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Posted on / Dr. Laurie Pozun

Autoimmune Disorders: Environmental Triggers & Reducing Risk

Studies have suggested that as much as 70% of autoimmune diseases are environmental in origin, while only 30% of autoimmune diseases are genetic (as many autoimmune diseases run in families). However, if there is an underlying genetic predisposition to an autoimmune disease, then environmental factors may serve as a switch to turn these genes to the “on” position.

Environmental triggers for autoimmune disorders

There are a number of environmental triggers for autoimmune disorders including:

  • Infections: viruses, bacteria and other pathogens can elicit autoimmune diseases.
  • Chemicals: tobacco and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as BPA, phthalate, TCDD, DDT, DDE, DES in many plastics, cosmetics, pesticides
  • Heavy metal exposure: such a mercury (Hg), silver (Ag), cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As) and lead (Pb) can lead to organ specific or systemic autoimmune disease. This occurs as lymphocyte numbers are reduced and innate immune responses are suppressed.
  • Medications: more than 90 medications have been associated with triggering auto immune diseases. This includes some anti hypertensives (hydralazine and hydrochloride), cardiac arrhythmia medications (procainamide and methyldopa), antibiotics (minocycline and isoniazid), anti seizure medications, immunotherapy drugs, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors
  • Other: such a gut dysbiosis, dietary factors /processed foods, and excessive sun exposure.


Minimize your risks of triggering autoimmune disorders

There are a number of things we can do to help minimize environmental exposures and triggering of autoimmune dysfunction.

Watch what you eat

Following a basic anti-inflammatory diet for autoimmune disorders can help reduce your risk of triggering different conditions. This includes:

  • Eat more fresh and organic foods
  • Minimize processed foods
  • Avoid canned foods and beverages, and don't store canned or plastic-packaged foods in hot areas
  • When cooking, use glass or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic
  • Never microwave food in plastic
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with tap water

Create a safe space

You spend most of your life in your home. Creating an environment that limits environmental triggers is key to reducing your risks of autoimmune disorders. A few ways to do this include:

  • Reduce chemicals in your home by vacuuming often
  • Wipe away dust with a damp cloth
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and change other air filters regularly
  • When cleaning, choose natural products like vinegar and baking soda
  • Look for products that are fragrance-free, phthalate-free, paraben-free, and/or BPA-free

Additional ways to reduce risks include avoiding single-use water bottles and using filtered water instead. You can also reduce pesticide use by plugging holes under your sink to keep pests away. 


Partner with a LifeScape concierge physician

If you have an autoimmune disorder or a strong family history of autoimmune disorders, it would be beneficial to discuss this with your Lifescape provider

We can offer helpful tests to screen for abnormalities which could be treated and reduce potential autoimmune symptoms or disease onset. Such tests include gut dysbiosis evaluation for both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract, heavy metal toxin screening, and intracellular micronutrient assessment.

Request a Meet & Greet with one of our providers today to discuss your care plan with LifeScape.


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