The AUTO-IMMUNE diseases are the most frustrating diseases the medical community has to deal with.
Cancers are more deadly, but there are clear cut modalities of treatment for cancers. Surgery and chemo-therapy are available and, although the mortality rate is high, at least cancer specialists (called Oncologists) know what they should do.
In the area of Auto-Immune diseases, no one knows what to do. The medical community does not even have a clear idea what causes auto-immune diseases. The list of auto-immune diseases is enormous. Every part of the human body can be attacked by its own immune system, and there is no clear reason why this happens.
WHAT IS AN AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE?
There are over 80 different forms of Auto-Immune diseases.
These diseases run from the Nervous System, where Multiple Sclerosis is the most famous, to the skin, where one of the most common is Scleroderma, a very disfiguring hardening of the skin, which makes the patient become completely changed in appearance and which also enters the kidneys and causes early death.
As mentioned above, the mechanism of the Auto-Immune diseases is the attack of one’s own cells or constituents of cells, by the body’s own immune system. This attack can be fierce and fast and cause early death, or slow but inexorable, and cause weakness, disability, and ultimately, an untimely demise.
If you would like to see a list of the more than 80 diseases with their names, go to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoimmune_disease and each disease, with a link, is available.
WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?
The Immune System is nature’s way of protecting the individual from being destroyed by invading micro-organisms.
We live in a sea of micro-organisms and molecules which can kill us within days. Not only are there bacteria, viruses, Prions and fungi, there are also toxins and other chemicals that are poisonous to our bodies. Our Immune System protects us from all these invaders, killing the living organisms and resisting the poisons.
For all this protection, we pay a price. Humans are plagued with countless allergies as our immune system fights off what it considers are “invaders.”
There are so many different molecules that are attacked that medical specialists known as “Allergists” spend their entire careers treating people whose immune systems are too aggressive in fighting molecules such as Pollen and Cat Dander.
When bacteria and viruses invade our bodies, our Immune System sets up defenses that protect us from re-invasion. This is the mechanism used by the medical community as they inject Vaccines which are inert replicas of the micro-organisms.
The next invasion by a virus or bacteria is met by a rapid response from the immune system which was prepared by the “vaccination.”
PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The Immune System has two major parts:
1. Soluble molecules.
These molecules are floating in our blood stream and consist of Immune Globulins such as “Anti-Bodies” which coat invaders and make them easy to kill by our Immune Cells.
2. Immune Cells.
The Immune Cells are found in our Lymph Nodes and consist of various cells that act like a small army.
Some cells Identify invaders and mark the invader so that Killer Cells can attack and destroy them. There a wide variety of “soldier cells” that have different functions, but the net result is the destruction of invading micro-organisms or molecules.
LOSS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
It is obvious that if we lose our immune system we will be at the mercy of the sea of micro-organisms in which we live. Rarely, some people are born without an immune system, or their immune system is lost due to infection.
The most common cause of Lost Immunity is that caused by the AIDS virus. In Africa this virus has infected up to seventy percent of the populations of certain countries.
AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASES. WHAT HAPPENS?
Any person (or animal) that develops an auto-immune disease, discovers that a certain part of his body, or many parts, become inflamed and painful. What is happening is that the cells of the Immune System are attacking those cells of the body that the Immune System considers “foreign.”
Normally, the cells of the Immune System recognize all the cells of the body and do not consider them “foreign cells.” Normally, no cells of the body are attacked by the Immune System. The Immune System is “trained” by a gland called the Thymus Gland to recognize all the cells of its own body. This “training” is still not completely understood.
However, the cells of the Immune System normally recognizes the body’s cells and only attacks “foreign” cells.
This extremely delicate situation is changed in people with “Auto-Immune” diseases, and the Immune System attacks specific cells of the body, thereby creating over 80 different diseases.
POSSIBLE THEORIES OF THE CAUSES OF AUTO-IMMUNE DISEASE
There have been a number of reasonable theories proposed to explain Auto-Immunity.
1. Women have auto-immune diseases three times greater than men.
2. Certain races have more auto-immune diseases than others. Africans have more auto-immune diseases than Asians.
Frequently, people who develop auto immune disease have a severe viral infection prior to the onset of their auto-immune disease. It is thought that the body’s cells are seen as the virus and therefore attacked.
Many people develop an auto immune disease after severe emotional stress. It is thought that the stress incapacitates the immune system, thereby losing memory.
The standard treatment for auto-immune disease is suppression of the immune system through the use of cortisone products, Cortico-Steroids. These medications do suppress the immune system and result in partial remissions, but they do not cure the disease.
Also, when the immune system is suppressed, cancers have a tendency to grow. A recent treatment is the use of Mono-clonal antibodies, which attack specific cells of the immune system.
So far, no treatment is totally effective.
In Asia, it is common for doctors to use medicinal mushrooms, such as Cordyceps and MAITAKE, for conditions such as auto-immune disease. These mushrooms seem to be effective, and western doctors call them “IMMUNE-MODULATORS.”
Since these mushrooms are also used for cancers, they seem to be a remedy that has an advantage over the Cortico-steroid approach. However, they are not as powerful as the standard approach.
We do not see a cure for these diseases. Their complexity and our lack of understanding of the immune system, make the future for these patients look bleak.