Autoimmune Disease

    Researchedby:
    Last Updated: August 16, 2022

    Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the body’s immune system inappropriately targeting parts of the body, such as “self” molecules or tissues. Depending on the condition, the immune system may target specific tissues and organs or multiple parts of the body.

    examine-databaseExamine Database

    What is autoimmune disease?

    Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting off invading pathogens while simultaneously sparing our own cells and tissues. In healthy people, the immune system is able to distinguish between the self and nonself, a concept called self-tolerance. When the body is functioning properly, the immune system maintains self-tolerance while working in the background to protect the body from infections.

    In people with autoimmune disease, self-tolerance does not function correctly, causing the body to turn the powerful weapons of the immune system against self molecules, causing inflammation and injury. Autoimmune disease can be systemic, affecting multiple parts of the body, such as in diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). They can also be organ-specific, such as in type 1 diabetes, where the immune system targets and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

    How could diet affect autoimmune disease?

    Preclinical studies show that dietary interventions, such as elimination diets and calorie restriction in various forms (e.g., chronic caloric restriction, time-restricted feeding (TRF), and intermittent fasting, etc.) can potentially have beneficial effects on the immune system. However, more human trials are still needed to provide a better understanding of when, and in whom, these interventions are effective. It is also important to keep in mind that the efficacy and safety of diet interventions will likely vary from person to person, with some potentially being harmful for certain people.

    Metabolic status in the body is intimately connected to immune function. For example, undernourished people tend to be more susceptible to infections, while the nutrient excess associated with the Western diet may be associated with increased risk of autoimmunity.[1] This suggests that in the future, appropriate diet interventions could potentially help to reduce disease activity in people with active disease, or even lessen disease risk in those who are susceptible.

    Which supplements are of most interest for autoimmune disease?

    Many supplements, particularly those with antioxidant or anti-inflammatory activity, have been investigated for their ability to reduce the severity or incidence of autoimmune disease. To date, some of the more promising evidence is for vitamin D and fish oil, which were linked to reduced incidence of autoimmunity in a large randomized controlled trial.[2] Further research is needed to better understand the way that supplements may affect the incidence or severity of autoimmunity in different people.

    Examine Database: Autoimmune Disease

    What works and what doesn't?

    Unlock the full potential of Examine

    Get started

    Frequently asked questions

    What is autoimmune disease?

    Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting off invading pathogens while simultaneously sparing our own cells and tissues. In healthy people, the immune system is able to distinguish between the self and nonself, a concept called self-tolerance. When the body is functioning properly, the immune system maintains self-tolerance while working in the background to protect the body from infections.

    In people with autoimmune disease, self-tolerance does not function correctly, causing the body to turn the powerful weapons of the immune system against self molecules, causing inflammation and injury. Autoimmune disease can be systemic, affecting multiple parts of the body, such as in diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). They can also be organ-specific, such as in type 1 diabetes, where the immune system targets and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

    What is a flare?

    Symptoms of many autoimmune diseases tend to increase during the active phases of the disease, and lessen or even go away during periods of remission. The term ‘flare’ refers to periods of active disease, during which symptoms can return or new symptoms develop. Flares sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, but are also often triggered by environmental factors such as injury, stress, or infection. Anti-inflammatory and/or immunosuppressive drugs are used to treat flares and bring about remission.

    Is it true that even healthy people can have autoantibodies?

    Yes. Healthy people have autoreactive B cells and T cells that lead to the production of natural autoantibodies (NAA) that bind to self-antigens, but with only low to moderate affinities. In contrast to the harmful type of autoantibodies that cause the immune system to target self-tissues, NAA are beneficial and play a role in regulating[3] the immune system.

    Although NAA were first discovered[4] back in 1963, their exact role in the body still isn’t clear. They are thought to play a role in the first line of defense to infections and may be protective[5] in people with autoimmune disease.[6]

    How could diet affect autoimmune disease?

    Preclinical studies show that dietary interventions, such as elimination diets and calorie restriction in various forms (e.g., chronic caloric restriction, time-restricted feeding (TRF), and intermittent fasting, etc.) can potentially have beneficial effects on the immune system. However, more human trials are still needed to provide a better understanding of when, and in whom, these interventions are effective. It is also important to keep in mind that the efficacy and safety of diet interventions will likely vary from person to person, with some potentially being harmful for certain people.

    Metabolic status in the body is intimately connected to immune function. For example, undernourished people tend to be more susceptible to infections, while the nutrient excess associated with the Western diet may be associated with increased risk of autoimmunity.[1] This suggests that in the future, appropriate diet interventions could potentially help to reduce disease activity in people with active disease, or even lessen disease risk in those who are susceptible.

    Which supplements are of most interest for autoimmune disease?

    Many supplements, particularly those with antioxidant or anti-inflammatory activity, have been investigated for their ability to reduce the severity or incidence of autoimmune disease. To date, some of the more promising evidence is for vitamin D and fish oil, which were linked to reduced incidence of autoimmunity in a large randomized controlled trial.[2] Further research is needed to better understand the way that supplements may affect the incidence or severity of autoimmunity in different people.

    References

    1. ^Manzel A, Muller DN, Hafler DA, Erdman SE, Linker RA, Kleinewietfeld MRole of "Western diet" in inflammatory autoimmune diseases.Curr Allergy Asthma Rep.(2014-Jan)
    2. ^Jill Hahn, Nancy R Cook, Erik K Alexander, Sonia Friedman, Joseph Walter, Vadim Bubes, Gregory Kotler, I-Min Lee, JoAnn E Manson, Karen H CostenbaderVitamin D and marine omega 3 fatty acid supplementation and incident autoimmune disease: VITAL randomized controlled trialBMJ.(2022 Jan 26)
    3. ^Siloşi I, Siloşi CA, Boldeanu MV, Cojocaru M, Biciuşcă V, Avrămescu CS, Cojocaru IM, Bogdan M, FolcuŢi RMThe role of autoantibodies in health and disease.Rom J Morphol Embryol.(2016)
    4. ^BOYDEN SCELLULAR RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN MATTER.Int Rev Exp Pathol.(1963)
    5. ^Mannoor K, Xu Y, Chen CNatural autoantibodies and associated B cells in immunity and autoimmunity.Autoimmunity.(2013-Mar)
    6. ^Mehrani T, Petri MIgM anti-β2 glycoprotein I is protective against lupus nephritis and renal damage in systemic lupus erythematosus.J Rheumatol.(2011-Mar)