What You Need to Know About Autoimmunity

Three experts talk about the autoimmunity epidemic — and how to reverse it.
One in 12 Americans has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac, type 1 diabetes, or any one of some 80 other conditions in which the body attacks its own tissues.
This alarming rate of autoimmunity is new — and on the rise. Researchers have observed a worldwide surge in recent decades: Mayo Clinic reports that U.S. lupus rates alone have nearly tripled in the last 40 years.
The increase is too rapid to be attributed to genetics, which change slowly. The more likely trigger, experts say, appears to be environmental: some combination of toxins, stress, and poor nutrition.
While many conventional physicians generally consider autoimmune conditions incurable, integrative practitioners have reported notable successes using diet, detoxification, and mind–body strategies to treat and even reverse these diseases.
The autoimmune epidemic was the focus of this year’s Institute for Functional Medicine conference, where we asked several experts what they think everyone needs to know about autoimmunity. This is what three leading researchers had to say.

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Helen Messier, PhD, MD, CCFP, medical director of Healix Health in Vancouver, B.C.

“The most important thing to understand about autoimmunity is that it’s not a life sentence. It’s something that’s reversible.

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