Autoimmune Disease


Could a Hidden Infection Be Causing My Child’s Psychiatric and Behavioral Problems?

What could make a happy-go-lucky child develop symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) seemingly overnight or start throwing temper tantrums and banging his head when he gets frustrated? What could make another child instantly develop an aversion to food so strong she vomits at the sight of it? What would explain a straight-A student suddenly developing a learning disability or difficulty with their handwriting?

Tragically, more and more parents are asking these questions as their children, teens, and even some young adults suddenly develop neuropsychiatric illnesses that have no clear connection to a cause. And these parents are rarely getting any clear answers or effective treatment options from their primary care physicians. Frequently, parents are advised to seek psychiatric care for their children, which often leads to medication that fails to treat the underlying medical issues and causes other health issues.

Fortunately for these children and their parents, there is a possible explanation and treatment options that target the root cause of these mysterious illnesses. These children may be suffering from a condition referred to as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) or, more generally, Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).

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What Are PANS and PANDAS?

PANS and PANDAS are autoimmune conditions that disrupt neurological function. With any autoimmunecondition, the immune system attacks healthy cells of the body when it should be attacking only pathogens, such as harmful bacteria and viruses. In the case of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) or Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), the immune system attacks certain cells in the nervous system, including cells of the brain and spine.

Why would the immune system attack the body it is supposed to protect? Usually because the pathogen it is trying to eliminate from the body has taken on the appearance of healthy human cells to hide from the immune system — a self-defense technique called molecular mimicry. Unfortunately, these harmful microbes are so good at mimicking healthy cells that the immune system ends up attacking both the harmful microbes and the body’s own cells, causing inflammation and dysfunction.

PANS is a broad classification of autoimmune conditions that affect brain and nerve cells and is caused by nearly any infection that triggers an immune response. Currently, the following infections are thought to be primarily responsible for triggering PANS: continue reading

Does the Treatment for Your Autoimmune Disease Go Deep Enough?

If you’ve ever wondered what triggers an autoimmune disease, you’re not alone. This question has been a mystery since the discovery of autoimmunity. Normally, our immune system protects our bodies against infection. But with autoimmune disease, that same faithful system malfunctions and attacks healthy cells.

The exact mechanism that gives rise to an autoimmune disease still puzzles medical minds. However, evidence suggests that the cause can often be traced to a genetic susceptibility triggered by one or more environmental factors. These can include chronic stress, poor diet, gut dysbiosis, infections, environmental toxins, as well as other stressors.

Recent research points to various infectious agents (viruses and bacteria) as being major triggers for several autoimmune diseases, including the following:

Autoimmune Disease Infectious Agent
Guillain-Barré syndrome Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, Campylobacter (bacteria)
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) Epstein-Barr virus
Lupus Epstein-Barr virus
Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi (bacteria) and Borrelia mayonii (bacteria)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) Epstein-Barr virus and measles virus
Myasthenia gravis Hepatitis C virus, herpes simplex virus
Myocarditis Coxsackievirus B3, cytomegalovirus, chlamydia (bacteria)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C virus, Escherichia coli (bacteria), mycobacteria
Type 1 diabetes Coxsackievirus B4, cytomegalovirus, mumps virus, and rubella virus

Medical researchers and clinical practitioners have different theories on how infections trigger autoimmune disease. Some suggest that the antibodies produced in response to certain infections attack healthy cells in the body that resemble, in some way, the bacteria or virus that caused the infection. Others note that many viruses infect the immune cells in order to reproduce, and that this infection alters the immune response. A third possibility is that the infection flips a switch in the host’s genes that negatively impacts immune function.

Focusing on the Epstein-Barr Virus

As you skim through the table above, you may notice that one virus in particular — the Epstein-Barr virus — is implicated in a number of autoimmune diseases. Epstein-Barr virus may play a role in many autoimmune diseases for the following reasons: continue reading

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