Check out the latest Radio Interview with Dr. Engelman on autoimmune disease

HealthWatch: Do you have an autoimmune disease?

Autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more common, affecting 50 million Americans, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

Dr. Mark Engelman, M.D., FSCM, is the president of Engelman Health Institute, an integrative internal medicine institute in Phoenix, Arizona. He's also an education consultant for Cyrex Labs.

"Autoimmune by definition is when people start reacting against their own tissues, hence auto-immune," said Engelman. "The symptoms are everything from fatigue, to painful joints, to painful muscles, brain fog, hair loss, GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms, skin changes, such as eczema, psoriasis, those sorts of things. Things where somebody was sort of doing all right, and then all of the sudden they just don't feel well generally, or they have specific things, like I just said, that bother them."

If you experience any of these symptoms, Engelman encourages you to get tested.

"What one should do is, number one go to an integrative functional physician," said Engelman. "The other thing is to get the appropriate testing done."

Engelman said something triggers autoimmune diseases.

"There are specific triggers that start that process of autoimmune diseases. It doesn't come out of the clear blue sky," said Engelman. "It could be a trauma, a physical trauma. It could be a mental trauma. It could be an infection. It could be a food intolerance like gluten, or dairy or other things, or a toxin. Like someone who works in a toxic environment and inhales chemicals or has mold in the house, or so forth."

Engelman said many people who have autoimmune diseases have a genetic predisposition.

"It doesn't require, but it almost requires a genetic predisposition. Autoimmune disease frequently travels in families," said Engelman. "Everybody had thyroid disease, or a lot of people had GI things. It's called a genetic predisposition where your system is sort of predisposed, not necessarily a good thing, to make immune mistakes. Where something happens to somebody, or they get an infection, and their immune system goes after whatever caused the infection. But also makes the mistake of noticing that, for instance, your cells in your pancreas that make insulin look similar to that, maybe to the infection that you had, and they make a mistake and then they start going after both things."

Autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more common.

"I think part of it is how we eat," said Engelman. "I think the food that we eat is frequently processed. A lot of the meats and so forth have antibiotics shot into them. Their stress hormones are high. The insecticides are very powerful now."

He also said stress plays a role.

"Lack of sleep, high stress for sure," said Engelman. "I think the toxins in the air. I don't put anything in plastic containers at all, including I don't drink water out of the plastic bottles, because I know that stuff has the possibility to leach into the food, and then the next thing you know you start your immune system rolling along."

He said mainstream medicine use steroids to treat autoimmune diseases.

"What they do is they take an immune system that's really rocking and rolling and slow it down," said Engelman, "but that doesn't really address the cause of what's triggering it. That doesn't address the trigger. There's a large group of people now who believe that the key is to find the trigger, and then you take the trigger away, and you heal the barrier. Then that thing that keeps the system jacked up all the time, if you remove that there's a decent possibility that you can slow the process of autoimmunity down, or stop it, or in some cases reverse it. Which I've done before with skin conditions and so forth, by finding the trigger and then getting rid of it. Obviously the longer somebody has something the harder it is to slow down or reverse."

If you have symptoms, it's important to go to a doctor and take care of it right away.

"People need to start checking these things early, because the signs that Cyrex does of these conditions- the reactivity shows up probably 5 to 10 years before the autoimmune condition presents itself," said Engelman. "That's when you really want to check these things."

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