Glossary

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A quick run-down of some of the terms that are discussed in Alice in Wondrland (we’ll add others as we go and let me know if there are other ones you want!)

WHAT IS ANAPHYLAXIS?

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and can be potentially life-threatening if not treated immediately. The allergic reaction often involves more than one body system (skin, gut, respiratory and cardiovascular) with symptoms including rashes, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and shock.

WHAT IS AN ANTIBODY?

An antibody is a protein that the immune system makes in response to a foreign substance like a virus or bacteria. However, in autoimmune disease, your body produces antibodies against your own tissues.

WHAT IS AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?

Your immune system’s job is to protect your body against foreign objects like bacteria and viruses.  In autoimmune conditions, your immune system gets confused and attacks your body’s healthy cells instead – thinking they are foreign. To do this – your body produces antibodies that mistakenly attack certain organs or tissue. This leads to inflammation, deterioration and sometimes the destruction of the organ or tissue.

For example, in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – the immune system produces antibodies that attack and destroy thyroid cells.

WHAT IS AUTOIMMUNE NEUTROPENIA?

Neutropenia occurs when you have a reduced amount of neutrophils – bacteria-fighting white blood cells. Neutropenia can occur as a result of an infection and is generally temporary.

Autoimmune Neutropenia may be diagnosed after long-standing neutropenia. The body’s immune system appears to make an antibody that attaches and destroys the neutrophils in the blood. This can result in an increased vulnerability to infections.

WHAT IS HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS?

Hashimoto’s Disease (AKA Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Autoimmune Thyroiditis) is an autoimmune disease whereby the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland.  This attack causes inflammation which interferes with the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones. This eventually leads to reduced thyroid function (hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid). The thyroid affects nearly every organ in the body and the way that the body uses energy – so without adequate thyroid hormones, the body’s functions slow down leading to a wide range of symptoms.

WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

The immune system is the body’s system for protecting itself from infection of foreign substances (like viruses and bacteria) by identifying and destroying them.

WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?

Inflammation is our body’s response to injury or attack. Inflammation in the body is characterized by swelling, redness or pain. An inflammatory response is the body’s protective reaction to disease, injury or irritation of tissues. Chronic low-level inflammation is thought to be a driving force behind the autoimmune disease.

WHAT IS INTEGRATIVE/FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE?

Integrative/functional medicine addresses the underlying cause of disease. It incorporates both conventional and holistic medicine. It is very individualized, patient-focused and looks at your body as a whole system, rather than just a set of individual symptoms. It still involves medications or surgery when necessary, but there is a strong focus on genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that affect health.

WHAT IS LUPUS?

Lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation and damage to various tissues and organs in the body. It can affect the joints, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, skin, hair, lungs, brain and nervous system. It is often difficult to diagnose, as it causes a wide range of symptoms that can vary from patient to patient.

Patients often experience periods of illness (referred to as flares) and periods of feeling better. Finding out your own triggers and ways to prevent flares helps most people to maintain health.

For more Information…

WHAT IS ORAL ALLERGY SYNDROME?

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is caused by cross-reacting allergens that can be found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables and some tree nuts. People with OAS typically have allergies to birch, ragweed or grass pollens. Essentially the body confuses the food protein as the offending pollen protein (due to their similarities) and causes an allergic reaction.

So for example, a person with pollen Hayfever may also react to raw carrot – as the body confuses the two similar proteins.

The most frequent symptoms are itching, tingling or swelling of the lips, mouth, face, tongue and/or throat (this usually occurs immediately after eating the offending raw foods). In most cases of OAS the reactions are mild and not usually life threatening (although there are some cases where patients have suffered from anaphylaxis.)

Generally, the cross-reactive food proteins are sensitive to heat and digestive enzymes. So the act of cooking these foods, normally destroys the proteins, meaning they no longer resemble the pollen protein. This usually will enable you to then tolerate the food without a reaction.

WHAT IS POSTPARTUM THYROIDITIS?

Postpartum Thyroiditis occurs in the period following the birth of a child. It is generally characterized by a swing between hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) followed by hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). The condition will then either resolve itself (generally within 12-18months) or continue into long-term hypoactivity.

The exact cause is unknown but is thought to be an autoimmune response that happens due to the immune shift after pregnancy. (The immune system is suppressed during pregnancy so there is a big shift as it switches back after birth.)

As with Hashimoto’s, Postpartum Thyroiditis is associated with developing thyroid antibodies. Women who have positive thyroid antibodies are at a higher risk of developing postpartum thyroiditis than those who do not display the antibodies. It affects around 5-10% of the population, making it the most common pregnancy-related endocrine disorder. It is usually not present straight after childbirth but generally appears 1-4 months later. It is more common to be diagnosed when you are in the hypothyroid (underactive) stage, which is generally around 4-8 months.

WHAT IS THE THYROID AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is found in the middle of your neck.  It is a vital hormonal gland, that plays a major role in body temperature, growth, heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism.  It also plays a part in regulating mood and behavior. The thyroid affects nearly every organ in the body and the way that the body uses energy. More thyroid hormone is produced when more energy is needed – like in the cold or during pregnancy. So it’s obvious that if the thyroid isn’t functioning to its full capacity,  then you will be without adequate thyroid hormone. This will result in a slow down in normal bodily function, and lead to a wide range of symptoms.  

WHAT ARE THYROID ANTIBODIES?

In autoimmune diseases, in a case of ‘mistaken identity,’ your body produces antibodies against your own tissues. In Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – the attack is on the thyroid.

Antibodies are an indicator of autoimmune activity – the higher the antibody levels – the more thyroid damage. Most people with Hashimoto’s will have Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO Antibodies) and/or Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TG Antibodies). People with Graves disease (overactive autoimmune thyroid disease) and thyroid cancer can also have the elevation of these antibodies.

WHAT IS TSH?

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is released by the pituitary gland in response to the amount of circulating thyroid hormone. When the levels of circulating thyroid hormone are too low, the pituitary gland produces TSH which stimulates the thyroid to produce more hormones.

A person with autoimmune Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis will have fluctuating TSH levels and may swing between hypo (underactive) and hyper (overactive) as the destruction of the thyroid occurs.

The TSH level does not become permanently high in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (underactive autoimmune thyroiditis) until a person has reached advanced stages.

In Grave’s disease (overactive autoimmune thyroiditis) the TSH will present with low readings.

HEALTHAlice Chen