Auto Immunity


This term describes any condition that arises from your body’s defence or immune system turning on itself and beginning to attack your own cells rather than fighting the invading bacteria, viruses or other foreign bodies. There are hundreds of Auto Immune conditions that have been identified. Here are a few: rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriatic arthritis, lupus (SLE), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), Coeliac disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to name a few. 


Common symptoms may include: fatigue, dizziness, rashes, depression, pain, and much more. What they all have in common is that people suffering these conditions often have gut issues, high stress levels and toxin overload. Our experienced Adelaide Naturopath often tests for toxins early on, while addressing dietary and lifestyle changes and looking to support and heal the gut. Stress management is a big part of the treatment protocol.


This is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes your digestive tract to become swollen and irritated. The intestinal wall becomes infiltrated by acute and chronic inflammatory cells that cause lesions. Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus.


Some triggers for Crohn’s disease are: bacterial or viral infection, food intolerances such as dairy, intestinal permeability, Vitamin D deficiency, gastroenteritis, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), a diet low in fibre and high in sugar and processed foods (Western Diet), chronic emotional stress and smoking. 


Common symptoms experienced are: abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and rectal bleeding. Crohn’s disease can be treated with the right diet, lifestyle changes and nutritional support to help heal and balance the gut. 


This is a chronic auto immune condition where the protective cover (called myelin) around nerves in your central nervous system, is damaged. It affects your brain and spinal cord. The name multiple sclerosis refers to the multiple scars (scleroses) on the myelin sheaths. 


Common symptoms experienced are: poor memory, muscle weakness, blurred or double vision, numbness, loss of balance, fatigue, dizziness, clumsiness, poor bladder control, tingling, muscle stiffness, vertigo, pain, tremors and mood changes


Contributing factors that may cause this condition include: smoking, toxin exposure, low levels of Vitamin D, exposure to Epstein-Barr virus, obesity during childhood and genetic predisposition. Treatment to help improve quality of life may include regular massage to help maintain flexibility, acupuncture to alleviate symptoms, an antiinflammatory auto immune diet, exercise to regulate and help strengthen the immune system, detoxification to remove heavy metals if appropriate and addressing stress, through lifestyle changes and practices such as mindfulness. MS primarily affects adults, with an age onset typically between 20 and 40 years, and is more common in women than in men. 


This is an auto immune disorder that causes problems in your digestive system when you eat gluten, found in some grains, such as wheat and rye. The small intestine is damaged by the immune system’s abnormal reaction to gluten and this results in a damaged mucosal lining, causing poor absorption of nutrients and nutrient deficiency.


Common causes or triggers include gastrointestinal dysbiosis, gut infections, mucosal damage, immune activation, medications, surgery and genetic susceptibility. Adopting a gluten free diet while go along way to improving a person’s health, but further nutritional support and lifestyle changes may be required to help reduce inflammation and begin healing the gut. This will in turn help boost the immune system. Many people with Coeliac disease also often suffer from fructose malabsorption and IBS, so these conditions need to be tested for early on.


Digestive symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence. Non-digestive features caused by prolonged nutrient deficiencies include unexplained weight loss, anaemia, fatigue, muscle cramps and reduced bone density.


The thyroid is a master gland that produces hormones that regulate the metabolic processes of many of the body’s tissues including the heart, liver, kidney and muscles. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone, when there is decreased conversion from T4 to T3, when there is an overproduction of reverse T3 (rT3), or when the body is not efficiently using thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s disease is a form of autoimmune hypothyroidism that occurs when antibodies attack the tissue in the thyroid gland, causing reduced thyroid hormone production.


Key drivers or triggers may include nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, oxidative stress, gut dysfunction, coeliac disease, estrogen excess, stress, environmental toxins and aggressive calorific restriction.


This affects several areas of your body and causes symptoms like fatigue, depression, dry hair and skin, cold intolerance, muscle cramps, weakness, puffy eyes, hypertension, unexplained weight gain, cognitive impairment, hoarseness of voice and constipation. Medication is often prescribed. Hashimoto’s can be treated with an appropriate diet, lifestyle changes and nutrients to support optimal thyroid function, which are often low in individuals with the disease, for example, selenium, iodine, zinc, vitamins D, A and E. 


This is a type of arthritis that affects the joints in your spine. It usually develops in your sacroiliac joints (where the bottom of your spine joins your pelvis). Less commonly, it can also affect your shoulders, hips and knee joints. Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system is triggered to attack your own cells as if they are foreign invaders, rather than protecting it. 


Certain groups of people are likely to be at risk of developing AS, including: 

  • People younger than 40 years old. More than 80% of people are diagnosed when they are around 30 years of age.
  •  Males
  •  People who have a close biological relative with AS, especially a parent.
  •  People with certain health conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and psoriasis.


Common symptoms include:

  • Pain – lower back pain (sacroiliitis), hip pain, neck pain, pain in your buttocks, abdominal pain.
  •  Stiffness – trouble moving hips and lower back especially first thing in the morning, or if you’ve been resting in one position for a long time.
  •  Gut symptoms – diarrhoea
  •  Fatigue
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Losing appetite or unexplained weight loss
  •  Skin rashes
  •  Vision problems 


This is an autoimmune disease that happens when the immune system damages the glands that produce and control moisture in your body. The most common symptom is chronic, unusual dryness in your eyes, mouth or vagina, digestive system and throat. 


  • Genetic predisposition
  • Female gender – strikes women in a 3:1 ratio to men 
  • Typically diagnosed from ages 30 to 60 years, although can occur at any age
  •  Environmental factors including bacterial or viral infection and hormonal status
  •  High systemic toxin load due to leaky gut, heavy metal toxicity, etc.
  •  Other autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis and Lupus.


A range of symptoms can include:

  •  Dry eyes or itchy eyes
  •  Dry mouth, mouth sores or thickened spit
  •  Vaginal dryness
  •  Dry skin
  •  Dry nose and frequent nosebleeds
  •  Dry throat including coughing frequently
  •  Muscle pain or weakness
  •  Fatigue all day
  •  Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  •  Loss of taste
  •  Skin rashes
  •  Neuropathy
  •  Heartburn, indigestion
  •  Light sensitivity
  •  Tooth decay


Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and a type of arthritis where your immune system attacks the tissue lining the joints on both sides of your body. It particularly impacts the small joints of the hands and feet. If left untreated, it may lead to cartilage and bone damage and joint destruction, resulting in functional impairment.

In addition to affecting your joints, rheumatoid arthritis sometimes affects other parts of your body including your skin, eyes, mouth, lungs and heart.

Key causes

  • Infections: Some infectious agents associated with the development of rheumatoid arthritis are Epstein-Barr virus, Herpes simplex viruses and P gingivalis.
  •  Environmental risk factors: Exposure to tobacco and smoking are strongly associated with RA development in genetically susceptible people. Smoking is associated with increased periodontal disease and lung disease and may contribute to inflammation and autoimmunity at these sites. Also, there are increased risks of developing rheumatoid arthritis after exposure to occupational silica and inhaled particulate air pollution.
  •  Microbiome disruptions: A diverse microbiome promotes a healthy gut barrier (or lining), by the release of antibacterial molecules and antiinflammatory short-chain fatty acids that enable an appropriate immune response. If the microbiome diversity is reduced (eg. through poor diet or over-use of antibiotics, or toxic load), the permeability of the gut wall increases, destabilising the intestinal balance and compromising the immune response.
  •  Hormonal influence: Approximately two-thirds of individuals who develop rheumatoid arthritis are women, suggesting that hormonal factors play a role in the development of the disease. Hormone-driven conditions that are associated with increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis include early menopause and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  •  Chronic stress: Widespread inflammation is a result of chronic stress, which alters the immune response and increases a person’s susceptibility for the development of infection.
  •  Dietary factors: Lower intake of vitamin D and antioxidants, as well as higher intake of sugar, salt, red meats, protein and iron have been associated with the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Conversely, a higher intake of fish and omega-3 fats, have been consistently linked to decreased risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
  •  Poor sleep quality: Sleep dysregulation is associated with elevated inflammatory markers, which can compromise the immune system and may lead to chronic infections and exacerbate chronic inflammation.
  •  Age: Anyone can develop rheumatoid arthritis, but its onset is usually in people between the ages of 30 to 60 years old. 


In some people symptoms may develop over several years, and others may find that they progress rapidly. Many sufferers may have times where symptoms flare up and then times when there are no apparent symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  •  Pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness in joints
  •  Stiffness in the morning or after sitting for long periods
  •  Pain and stiffness in the same joints on both sides of your body
  •  Fatigue
  •  Weakness
  •  Fever