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Autoimmune disease's role in chronic pain

Updated: Jun 28, 2023


New focus is being put on the origins of "unexplained" pain. A review published in Autoimmunity Reviews is drawing focus to pain-sensitizing autoantibodies and their relationship to different chronic pain conditions.

One of the most difficult aspects of finding effective and safe therapies for chronic pain is the lack of knowledge about the etiology of this pervasive problem. “In other words, symptoms that profoundly affect billions of people across the globe have remained unexplained”

This is a troubling statement because how, in all of modern medicine's glory, can the cause of chronic conditions still be a mystery?!


There are two main reasons for this:

1) Conventional medicine always wants there to be a single cause for every disease

2) Conventional medicine does not respect autoimmune disease


Acute disease, maybe, will have a single cause, such as a viral infection, but chronic conditions always have multiple causes. Therefore, there is no way you can expect a single intervention, a single pill, to cure any chronic conditions. On top of it, the causes are different from person to person! Therefore, conventional medicine will never have an answer to chronic conditions if they continue with their same model of healthcare, "a pill for an ill." All they can do is manage individual symptoms.


Now, conventional medicine understands what autoimmune diseases are, they are able to test for them and diagnose them, but they don't know how to treat them. Hashimoto's thyroiditis, for example, typically will get the same treatment plan as its non autoimmune hypothyroid counterpart. And, if by some reason you do get treatment directed at your autoimmune condition, it will almost always be a corticosteroid to calm the immune system. To mute the symptoms.


 

What is an autoimmune disease and how does it cause pain?


The simple definition of an autoimmune disease is when your immune system becomes overactive and begins to attack your healthy tissues on top of foreign pathogens. For the most part, each of the 150+ autoimmune conditions have the same etiology, the conditions just vary based on what tissues your immune system is attacking.


Your immune system contains antibodies (the term you're used to hearing in association with vaccinations) which attack antigens (foreign pathogens). When a pathogen is present, your antibodies multiply, attack it, and remove it from your body. When this process is completed, the antibodies return to normal amounts and go into a hibernation of sorts until they are needed again. But this is not the case for everyone, some people's antibodies never return to normal quantities despite the pathogen being removed.


So why does this happen to some? The answer lays in your gut, because all autoimmune disease begins in the gut!


Antibody levels don't remain elevated for no reason. If you antibody levels are still high it is because they are still working! But if the pathogen is no longer there, what are they attacking? The answer is your food!


Certain foods trigger an autoimmune response. Foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and processed sugars, to name a few, have similar genetic structures to other pathogens (a process known as molecular mimicry) which confuses your body. Your immune system believes that these foods are actually pathogens and begins to attack them!


When food passes into your small intestine it should be properly broken down enough to get absorbed and the nutrients shuttled into your blood stream. Those aforementioned foods, however, can cause a phenomenon known as intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. They are so inflammatory what they cause your small intestine to lose its structural integrity and these foods can pass straight into your blood stream without being properly digested. Gluten is the most significant culprit. Now, because these foods haven't been properly digested they don't look like normal food, they look like other pathogens and the only way to neutralizer them is by sending in the immune system.


Your antibodies can remove these new "pathogens" just as they can real pathogens. But as long as you keep consuming those foods, your immune system will be in overdrive. The antibodies never take a break and they become known as autoantibodies. Autoantibodies then begin attacking healthy tissues because they are overworked and confused. This is an incredibly inflammatory process that will continue to cause damage until the problem is fixed. Something a corticosteroid will never be able to do. Damage and pain ensues.


1 in 4 American women are living with an autoimmune disease and don't even know it. It takes an average of 10 years after symptoms begin to get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. By this time, most chronic pain sufferers have been dismissed by their chronic pain specialists.


 
Andreas Goebel, PhD, director of the Pain Research Institute at the University of Liverpool, an expert in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and lead author of the paper, had previously suggested that autoantibodies can cause chronic pain by attaching to peripheral tissues and causing sensory nerves to misfire

This is the model described above. When you induce inflammation, and cause destruction or healthy tissues, your body will try to get your attention with signs and symptoms. Because chronic conditions have usually been manifesting for many years, those signs and symptoms can be very vague. There are few symptoms more vague than pain.


Many chronic pain conditions have vague names to demonstrate conventional medicine's lack of understanding of the condition. Chronic primary pain, for example, is defined as pain lasting longer than 3 months that has no known cause. Yes, this is a real diagnosis some people are getting! But what the authors of this review found is that all patients diagnosed with chronic primary pain had pathogenic pro-nociceptive (pain causing) antibodies int heir blood, while people who did not have chronic pain always tested negative for such antibodies.


This suggests that autoimmunity is a bigger problem than we realized when it comes to origins of chronic pain!

Although it remains to be discovered which target cells and molecular structures are involved, they argue that CRPS should no longer be considered “unexplained.”

Even more well known and diagnosed conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) are getting the respect they deserve. These vague pain conditions all have a cause. It's likely not a singular cause, nor will it be the same from person to person, but autoimmunity which is already under diagnosed and under respected is getting the attention it deserves!

“What we call fibromyalgia today might actually be five or six or even 10 different diseases, all with different mechanisms”

In order to properly treat chronic pain, you have to properly test for, and understand, its many causes. Then you have to be able to properly treat those causes. You can put autoimmune disease into remission as much as your medical doctor may suggest otherwise. They suggest this only because they haven't seen it for themselves. Corticosteroids are not an effective treatment against autoimmune disease. They only dampen the symptoms. No pill will ever be able to put autoimmune disease into remission because they do not address the diet and lifestyle factors that cause autoimmune disease.


Even if your chronic pain specialist recognizes the roll of autoimmune disease in chronic pain, they likely aren't going to be able to do anything about it. Their understanding of medicine is incomplete and they will continue to prescribe steroids and pain meds to no avail.


Find yourself a chronic pain specialist who not only understands all the causes of chronic pain, but can treat them. Click on the link below to learn more, schedule a free phone consultation, and to claim your free gift to get started healing yourself!



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