is due to immune system malfunction. That is the deep, core issue.
Potential Immune Mechanism’s of Autoimmune Disease
Researchers don’t appear to have come to any definite conclusions regarding the mechanism’s of immune dysfunction behind autoimmune diseases. This is not surprising since the immune system itself is a new frontier of study.
The following are some examples of credible possibilities put forth by a variety of researchers. It’s an intricate area and experts don’t necessarily agree. There may also be some overlapping. Some theories are more widely held than others.
T Suppressor Cells
The function of T suppressor cells in the immune system is to stop the immune response; the foe is destroyed! T suppressor cells can “damp down” an immune response at the appropriate time.
It is a widely held belief that the seemingly unregulated autoantibody production in autoimmune disease is a result of inadequate T suppressor cell function. T suppressor cells also are thought to be responsible for distinguishing between “self” and foreign tissue and thus prevent autoimmunity.
“Decreased numbers and activity of T suppressor cells in patients with virtually all types of autoimmune disorders have been reported.” Drs. Isenberg and Morrow, Friendly Fire
T Helper Cells
The Helper T cell is the “quarterback” of the immune system. They’re the organizers of immune activity; aiding, abetting and directing virtually every facet of the immune system.
Almost everything your immune system can do is dependent on the T Helper cell. It directs the activity through the secretion of protein molecules called cytokines.
Interleukin 2 and Gamma Interferon are examples of cytokines. Cytokines are information molecules and are produced by other cells as well.
T Helper cells produce Th1 and Th2 cytokine profiles, among others, based upon the cytokine environment (information/cytokines from other cells). Th1 cytokines are great for promoting a defense against a viral or bacterial attack.
Th2 cytokines organize defenses against parasites and mucosal infections but will shut down the activity of Th1 in the process. Some researchers believe that some viruses, bacteria and mycoplasma make proteins that mimic a cytokine that effectively turns on the Th2 cytokines thereby turning off the Th1 cytokines actually needed to promote killing them.
This leaves the immune system, or part of it, in a state not fully functional for the task at hand.
Dr. Lauren Sompayrac states that by “secreting the appropriate set of cytokines, Th cells can help produce an immune response that is appropriate to a given invader – so that the punishment fits the crime.”