The Autoimmune Epidemic: How Uncovering Root Causes Can Lead to Healing

The latest statistics show one out of every ten people is dealing with an autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 diseases that are classified as autoimmune, and more than 250 thousand new diagnoses per year in the United States alone! The good news is that the ongoing studies around autoimmunity are finally proving what we already know in functional medicine — all autoimmune diseases are tied to gut health, and toxic exposures often play a big role in the development of autoimmune disease.

We see clients every day in our practice who have received one or more autoimmune disease diagnoses, and who want to uncover WHY they have these conditions in the first place. Many of these clients have been given multiple prescription medications to help mask their symptoms, and most have been told there is nothing they can do to change their situation.  

This is simply not true.

At Modern Holistic Health, we have worked with thousands of clients over the years. No matter what diagnosis the client received before they came to work with our team — our approach is always to find the underlying root causes of the person’s symptoms, condition, or disease — and that’s no different with autoimmune disease. So let’s look at some of the most common root causes of autoimmune disease that we see with our clients.

Toxic Chemicals

Latest studies show that babies born in the United States have an average of 186 toxic chemicals in their bodies at birth. We are bombarded with toxins on a regular basis — in our drinking water, our food, body care products, household cleaners, and even in the air we breathe. If you’re not detoxing your body on a regular basis (or maybe you’ve never done a detox), then toxins are building up in your body. The higher your toxin levels get, the more symptoms you are likely to experience, and the more damage is done to your gut microbiome, or the balance of good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract. Eventually, your toxin load, and this imbalance in your gut bacteria, starts to affect the way your immune system functions, which makes toxins a major trigger for autoimmune disease.


There are various organisms that can lead to infection in the body, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and yeast. While these organisms can be anywhere in the body, they tend to be introduced through the digestive system and live in the gut bacteria or microbiome. These organisms can give off endotoxins, which escape the gut and end up in the bloodstream. This ongoing excretion of endotoxins causes massive inflammation in the body and alerts the immune system to the infection. However, these organisms are very good at surviving in the human body, which is a wonderful host! The organisms create biofilm and are able to hide from detection. Over time, the immune system gets worn down from all the searching, allowing the pathogens to spread and thrive. Having ongoing pathogenic infection is shown to be a major root cause of autoimmune disease, and again has a big connection to the gut.

Dietary Choices

Food choices are also shown to be a major root cause of autoimmune disease. The Standard American Diet (SAD) relies heavily on processed foods, food-like chemicals, and fast food — which is a recipe for inflammation in the body. Arguably the most inflammatory food of all — gluten — is a major part of the Standard American Diet. Several recent studies showed that gluten caused cellular separation of the gut lining (or leaky gut) in 100% of study participants.  Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley and can be very hard to eliminate from the diet due to the versatility of the ingredient and food processing methods, not to mention lackluster food labeling laws. Read more in the next article on the role gluten plays in dis-ease.


Genetics can play a role in the development of autoimmune disease, but it doesn’t stand alone as a root cause. A person’s lifestyle choices, diet & exercise, stress management, environmental factors, and toxin load all affect how a person’s genes malexpress and ultimately contribute to imbalance in the body, which in turn leads to dis-ease.

Trauma & Emotions

We are learning more and more about how past trauma, unresolved emotions, and belief systems lead to disease in the body — and that is no different with autoimmune disease. For example, Hashimoto’s, or autoimmune thyroid disease, is tied to a recurrent conflict around not being able to speak one’s truth, not being able to grasp something, or putting oneself under pressure to be faster. Vitiligo, or the skin condition involving the pigment of the skin, can often be the result of a separation conflict, or seeing oneself as being impure. And Type 1 Diabetes can develop after a resistance conflict, where one has to defend themselves against someone or something, or believes they have to fight against something. Addressing trauma and emotions is a critical part of healing from any disease or condition.

So what can you do to regain your health and reverse your autoimmune disease?

The bottom line: autoimmune disease does not happen from one day to the next. It takes years, sometimes decades, for the body to reach a state where autoimmune disease can occur. So it takes time to reverse the cascade of symptoms and allow the body to heal. You can start by addressing the many root causes listed above. If you need help and guidance and want to work closely with a team of practitioners to address all of your possible root causes, you are encouraged to book an appointment with one of our health coaches and get started.

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