What would you give to have a crystal ball to see whether you’ll get diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or one of hundreds of known autoimmune diseases? And if you actually knew that you were headed straight towards a head-on collision with a serious health condition, why would you waste a single second not taking action to prevent it?
If you are curious about your health and willing to go the extra mile in ensuring you stay healthy longer… find a crystal ball and gaze out into the future.
A SILENT EPIDEMIC
Millions of people each year find themselves somewhere on the autoimmune spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, they may suffer from mild conditions of fatigue, brain fog, and bloating and on the other more serious end of spectrum, they suffer from debilitating illnesses like Lupus, Hashimoto’s, Diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
Despite all the statistics on the over 180 different kinds of autoimmune conditions, our modern health care system still is not addressing or providing many answers to why our body’s natural way of keeping us healthy simply goes haywire.
Many sufferers find themselves in an endless cycle… going from doctor to doctor year after year, never getting any long-term relief.
PREDICTING INSTEAD OF ONLY DIAGNOSING
Many of us may have an autoimmune condition “in the making” and not even realize it.
In the beginning you may feel tired, sluggish, depressed or have aches and pains that come and go. These early symptoms are usually ignored and considered by many to be just a part of “everyday life” or “getting older”. But those nagging symptoms that keep recurring are trying to tell you something… and you need to take notice.
The truth is, hidden autoimmune damage can be lurking all over the body… slowly making you sick, draining your energy, making you depressed and even keep you from ever seeing your waistline again.
Unfortunately by the time symptoms really become unbearable, there has most likely been damage done to important body tissues. We are then faced with loss of function and mobility, costly healthcare, and the fear that the condition may even get worse.
The typical years it takes to formally diagnose an autoimmune condition ranges from 2.7 for Rheumatoid Arthritis to 4.3 with Sjogren’s. This means that autoimmune-like processes with mild or no symptoms were already occurring in the body for many years before a person went to the doctor.
Getting a formal diagnosis of any kind unfortunately usually means there already is a good deal of tissue damage and loss of function.
MESSENGERS FROM THE FUTURE
Whenever there is need, your body’s immune system is the first to respond. This response can be protective (as in fighting an infection), destructive (occurring with autoimmune disease), or both.
One function of the immune system is to respond with autoantibodies, which help to identify and neutralize foreign invaders like food, toxins, bacteria and viruses. These antibodies don’t just respond one-time and then their job is done… they are programmed to remember specific invaders. This memory is what enables your body to continually fight off problems… from infections and allergens like gluten to problematic bacteria.
Think of an antibody as a unique key that fits into the lock of a particular target invader. When the key is inserted into the lock, the antibody activates, and bye-bye problematic invader. It’s such a perfect and precise micro-system!
Activation of the immune system and the production of antibodies fuel the autoimmune “process”, which often starts out with no symptoms and slowly progresses to mild and severe and often debilitating symptoms. All too often, the final disease (like Hashimotos, Crohn’s, Grave’s, etc.) is preceded by a long period of time (sometimes many years) when a person’s blood serum contains particular antibodies. For example with type 1 diabetes and thyroiditis, autoantibodies can be detected in the blood years before the destruction of important hormone-secreting cells that eventually leads to failure and symptoms.1
This is why antibodies can be helpful biomarkers of autoimmune conditions and lab tests can measure disease activity related to destruction of important tissue, glands, organs, and function so that it is possible to arrest and reverse autoimmune symptoms.
There is good research to back up the theory that antibodies can not only predict but also in many cases prevent serious chronic health conditions. For instance one study noted that early detection of antibodies in people with no symptoms were useful to predict autoimmune diseases years before diagnosis.2 Another study noted that autoantibodies appeared years before the onset of autoimmune diseases and that antibodies were useful tools in the diagnosing and the management of autoimmune diseases at different steps of the autoimmune process.3
ANTIBODIES ARE ONE PART OF FUTURE WELLNESS
These helpful biomarkers may not necessarily by themselves lead to a formal diagnosis of an autoimmune disease or serious condition like cancer. However they play an important role in calling to attention the kinds of problems that are often seen with autoimmune diseases, infections, tumors, and other illnesses.
Think of antibodies (along with things like high blood pressure, sugar imbalances, weight gain, etc.) as your “dis-ease” road signs. If you start seeing too many antibodies… your body is trying to tell you something (so pay attention!).
Antibodies unto themselves are not the only factors that have a predictive value when it comes to your health. There are hereditary or genetic factors that can be useful for seeing a blueprint of your strengths and weaknesses and don’t forget that your diet and lifestyle play an even more important predictive role in how vital and healthy you’ll be in life.
ANTIBODIES AND CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS
We can look at the research and see correlations between the antibodies and the development of chronic disease throughout the body.
For instance, neuroimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS) involve an immune response including the production of antibodies and Lyme disease is caused by an infection, which can result in inflammation and autoimmunity.5,6 Autoantibodies have also been linked to early-stage tumors and appear in the blood of some cancer patients. Finally, autoantibodies have been looked at as biomarkers for early detection of prostate cancer.7
WHAT YOU DO IN LIFE ALSO PREDICTS AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
While there is a genetic aspect to autoimmune conditions, research in the field of Epigenetics is showing us that HOW you live your life is even more important to health than simply the genes you are born with.
This new and exciting field of scientific research involves understanding how your genes are “modified” by your diet, environment, toxins, stress, sleep and other aspects of your lifestyle. When genes are turned “on” for disease or dysfunction in the body, then you are at a higher risk for chronic health conditions of one kind or another.
The good news is that are genes are fluid and we have the opportunity to work in conjunction with them to create optimal and lasting health.
AUTOIMMUNITY TESTING FROM A ROOT CAUSE PERSPECTIVE
Typically, multiple laboratory tests are needed in order to confirm autoimmune conditions in the body. These would include: complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, immunology, blood serum/antibody, even genetic HLA typing. When looked holistically, these tests can identify autoimmune conditions, chronic infections, and even cancer years before they reach critical levels.
Specifically and important to note are the tests that use antibodies to “predict” the progress of autoimmune conditions. These functional autoimmunity tests are worth considering if you are an “at-risk” individual or suffer from early-on symptoms and want to explore where you are on the autoimmune spectrum so that you can create a preventative strategy.
Think of being proactive with predictive autoimmunity tests in the same manner you would about getting an annual exam, checking cholesterol levels and blood pressure for heart disease prevention, or doing a glucose screen for diabetes.
OTHER OPTIONS FOR AUTOIMMUNITY TESTING
Inflammatory conditions will cause abnormalities in even some standard routine lab tests that are done (depending on the doctor or specialist). The inflammatory markers reflect the kinds of abnormalities often seen with autoimmune diseases, infections, tumors, and other illnesses.
Another important root cause of many autoimmune conditions is leaky gut. This condition can stem from exposure to food allergens, toxins, bacteria, medications, etc., and overtime creates a systemic condition that fuels inflammation. A leaky gut condition can be tested for and treated well in advance of more serious chronic health issues.
Other tests to consider are:
- C-reactive protein (CRP/CRP-high sensitivity) – may be a better reflection of current inflammation. Unlike the ESR, CRP is a fairly stable serum protein whose measurement is not time-sensitive and is not affected by other serum components. The magnitude of inflammation directly relates to the concentration of CRP. >1.0 mg/dL are suggestive off inflammation and/or infection
- Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) – classically, the ANA hallmarks the diagnosis of Lupus, but finding an ANA is common to most other autoimmune diseases (test is sensitive but may not be specific)
- ESR – measures the quantity of red blood cells (RBC). While the ESR is not a diagnostic test, it can be used to monitor disease activity, response to protocols and therapies, and to signal the presence of inflammatory or infectious stress
- Ferritin (serum iron)– elevated levels can indicate infection, inflammation or malignancy
- Albumin (a serum protein synthesized by the liver) â€“ a rapid loss could be an indication of IBS
- Rheumatoid factor (RF) – common test used with a sensitivity and specificity of ~79%
- Anti-Cyclic Ctrullinated Peptide Antibody (CCP)– is another specific test used for Rheumatoid Arthritis
JUST TO RECAP PREDICTING AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
- The incidence of autoimmune disease is increasing at an alarming rate around the world and currently about 1 in every 3 people are affected by symptoms.
- Autoimmune disease is an inflammatory condition with roots in poor gut health, like leaky gut
- Other non-genetic factors play a major role in determining autoimmune disease susceptibility
- Many autoimmune conditions are years-in-the-making before an actual clinical diagnosis (anywhere from 3 years for Crohn’s and 14 years for Rheumatoid Arthritis)
- Autoimmune conditions and symptoms can often be arrested and reversed through healthy diet and lifestyle changes.
1 Leslie, D., Lipsky, P., Notkins, A. L. (2001). Autoantibodies as predictors of disease. J Clin Invest. Nov 15. 108(10): 1417â€“1422.
2 PÃ©rez D, et, al. (2017). Predictive autoimmunity using autoantibodies: screening for anti-nuclear antibodiesâ€. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2017 Jun 17.
3 Tron F. (2014). Autoantibodies as biomarkers. Presse Med. 2014 Jan;43(1):57-65.
4 Shepshelovich, D., Shoenfeld, Y. (2006). Prediction and prevention of autoimmune diseases: additional aspects of the mosaic of autoimmunity. Lupus. 15(3):183-90.
5 Weber, M. S., Hemmer, B., Cepok, S. (2011). The role of antibodies in multiple sclerosis. (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease. Vol 1812.239-245.
6 Maxmen, A. (2011). Antibodies linked to long-term Lyme symptoms. Nature. 10.1038/news.2011.463.
7 Wright, J. L., Lange, P. H. (2007). Newer Potential Biomarkers in Prostate Cancer. Urology. 9(4): 207â€“213.
Disclaimer: the views and nutritional advice expressed in this publication are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical advice. No information provided should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. All information in this publication is for educational purposes only and Aine-Marie and Advesta Health encourages its clients and members to continue to work in a partnership with qualified medical professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider or seek medical assistance. Reading, sharing, or downloading this publication does not establish a doctor patient relationship with Aine-Marie or any Advesta Health employee or consultant including any of our licensed health practitioners, coaches, dieticians or nutritionists.