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Integrative and Holistic Factors that Contribute to Autoimmune Disease


Autoimmune diseases are those that develop in conditions where the body’s cells are unable to distinguish between pathogenic cells and its own cells. The end result? The immune system attacks its own cells. 

Over 100 autoimmune disorders are known. autoimmunity is on the rise in America. 

Clients who suffer from autoimmune disease or have at-risk clients will be among your clientele. Your role as a coach does not include diagnosing or treating autoimmune diseases. However, it is your job to support your clients in adopting healthy habits that may help.

  • Find out what factors contribute to your risk of developing an autoimmune condition
  • Prevent autoimmune disease
  • Manage autoimmune disease symptoms 

We will be describing the holistic and integrative factors that can lead to an autoimmune disorder in this article. We will also discuss how many lifestyle, environmental, genetic and social factors can increase your risk for developing an autoimmune disorder. 


Learn what it takes to be a Nutrition & Wellness Consultant

What is Autoimmunity and How Does It Work? 

The immune system can identify which cells it is able to recognize as foreign in normal conditions. The immune system is unable to distinguish between foreign and own cells under normal circumstances. immune system mistakes the cells of its host’s body as foreign and dangerous, it can begin to attack itself. Autoimmunity is a process that can lead to autoimmune diseases. 

More technical terms are used in biomedical terminology Johns Hopkins Medicine defines “autoimmunity [as]The presence antibodies(which were made by B lymphocytes) and T lymphocytes It is directed at normal parts of a personautoantigensThis is a. These components are called autoantigens or self-antigens and typically consist of proteins (or proteins complexed to nucleic acids).”

Important to remember that autoimmune diseases are primarily discussed from a Western perspective. This is how the majority of American diagnostic, treatment, and management resources are constructed. But there are other perspectives. traditional medicine systems and theoriesThey may approach and understand autoimmune disease differently. These may include but not be limited to:

  • Ayurveda
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Unani
  • Kampo (traditional Japanese medicine)
  • Traditional Korean medicine (TKM)
  • Sasang constitution medicine (SCM).
  • Traditional Aboriginal medicine
  • Traditional African medicine
  • Russian herbal medicine

Ask your clients to tell you if traditional medical theories and systems make sense to them. 

An integrative, holistic approach to Autoimmunity & Autoimmune Disease

The optimal health spectrum, which results in high-level functioning, is at one end. Disability limitation is the other end of the spectrum, and it can lead to premature death. 

biomedical approachThe US healthcare system's approach is disease-based. A diagnosable disease is a condition that has a negative effect on the body.

In other words: Biomedical approaches focus their interventions on patients who have symptomatic diseases that eventually become severe and potentially fatal. 

To understand and prevent autoimmunity, the wellness approach takes on a wider and multifaceted perspective. 

The first is the focus of the wellness perspective on all dimensions of health,It's not only about physical health. Here are seven dimensions to health. 

  • Intellectual health
  • Your physical health 
  • Health and social security 
  • Mental health 
  • Spiritual health 
  • Workplace health
  • In some models, environmental health has been replaced with cultural health because it is integrated in the other dimensions of health.

Biomedical perspectives of health emphasize the importance of diagnosing and treating disease. 

Second, wellness is different from other biomedical approaches to health in that the wellness approach considers not only symptomatic, but also symptomatic, disease and disability limitations, as well as preventing premature deaths.

Wellness recognizes the importance of valuing and taking care of all aspects of your health. This approach to wellness aims at achieving high functioning and fulfillment. No matter how healthy a person may be, many of these same methods can still be used. 

This graphic illustrates how biomedical approaches and the health and wellbeing approach differ. 

Six Integrative and Holistic Factors That Increase Autoimmune Disease Risk 

Xenobiotic Exposure 

Xenobiotics, which are chemical compounds that can be added to the environment and not produced or used by an organism naturally, are also known as foreign chemicals. These chemicals are found in our environment, such as the food we eat and drinks we consume, the products we use for personal care, cleaning, and hygiene. 

All xenobioticsAlthough they are not dangerous in large quantities, it is known that the development of autoimmune diseases is often associated with them. xenobiotic exposureTo some degree, efforts have been made to identify which xenobiotic elements are present and what level of exposure poses a threat. 

Scientists have identified xenobiotics which are associated with illness, and increase risk for developing chronic and autoimmune disease when they are consumed beyond what our immune systems are capable of neutralizing and excreting. These xenobiotics are: 

  • BPA
  • Phthalates
  • Triclosan
  • Parabens
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Phenols
  • Heavy metals
  • Mycotoxins and mold


Researchers are still trying to determine how xenobiotics can affect certain autoimmune diseases. 

Lifestyle and stress

The risk of getting autoimmune disease is directly related to lifestyle factors such as health habits and stress exposure. 

Some health habits that are associated with an increase in risk for disease and autoimmune diseases include: 

  • Smoking
  • Lack of sleep
  • Physical inactivity (sedentarism).
  • Do you need drugs?
  • What frequency and what type of screening is done?
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Alcohol consumption
  • A diet which does not satisfy or surpass nutrient requirements

Another vital yet complex factor that influences the risk of developing autoimmune diseases is the level and longevity of stress in people’s lives. 

It is what you hear: The stress response. This is how your body responds to stressors such as a threat or deadline. 

Cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone,” will keep your body alert and revved up. When the perceived threat is no longer present, cortisol levels fall, and the parasympathetic nervous system activates “the brake,” which dampens stress response. 

Light to moderate stress levels are normal. This helps us adapt to new situations, seek solutions and remain flexible. 

However, chronic stress causes the body to be unable activate its brakes, which is why cortisol levels remain high. 

Chronic stress levels can rise due to:

  • Psychosocial factors include personality and individual differences, mood, lack of knowledge or access to resources to help manage stress, as well as levels of stress reactivity. 
  • Sociobiological variables are the social factors that affect how society reacts to gender, race, age and ethnicity as well as to medical treatments and health risks. Anxiety levels are also increased by existing autoimmune disorders. 
  • Habits and lifestyle that affect health, like smoking, drugs, sedentarism etc., can have a significant impact on your overall health. Both stress and lifestyle factors can contribute to an increase in autoimmune disease risk. 

There are many effects that chronic stress can have on your mind and body. Chronic stress can cause long-term damage to the body's ability to function. 

Chronic or toxic stress, as well as unhealthy lifestyle choices, can have vastly affecting effects on the neurologic, immune and endocrine system. This can lead to impaired immune system regulation and increased inflammation. 

Autoimmune diseases may develop if a person has a poor lifestyle, is chronically stressed or suffers from toxic stress. A large body of evidence supports the fact that chronic illnesses can be caused by toxic stress, especially in children. 

Socioeconomic Factors

A number of challenges face people with chronic or autoimmune conditions. affect their health-related quality of life(HRQoL) 

These challenges aren’t just the result of difficulty with symptoms but also due to a number of socio-economic factorsThis is a good thing. For those who are members of populations that have been historically marginalizedSuch as those who are:

  • Brown or black
  • Indigenous
  • LGBTQIA2s+
  • Living in low-income or impoverished communities/households
  • Living with disability
  • Living with traumatized memories
  • Living with a mental disorder
  • Formerly or currently in prison,
  • Immigration and refugees
  • Senior citizens
  • The Unemployed
  • Women

We are unique as a species when we treat individuals with specific identities, race, gender, or ethnicities in a different way. This is because we create complex institutions and systems that make it much more difficult for people who live in marginalized areas to have access to health-promoting living environments. 

Living conditions that have an effect health and wellbeing These include:

  • Environment: Clean air, water and land, exposure to xenobiotics, housing access, segregation
  • The social environment: culture, violence, racism, and discrimination
  • Access to work, income and economic hazards
  • Environment for service: Access to social, health, and education services

Lifestyle choices can have an impact not only on stress levels and the exposure to toxic substances but they also lead to increased risky behavior such as smoking, drinking, alcohol use, violence and other risky behaviours. These conditions and behavior can cause chronic inflammation and oxidation as well as an increase in risk for developing autoimmune diseases. 


The immune system exists to help keep our cells and organs safe from pathogens—bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause our body harm. Infection can occur if the immune system fails to effectively neutralize the disease. 

Mild infections can be treated with the adaptive immune. Sometimes, antibiotics are necessary to strengthen the immune system and eliminate the pathogen. 

Untreated chronic infections may lead to immuno dysregulation, tissue damage, and systemic inflammation. 

There are some common microbes which can infect the body and increase risk of developing chronic or autoimmune diseases. 

  • Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
  • CMV
  • C. tetani
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • E. coli
  • K. pneumoniae P. mirabilis

Research has shown that autoimmunity can be caused by infectious agents in a number of ways. One such mechanism is molecular mimicry. With molecular mimicry, autoantigens are mobilized and cannot tell between the body’s cells and the infectious agents. Autoimmunity is when the body targets and kills its cells. 


Some people are genetically predisposed to get autoimmune disease. Genetic predispositionis affected by the family history of an autoimmune disease and the heritability specific genes, age, gender, or both. 

Many genes have overlaps and are still not fully understood. The following genes can be related to each other:

  • Gene transcription factors
  • Molecular and cellular immunological signaling
  • Functioning of Cytokine
  • Intercellular pattern recognition receptors
  • Membrane molecules
  • Autoantigens

Some of the causative genes, or those known to influence a person’s susceptibility of developing certain autoimmune diseases, include: 

  • Lupus: STAT4, BLK, IRFS, MAPK1
  • Multiple Sclerosis: HLA, IL2RA and PTGER4
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: PTPN2, RBPJ, BACH2
  • Type 1 Diabetes: CCR4, CD226, IL10, and CCR4.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease - IL 1R2, TYK2, IFHI
  • Psoriasis: IL23r, TRAF31P, REL, IL12B

Gender, race and ethnicity all play an independent role in autoimmunity risk. Autoimmunity is a complex issue that involves hormonal variations, sex chromosomes and systematic inequalities. 

It is important to note that, because a person is more susceptible to an autoimmune disease due to genetic predisposition doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sentenced to developing the condition. Environment factors like lifestyle can have an impact on the development of autoimmune diseases. stress exposureThe autoimmune response can be inhibited or initiated by a variety of factors. Epigenetics is the study of phenomena that can cause genes to express or not. 

Over a lifetime, nutrition and diet

Nutrient intake It can affect our immune system, particularly T-cell function. Adipokines and white adipose (fat tissue) may continue to cause inflammation. inflammation 

What we eat is another important aspect. impacts microbiome Keep your intestinal mucosal integrity. Poor intestinal microbiomes and malnutrition can have an immediate impact on immunity health. 

You can find them here diverse waysIn which people can meet their nutritional and dietary requirements. There is substantial research showing that certain dietary habits can be harmful. These are some of the most harmful diet patterns that have been identified: 

  • Excessive in trans fat
  • High sodium
  • Very low in micronutrient diversity
  • Intake of phytochemicals and antioxidants is low
  • Low fiber
  • Inadequate protein intake
  • Sugary. 

A few nutrients or dietary ingredients have been proven to be harmful for the immune system, increasing your risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. 

The Bottom Line: Inflammation and Oxidative Stress & Immune Disruption

What does it have that the integrative and holistic factors that impact autoimmune disease risk share in common? These factors directly or indirectly trigger oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. They also disrupt the immune system and cause it to attack itself.  

It is when the body mistakenly attacks itself. This is known as autoimmunity. 


Principal Takeaways

A key role for holistic health coaches in helping clients prevent and manage their health issues is being a coach. Complex autoimmune conditions can have many causes and are difficult to manage. It is possible to understand the causes and help clients with autoimmune disorders from an integrative and holistic perspective. This can help you to incorporate preventative measures into your coaching. 



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