Archives for posts with tag: autoimmune disease

From Environmental Health News:

After his first child was born, black and blue marks started showing up on Stanley Finger’s body. Jolted awake most nights by his crying infant, Finger would stumble half asleep toward her room, bumping into walls and furniture in the dark. “My wife and I would joke about it,” says Finger, a chemical engineer from Bluffton, South Carolina. But during a routine checkup, Finger learned his easy bruising was caused by a precipitous drop in blood platelets. The body relies on these cell fragments for clotting, and Finger’s platelet count had dropped to nearly a third its normal value. After ruling out cancer and other illnesses, Finger’s doctor eventually arrived at a diagnosis:  .

ITP is an autoimmune disease, a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues. When Finger was diagnosed in 1974, autoimmune illnesses weren’t yet perceived as the public health menaces they’re often seen as today. But according to Fred Miller, director of the Environmental Autoimmunity Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, autoimmune diseases are now recognized as among the leading causes of death among young and middle-aged women in the United States.

What’s more, prevalence rates for some of these illnesses are rising for what Miller says must largely be environmental reasons. “Our gene sequences aren’t changing fast enough to account for the increases,” Miller

says. “Yet our environment is—we’ve got 80,000 chemicals approved for use in commerce, but we know very little about their immune effects. Our lifestyles are also different than they were a few decades ago, and we’re eating more processed food.” Should prevalence rates for heart disease and cancer continue their decline, Miller says, autoimmune diseases could become some of the costliest and most burdensome illnesses in the United States.

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A new study published online by the Annals of Medicine reports a significant increase in people with celiac disease — particularly in the elderly.  The results were a surprise to researchers.   According to the study’s abstract: “During a 15-year period [celiac disease] prevalence increased 2-fold in the CLUE cohort and 5-fold overall in the US since 1974. The CLUE study demonstrated that this increase was due to an increasing number of subjects that lost the immunological tolerance to gluten in their adulthood.”

Of course, that raises the important question:  why did so many subject lose their immunological tolerance to gluten?

Here is what the study’s lead author had to say:

NPR:

“It may be the environment that has made this change over time.  Grains now are more refined and therefore have more gluten. It could also be the quantity of grains that we eat. It could be the composition of the bacteria that live in our intestines that can trick our immune system differently now than the past. These are all obvious — but not solid — guesses.”

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“We’re in the midst of an autoimmunity epidemic, and celiac disease is not an exception. . . .”

Los Angeles Times :

What causes late onset of celiac disease isn’t known. People must have a genetic predisposition to it, but scientists aren’t sure why gluten intolerance would develop after so many trouble-free years.

Fasano said environmental factors may trigger changes in the immune system that could activate anti-gluten gene. But identifying those factors won’t be easy.

“What has changed in the environment in the last 30 years?” Fasano said. “We have more antibiotics, more vaccinations, bioengineered foods, chemicals we haven’t been exposed to, and pollutants that haven’t been around in the concentrations we have now.”

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