Autoimmunity takes place in several stages:
- Silent Autoimmunity: elevated antibodies, but no symptoms or loss of function (catch here and address for potential prevention)
- Autoimmune Reactivity: elevated antibodies with symptoms and loss of function, but no severe destruction of the tissue associated with the disease (intervene here for potential halt in progression)
- Autoimmune Disease: elevated antibodies and significant symptoms, signs, labs, imaging, and special studies associated with significant loss of function.
The beautifully exciting thing is that an elevation of antibodies to our own tissue can be identified as early as stage 1 (silent) and lifestyle alterations made then to balance the immune system can prevent or limit needless suffering. Elevations in various antibodies can indicate a pending self-attack on the associated tissues. This includes, but is not limited to:
Parietal Cell + ATPase: Parietal cells produce hydrochloric acid in our stomach, as such destruction of these cells can lead to chronic stomach burning that is typically misdiagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Intrinsic Factor: Along with antibodies to the parietal cells, many patients will have antibodies present to something called intrinsic factor as well. Intrinsic factor is produced by the parietal cells of the stomach and is responsible for enabling us to absorb B12. Antibodies to intrinsic factor are a diagnostic marker for pernicious anemia, a B12 deficiency normally marked by low energy levels, amongst other things.
ASCA, ANCA & Tropomyosin: These antibodies are diagnostic of varying forms of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are the two most common forms of IBD, with ASCA & ANCA being correlated with Crohn’s and tropomyosin being more associated with ulcerative colitis. Both of these conditions can be associated with excessive daily bowel movements, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea. weight loss, malnutrition, and intestinal bleeding.
Thyroglobulin & Thyroid Peroxidase: These are antibodies for the thyroid gland (with autoimmunity being the # 1 cause of hypothyroidism in America). Thyroglobulin is associated with hyperthyroidism or Graves’s and thyroid peroxidase with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. Patient with these antibodies often experience a confusing blend of symptoms along the hypo and hyper spectrum based on presence of an attack (liberating more thyroid hormone in to the blood and thus causing hyper symptoms) and tissue destruction (the more tissue destroyed, the more the function of the thyroid trends towards hypo). Symptoms can include fatigue, insomnia, irritability, nervousness, depression, anxiety, and slow metabolism (difficulty losing weight).
Other commonly tested for antibodies that are included in the above mentioned panel are for the:
adrenal glands (Addison’s),
the heart (myocardial peptide: actual antibodies to the protein in the cardiac tissue; perhaps it isn’t all about cholesterol),
those associated with SLE aka Lupus,
the ovaries and testis (which can lead to infertility and low hormones),
fibulin (associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; commonly accompanied by joint pain, swelling, and deformity),
osteocytes (a cause for osteopenia and osteoporosis),
liver enzymes indicating hepatitis (often accompanied by fever, malaise, fatigue, and muscle aches),
insulin and islet cells (insulin producing cells of the pancreas, a mechanism behind Type I Diabetes),
glutamic acid (the enzyme responsible for producing GABA from glutamate, with dysfunction here being a mechanism for type 1 diabetes, obsessive compulsive disorder, movement disorders (tremor), ataxia, dizziness, balance disorders, anxiety, vertigo, and stiff-man syndrome (a very rare condition with severe global muscle tightness),
myelin, asialoganglioside, & alpha + beta tubulin (these being proteins found in the myelin sheath that myelinate or cover/insulate our brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. When they attack, demyelination occurs and dysfunction and diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and Gullian Barre can occur).