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What Causes Autoimmune Disorders

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – And How To Battle Them

Exactly what causes autoimmune disorders is a combination of genetic susceptibility, environmental influences, and imbalances in the gut microbiome. Autoimmune disease can take a long time to develop, with preclinical autoimmunity occurring before the onset of clinical symptoms by several years. Evidence of preclinical autoimmunity can be found in the form of circulating autoantibodies in the peripheral blood.1

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that approximately 24 million people in the United States have an autoimmune disorder. This accounts for roughly 8% of the population. Autoimmune diseases affect people of all ages, genders, and races. The most common type of autoimmune disease is thyroid disease. Other common autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.2

Symptoms of autoimmune disorders can be hard to pinpoint and may include fatigue, low-grade fevers, muscle, and joint pain, as well as general malaise. Over time, these symptoms can worsen and become disabling, resulting in a reduced quality of life.

Preventive therapies that identify and eliminate the underlying triggers of an autoimmune disorder can often reverse its progression and potentially eradicate the disease altogether. By addressing the root cause of an autoimmune disorder, we can provide lasting relief and significantly improve quality of life.

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – Genetics

Genetics plays a major role in the development of autoimmune disorders. Many people have genetic variants that make them more likely to develop autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.3 4 When combined with environmental triggers, such as certain infections or exposure to certain chemicals, these genetic variants can lead to the development of an autoimmune condition. It is important to note that not everyone who has a genetic predisposition for autoimmune disease will develop it, as other factors are also involved.

Researchers have identified hundreds of genes associated with autoimmune disorders, and they continue to search for more. This research has helped to further our understanding of the genetic basis of autoimmune disease and could potentially lead to new treatments or even preventive measures in the future. Additionally, a better understanding of genetics can help physicians provide targeted treatment based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup.

Overall, it is clear that genetics play a key role in the development of autoimmune disorders, but it is not the only factor.5

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders - Genetics

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are known to play a role in the development of autoimmune disorders. Chemical toxicants, heavy metals, viruses, bacteria, emotional stress, and drugs may all act as triggers for an autoimmune reaction.

Exposure to environmental toxins can lead to changes in our immune system which can result in an autoimmune response or abnormal immune reactions. For instance, exposure to certain heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead can cause changes in our body’s ability to recognize its own cells or tissues. This can result in the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue.

Another environmental toxin linked with autoimmune disorders is aluminum hydroxide. Aluminum hydroxide is used in many vaccines as an adjuvant, which means it helps to boost the body’s immune response. While this can be beneficial in some cases, in others it may lead to abnormal immune system responses that affect the body negatively. This has been linked to a variety of autoimmune diseases, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.6

Viruses and bacteria can also act as triggers for a potential autoimmune reaction. Viral infections have been associated with certain autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Bacterial infections may be the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus.7 8

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a common virus that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms. However, in some cases, EBV can trigger an autoimmune response. This means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues and leads to conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple sclerosis. Other viruses, including HIV, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B and C, and rubella, may also contribute to autoimmune disorders.9 10

Studies have found that emotional stress can also increase the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. Stressful events such as a divorce or major life changes can cause disruption in our bodies which may lead to an autoimmune reaction.11 12

Certain drugs, such as antibiotics, have been linked to the development of autoimmune disorders. These drugs can interfere with our normal immune system functioning and trigger an autoimmune response.13

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders - EBV

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – Smoking

Smoking is another factor that may be linked to some autoimmune disorders. Smoking has been associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other conditions. Cigarette smoke exposes the body to toxins that can cause inflammation and damage to cells. This can lead to a weakened immune system and an increased susceptibility to infection and disease, including autoimmune disorders. Therefore, avoiding smoking may be beneficial for reducing the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.14

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – Mold Exposure

Mold exposure has long been linked to autoimmune disorders. In particular, some research suggests that mold may be linked to chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

In addition to direct exposure, there are also indirect ways that people can become exposed to mold. For example, people who live in damp or poorly ventilated environments are more likely to be exposed to mold, and this can increase their risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.

Mold exposure is also linked to inflammation in the body, which can trigger an immune response that can lead to autoimmunity. When a person’s immune system recognizes foreign material such as molds, it releases chemicals called cytokines. These cytokines can activate the body’s inflammatory response, which can ultimately lead to an autoimmune disorder.

Additionally, mold exposure has been linked to a weakened immune system. This is because mold produces toxins called mycotoxins that can weaken the immune system and make it more susceptible to foreign invaders. When this happens, the body is more likely to attack its own cells, resulting in an autoimmune disorder.

Finally, mold exposure has been linked to a higher risk of developing allergies and asthma. This could be because the body’s immune system is already weakened by mold exposure, making it overreact to other allergens that would otherwise not trigger an allergic reaction.

To reduce your risk of developing an autoimmune disorder, it’s important to minimize mold exposure by keeping your home clean and dry.15

Read more about the detrimental effects of mold exposure.

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – GMO Food

GMO food has been linked to the development of autoimmune disorders. Studies have found that when animals are fed a diet containing GMOs, their immune systems become overactive which often causes them to develop an autoimmune disorder. This is believed to be because of the effects that GMO foods can have on the gut microbiome, causing it to be out of balance and allowing for bacteria or viruses that can trigger autoimmune reactions. 

Additionally, the use of genetically modified organisms in food production has been found to be associated with an increase in environmental toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides, which can also contribute to autoimmunity. Finally, there are concerns surrounding the lack of regulation of GMO foods and the potential for synthetic proteins or other compounds they contain to interact with the body in unexpected ways and trigger an autoimmune response.16 17 18

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders - GMO Food

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – A Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly being identified as a potential cause of autoimmune disorders. Vitamin D helps to regulate the immune system and can help protect against the development of autoimmune conditions. A decrease in vitamin D levels has been associated with an increased risk for various types of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and psoriasis. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to an increased risk for autoimmune diseases due to the role it plays in regulating inflammatory responses and maintaining proper immune function.

Additionally, a lack of adequate vitamin D can lead to an impaired balance between regulatory T-cells which help control inflammation, and effector T-cells which cause inflammation. This imbalance can contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are chemicals released by the immune system and can cause more damage in people with autoimmune disorders.19 20

Read more about how important Vitamin D is.

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – Microbiome Dysfunction

Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s own immune system launches an attack against healthy cells and tissues. There are many potential causes of autoimmune disorders, with one of the most common being a disruption in the balance of bacteria that live in our bodies, known as our microbiome.

Research has revealed that the microbiome plays an important role in maintaining immune system health. An imbalance in the microbiome can lead to inflammation and impaired immune function, which may trigger autoimmune responses.

For example, scientists have discovered that certain types of bacteria living in the gut are associated with an increased risk of developing lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The bacteria that appear to be most involved is called Clostridium difficile, which is often linked to antibiotic use.

The good news is that researchers are beginning to identify ways to restore balance to the microbiome, such as through probiotics and specific dietary changes. In some cases, restoring balance to the microbiome may help reduce inflammation and improve immune system function, which could potentially reduce autoimmune symptoms.21 22 23

What Causes Autoimmune Disorders – And How To Battle Them

Battling autoimmune disorders involves implementing lifestyle changes that support optimal health and reduce inflammation. First off, eat a healthy diet. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of nutrient-dense, whole foods with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. It should focus on fatty fish, nuts, seeds, grass-fed meat, and grass-fed dairy. Avoid processed foods and refined sugars as much as possible.

Read more about my Cellular Healing Diet.

anti-inflammatory diet - grass-fed meat

Avoid environmental toxins by staying away from food with additives and preservatives. Choose organic, minimally processed foods whenever possible. Replace non-stick cookware with ceramic or stainless steel pans. Avoid plastic containers and utensils.

Avoid using pesticides in the home or garden, as these can contain toxic chemicals that may trigger an autoimmune reaction. Invest in a quality air filter for your home and office to reduce dust and allergens that can cause inflammation.

Choose natural cleaning products whenever possible, as many conventional cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can irritate the body and lead to inflammation. Limit exposure to environmental pollutants such as car exhaust, smoke, and radiation by avoiding areas with high levels of pollution. Wear protective clothing when in contact with potentially hazardous substances such as paint fumes, solvents, and other chemicals.

Exercise helps reduce inflammation in the body and supports a healthy immune system. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, such as walking or swimming.

Stress can trigger an autoimmune response and exacerbate chronic inflammation. Try to reduce your stress levels by engaging in calming activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night. Sleep helps support a healthy immune system and reduces inflammation.

Getting enough vitamin D, B12, magnesium, selenium, and zinc is crucially important in warding off autoimmune disorders.

Read more about mineral and vitamin deficiencies.


1 A. Vojdani, “Antibodies as predictors of complex autoimmune diseases and cancer,” International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 553–566, 2008.

2 Autoimmune disease: Why is my immune system attacking itself? (2021, November 10). Johns Hopkins Medicine.

3 J. C. Barrett, D. G. Clayton, P. Concannon et al., “Genome-wide association study and meta-analysis find that over 40 loci affect risk of type 1 diabetes,” Nature Genetics, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 703–707, 2009.

4 L. A. Criswell, K. A. Pfeiffer, R. F. Lum et al., “Analysis of families in the multiple autoimmune disease genetics consortium (MADGC) collection: the PTPN22 620W allele associates with multiple autoimmune phenotypes,” American Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 76, no. 4, pp. 561–571, 2005.

5 L. A. Zenewicz, C. Abraham, R. A. Flavell, and J. H. Cho, “Unraveling the genetics of autoimmunity,” Cell, vol. 140, no. 6, pp. 791–797, 2010.

6 H. Hamza, J. Cao, X. Li, C. Li, M. Zhu, and S. Zhao, “Hepatitis B vaccine induces apoptotic death in Hepa1-6 cells,” Apoptosis, vol. 17, pp. 516–527, 2012.

7 S. Kivity, N. Agmon-Levin, M. Blank, and Y. Shoenfeld, “Infections and autoimmunity: friends or foes?” Trends in Immunology, vol. 30, no. 8, pp. 409–414, 2009.

8 T. F. Davies, “Infection and autoimmune thyroid disease,” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 93, no. 3, pp. 674–676, 2008.

9 J. A. James, B. R. Neas, K. L. Moser et al., “Systemic lupus erythematosus in adults is associated with previous Epstein-Barr virus exposure.,” Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 44, pp. 1122–1126, 2001.

10 U. Y. Moon, S. J. Park, S. T. Oh et al., “Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus have abnormally elevated Epstein-Barr virus load in blood,” Arthritis Research & Therapy, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. R295–R302, 2004.

11 M. T. Bailey, S. E. Dowd, J. D. Galley, A. R. Hufnagle, R. G. Allen, and M. Lyte, “Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation,” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 397–407, 2011.

12 J. D. Söderholm and M. H. Perdue, “Stress and the gastrointestinal tract II. Stress and intestinal barrier function,” American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, vol. 280, no. 1, pp. G7–G13, 2001

13 D. A. Hill, C. Hoffmann, M. C. Abt et al., “Metagenomic analyses reveal antibiotic-induced temporal and spatial changes in intestinal microbiota with associated alterations in immune cell homeostasis,” Mucosal Immunology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 148–158, 2010.

14 L. Klareskog, P. Stolt, K. Lundberg et al., “A new model for an etiology of rheumatoid arthritis: smoking may trigger HLA-DR (shared epitope)-restricted immune reactions to autoantigens modified by citrullination,” Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 38–46, 2006.

15 Kraft S, Buchenauer L, Polte T. Mold, Mycotoxins and a Dysregulated Immune System: A Combination of Concern? Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Nov 12;22(22):12269. doi: 10.3390/ijms222212269. PMID: 34830149; PMCID: PMC8619365.

16 A. Campbell, “Organic vs conventional,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 8–9, 2012.

17 A. Campbell, “Pesticides: our children in jeopardy,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 8–10, 2013.

18 A. Vojdani, “A potential link between environmental triggers and autoimmunity,” Autoimmune Diseases, vol. 2013, Article ID 437231, 18 pages, 2013.

19 N. Agmon-Levin, E. Theodor, R. Segal, and Y. Shoenfeld, “Vitamin D in systemic and organ-specific autoimmune diseases,” Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 256–266, 2013.

20 C. F. Pelajo, J. M. Lopez-Benitez, and L. C. Miller, “Vitamin D and autoimmune rheumatologic disorders,” Autoimmunity Reviews, vol. 9, no. 7, pp. 507–510, 2010.

21 J. Penders, C. Vink, C. Driessen, N. London, C. Thijs, and E. E. Stobberingh, “Quantification of Bifidobacterium spp., Escherichia coli and Clostridium difficile in faecal samples of breast-fed and formula-fed infants by real-time PCR,” FEMS Microbiology Letters, vol. 243, no. 1, pp. 141–147, 2005.

22 I. I. Ivanov, K. Atarashi, N. Manel et al., “Induction of intestinal Th17 cells by segmented filamentous bacteria,” Cell, vol. 139, no. 3, pp. 485–498, 2009.

23 D. A. Hill, C. Hoffmann, M. C. Abt et al., “Metagenomic analyses reveal antibiotic-induced temporal and spatial changes in intestinal microbiota with associated alterations in immune cell homeostasis,” Mucosal Immunology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 148–158, 2010.

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