I have been spending a lot of time thinking about immunity since starting as a Blackmores blogger. And, all of this thinking has made me realise the fundamental importance of the immune system to our lives. At every stage of our journey on this earth our powerful immune system provides life-saving protection. But, what happens when this goes wrong and instead of protecting us, our immune system attacks us?
A dear friend of mine has an autoimmune disease that is disabling in everyday life, requires ongoing medication and can lead to hospitalisation. There are serious health concerns for her future. But what is also hard is that she looks fine – to family and friends she can appear her normal, bubbly, outgoing self. It can be very difficult for others to understand how she is feeling, even those close to her.
My friend is not alone. Research suggests that autoimmunity develops in about 5% of the population. Despite such prevalence, science has been unable to determine what triggers and maintains such an immune disruption. Possible influences are geographical, genetic susceptibility, infective or environmental triggers, gender, low economic status, poor diet or psychological factors.
It can be difficult to gather information on autoimmune disease in general as each disease is generally considered individually. There are about 80 autoimmune diseases that range in severity from mild to disabling, depending on what system of the body is under attack and to what degree.
A common theme unfortunately is there is no known cure. So, for the many suffers of autoimmune disease it is more a case of managing symptoms as they live their life.
Like my friend, it is a daily struggle. It gives me a huge respect for these people, and for the powerful capability of our immune system. So, next time I’m whinging about a cold or a runny nose, I think I’ll thank my immune system for fighting off the offending bug, and remember those who battle more than a sniffle.