It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Good Business Part II: Treating the Causes of Autoimmune Disease

I love Hondas.  They are all I have ever owned, and I would be quite happy if that is all I ever drove.  I purchased my first Honda when I was 20.  I was a single-mom, a full-time student at the University and a full-time employee at AT&T Wireless.  Needless to say, I thought I was pretty cool.  I didn’t have a lot of money, but my car looked good.  It was a blue Honda Civic and I loved it.  I drove that car all over and never had a problem but for one minor hiccup, it seemed to  leak oil for some reason.  I didn’t know why or how, all I knew is that the oil light came on a lot and an oil stain had appeared in my parking spot.  I took it to Grease Monkey for an oil change, and the tech said that he didn’t see a leak.  Great, I thought, there is no leak, so there is no problem.  I was relieved, except for the fact that the car still couldn’t hold onto oil for some reason.  So I am sure you are wondering why I didn’t take the car to a mechanic to find out what was causing the leak, huh?  Well, such is the way of the young and boneheaded;  why spend money I didn’t have on a problem that could be easily managed if I just kept an eye on the oil light and  simply added new oil when it came on? 

 That’s what I did for several months until the fateful day when my son and I were going to visit grandma two hours away in the middle of nowhere – Oak Harbor, Washington, and my timing chain broke.  Now, if I couldn’t afford to have an oil leak looked at, I sure as hell couldn’t afford to replace a timing chain.  The car was towed to the nearest garage and there the car sat for two months while I worked to come up with money to pay to have it repaired.  The garage saw me coming a mile away:  a young single-mom who knew nothing about cars but was dependent on one.  They could charge me anything they wanted to, and they did. 

This is a true story and I hope you can appreciate the foolishness of it all.  Rather than finding out the cause of the leak,  and fixing it once and for all, I instead just kept adding oil that just hid the fact that there was a growing problem with the car.   Ultimately, I was not able to ignore the problem forever and the result was a much bigger and more costly repair.  All I had to do was find the cause, and fix it – it was a no-brainer, right?…..

The health care system  is designed to prescribe drugs to stop or mask symptoms, and yet more drugs to mask or stop the conditions that crop up as a result of the original prescriptions.  Hardly ever is anything prescribed that actually goes after the causes of the disease in the first place.  They say that the cause is “unknown” but that isn’t entirely true.  One universal cause cannot be nailed down, but there are numerous known causes of autoimmune disease.  The kind of personalized care necessary to identify those individual causes is not currently available to most patients.  In fact, such care would require that the current “patient-on-a-conveyor-belt” system be overhauled.  Such changes are politically and economically unrealistic.  The system is overrun and the pharmaceutical industry is no less noble than the banking industry.  Therefore, it is up to us as patients to take responsibility for our own health.  We must learn all that we can so that we may make the best decisions with regard to our health.  We must make the system work for us.

We laugh at the stupid girl who didn’t get her oil leak fixed, but a car can be replaced.  Our bodies and the time we have on this earth  cannot….

It is important to understand that it is not just our joints being affected by our disease.  Many, if not all of the systems in the body are involved and therefore, should be  considered in treatment.  How many of you have just one condition?  JUST rheumatoid arthritis?  JUST fibro?  JUST whatever?  It’s always something AND something else.  Just like in a car, our systems work together to function properly.  When one area malfunctions (i.e. the immune system) the entire body is going to be affected.  Treatment resembles a “whack-a-mole” game; when symptoms present themselves, a drug is prescribed in the hopes that it will “whack” specific symptoms into submission.  Never mind why the symptoms presented in the first place and let’s not consider the toll the drugs take on the rest of the body because there is another drug to “whack” those symptoms into submission later.  When do we stop pouring oil into the engine and fix the leak?

Genes definitely play a causal role in the development of RA, but not entirely.  My paternal grandmother has rheumatoid arthritis, so you can say it runs in my family.  However, I also have 17 siblings, none of whom have rheumatoid arthritis.  I am the only one.  Yes, I received my grandmother’s legacy.  I AM special.  My point is that if autoimmune disease were genetically inevitable, all 18 of us would be suffering now, but we are not.  We may have the same genes that predispose us to rheumatoid arthritis but which genes are “turned on” and “off” vary from individual to individual.  More specifically, the variety, duration, and severity of stress on the body through diet (which accounts for up to 60% of the negative stress ),  chemical/hormonal differences, and environmental toxins greatly influence if and when genetically present diseases will arise.  This is why a traumatic event can often trigger the onset of a disease and perhaps why more women are afflicted than men…..

That should be enough to get your juices going…. There will be more tomorrow…..=)

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Megan
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 17:27:22

    Great piece, Patrice! How true… gotta fix the problem, not just mask the symptoms. =)
    Megan

    Reply

  2. Tabatha
    Sep 10, 2010 @ 18:56:51

    This is so very true, and sad because so many people don’t get this. They think with whatever disease process they have, whether it be high cholesterol or cancer, that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are only there to treat, and not to make money. They don’t understand that it is a business, and that very, very few doctors actually go that extra distance to help their patients get the kind of specialized treatment they need.

    Very good post.

    Reply

  3. Leslie
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 12:08:35

    Awesome post! I am kind of still this way about my car unfortunately..but I’m definitely NOT this way about my RA :)) My mind is still buzzing from the fact that you have 17 siblings! Did I read that right?!? wowza! How wonderful! 🙂 Nobody in my family has RA. I have a distant cousin who has lupus and is only a few years older than me. I don’t know of anyone else with autoimmune diseases in my family though and I have tons of aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides. My doctor told me that celiac is very common in families…so if you have it, then you need to look at your parents and your children because they are likely to have it. I’m also sure gluten senstivities play into that. Maybe that is where it starts….the gluten sensitivities and then we are lucky ones that our bodies turn on us. hmmmm. I don’t see any signs of this in my daughter and I hope I don’t. She tolerates all foods well. I even look at her moods and energy levels and she is fine…well she is almost 13 so the mood thing is something that may change 😛 I think my mom has food intolerances but she won’t admit it LOL! She gets very sleep after eating cereal. She usually has to go lie down…but she will eat it every morning! I don’t think hers is to the extent of mine though. I’ve had tons of symptoms since I was a teen but they were all attributed to different things. I’m SO thankful I found out what is going on and found a doc who looks at treating the whole body and not just handing out meds to mask the problem! Thank you for this post and everything you do :)) Sorry this was long…I got on a roll and couldn’t stop! hehe

    Reply

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