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Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) an Autoimmune Condition?

0 2 years ago

What is an autoimmune disease?

Your immune system protects you from disease-causing germs and other potentially harmful substances in the environment. It’s activated when it finds something in the body that it doesn’t recognize as “self.” This is called an antigen.

Once an antigen has been identified, the immune system then works to generate an immune response to it. The overall goal is to neutralize the potential threat before it can cause you harm.

However, sometimes the immune system malfunctions and mistakenly responds to healthy tissues. This is called autoimmune disease.

Over 80 autoimmune diseasesTrusted Source

have been identified, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Some that you may have heard of are:

IBD and the immune system

IBD falls under the umbrella of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs). Generally speaking, IMIDs are conditions in which chronic inflammation happens due to an atypical immune response.

In addition to IBD, autoimmune disease is another type of IMID. Asthma and other allergic conditions can also be classified as IMIDs.

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by an inappropriate immune response to healthy organs and tissues in the body. For example, many people with RA have autoantibodies that attack healthy joint tissue. IBD is a little different.

IBD is generally accepted to be caused by an atypical immune response to environmental triggers in a genetically susceptible person. This leads to chronic inflammation in the GI tract and the symptoms of IBD, which can include:

What’s up with the immune system?

You may not think about it this way, but your GI tract contains a lot of potential antigens. These include the food you eat, some of the medications you take, and healthy bacteria called commensals.

Commensals are important for your GI health. For example, they aid with digestion and help to protect your GI tract from disease-causing germs. They also play a role in immune system development.

Usually, your immune system tolerates the factors we’ve mentioned above. That means it typically sees them as harmless and leaves them alone.

However, in IBD, a trigger causes the immune system to mount a response against factors that are typically harmless, such as commensals. This leads to increased, persistent inflammation in the affected part of the GI tract.


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