Healthy Body

Triggers for autoimmune disease

Written by Healthy Living

Be aware of reactions to environmental elements.

Story: Dr. Chad Larson

The world of autoimmune disease is broad and complex, with many mysteries still lurking. With more than 100 types of autoimmune diseases identified, medical researchers are constantly seeking to gain a better understanding of how, when, and why these conditions are triggered. While many diseases in general are associated with genetics, the onset of symptoms associated with autoimmune disease is much more complicated, making proactive prevention quite difficult. However, an awareness of common environmental triggers of autoimmune disease can help identify and treat many autoimmune conditions.

Health issues associated with autoimmune disease are expanding quickly and are now known to affect tens of millions of people in the United States alone. As environmental factors are one of the primary triggers of autoimmune reaction, it’s imperative we keep a close eye on any adverse reactions to specific environmental elements. Environmental triggers of autoimmunity include the following:

So, how can you tell if environmental elements have placed you at risk for autoimmune disease? Unfortunately, symptoms don’t always present themselves until a full autoimmune attack. However, symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, abdominal pain, and nausea are common signs of early autoimmune response as a result of an environmental trigger.

Identifying potential dietary, chemical, or other environmental triggers to your individual immune reactivity is key. Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical laboratory specializing in advanced, innovative testing designed to detect food sensitivities and monitor autoimmune reactivities and their possible triggers, offers two screenings. The Array 10: Multiple Food Immune Reactivity Screen evaluates immune reactions to foods, raw and/or modified, food enzymes, lectins, and artificial food additives, including meat glue, colorings, and gums. This helps with early detection of dietary-related triggers of autoimmune reactivity. The Array 11: Chemical Immune Reactivity Screen identifies the loss of immune intolerance associated with toxic chemicals exposure, which may lead to autoimmune reactivity.

Exposure to environmental toxins and bacteria through food, air, and water. If you have symptoms you believe are related to autoimmune reactivity, speak with a health-care professional to determine if testing is an option. We learn more and more about the causes and effects of autoimmune disease every day, so determining any triggers you may have can set you on a path toward a much healthier, happier quality of life.  

Dietary proteins. Each person has a unique body chemistry and digestive function. Sensitivities to different foods can not only bother one’s digestive tract but can also trigger an autoimmune-related response. While each of us may react differently to different foods, there are some proteins more likely than others to present symptoms of autoimmune response, such as gluten (a wheat protein).

Chemicals. When thinking of the health risks associated with excessive chemical exposure, many of us are quick to think of cancer. However, the loss of immune tolerance associated with toxic-chemical exposure can also lead to autoimmune reactivity. Environmental toxins are believed by many health-care professionals to be the leading cause of autoimmune disease. More than 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our society since 1900, and only 550 were tested for safety. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 2.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released yearly by large industrial facilities.

Heavy metals. Cadmium, lead, and mercury are known to have strong associations with autoimmune reactivity. However, studies indicate mercury is be the worst. The EPA reports that 6 million pounds of mercury are poured into our air every year. 

Bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Repeated exposure to bacteria and viruses wears on the immune system. For some, that hardworking immune system can turn on its own body and mistake its own healthy cells for harmful ones, thus attacking them and leading to autoimmunity.

Stress and other factors. Levels of stress-related illness are higher than ever. Both physical and emotional stresses weaken the immune system, allowing the body to develop a variety of illnesses. Stress is also known to trigger and intensify autoimmune-related disorders.

About the writer: Dr. Chad Larson is an advisor and consultant and holds a doctor of naturopathic medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a doctor of chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is part of the clinical consulting team for Cyrex Laboratories (

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Healthy Living

Healthy Living is unique in a sea of health magazines that only present information on nutrition and exercise. Published by Akers Media Group, Healthy Living goes much farther by focusing on the four pillars of a true wellness — physical, mental, spiritual and financial health.

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