Is Your Autoimmune Disease Caused By Environmental Factors?

Autoimmune disorders are common, and they may even affect you or someone you care about. In fact, up to 9% of people in the United States have an autoimmune condition (ignoring that many more are developing them and will eventually be diagnosed) — though this varies by gender, ethnicity, and geographic location.   

While autoimmune conditions vary widely in symptoms and severity, they all have the same underlying problem: Your body’s immune cells attack your own body. 

Common types of AIDs include:

Though many genes are connected to AIDs, scientists still don’t know for sure exactly what causes these disorders. And while we know that genetics — and your family history — definitely plays a role, it’s possible that up to 70% of autoimmune diseases may actually be caused by environmental factors — like: 

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Infections

Read on to learn about specific environmental triggers for autoimmune diseases, and what you can do to reduce your risk or improve your symptoms.

What environmental triggers are associated with autoimmune diseases?

In people with a genetic predisposition (where their genes put them at risk), certain environmental exposures can trigger autoimmune disease. These include toxins, infections, diet, and more. 

Can toxins cause an autoimmune disease?

Yes. Multiple environmental toxins have been linked to autoimmune diseases. For example, cigarette smoking may increase your risk of: 

  • RA
  • Lupus
  • MS
  • Graves’ disease 

Additional toxic exposures linked with AIDs include:

  • Ultraviolet light
  • Silicone breast implants
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals like mercury
  • Plastics like BPA (highly associated to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) 

Not all people with these exposures develop an autoimmune disease. There are other factors involved, like epigenetics and your family history.

Can your diet cause autoimmune disorders?

Yes. Dietary factors and the gut microbiome may also contribute to the underlying causes of autoimmune conditions. There are changes in the gut microbiome in people with certain autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes and RA. And, in some people, eating gluten can lead to an abnormal immune response and the development of celiac disease. 

Again, not all people with dietary risk factors will get an autoimmune condition. Just like other exposures, diet is only one possible contributing factor.

Can an infection cause autoimmune disease? 

Yes. Infections are a known trigger for AIDs in people with a genetic predisposition. Infections have been linked with many autoimmune conditions including: 

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • MS
  • Lupus
  • RA 
  • Hashimotos hypothyroidism
  • Wegeners Granulomatosis
  • Sjogrens

Infections connected with autoimmune diseases include:

  • Mono (Epstein-Barr virus)
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Strep throat
  • Scarlet fever
  • E. coli
  • COVID-19

Other possible triggers

There are some other possible triggers of AIDs including:

Emotional stress or trauma: 

Stressful life events or trauma may increase your risk of developing an AID.   


An autoimmune disease can present itself within the first year after a pregnancy. 


Many medications have been linked to the development of Autoimmune diseases, particularly lupus.

How do environmental factors cause autoimmune disease?

It can be hard to know why environmental factors trigger autoimmunity in some people but not others. What we do know is that it can be a combination of genetics, the immune system, and other factors such as diet and the gut microbiome. 

It’s also possible that when people with an increased genetic risk are exposed to certain environmental factors, the immune system can turn on itself.

Can you “cure” yourself if you remove the environmental cause of your autoimmune disease?

No. You cannot cure yourself of an AID after the disease process has started. But making changes in your life may help improve your symptoms, and keep your disorder from getting worse.  We do see clients routinely put their autoimmune disease in remission but beware any phony claims that would have you believe they can “cure” you.

What can be changed in your environment to improve your autoimmune disease?

You can’t control every part of your environment. But there are steps you can take in your lifestyle and diet to help you feel more in control of an autoimmune disease. And some environmental changes may even help your symptoms get better.  

Here are a few steps you can take to eliminate toxins in your environment:

  • Stay away from tobacco products, even being near increases exposure risk
  • Stop purchasing disposable plates/cups as they are all covered in BPA
  • Only purchase “NO VOC” paints and if you have to use oils/stains/chemicals make sure you wear a ventilator 
  • Make sure there are no leaks in your house contributing to mold exposure (utility room)

Improve your diet and vitamin levels

Diet may play a role in autoimmune conditions. There’s some evidence that special diets like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) could help with autoimmune symptoms and inflammation levels. This could have to do with improving the strength of the intestinal lining and the health of the gut microbiome.  However, we do not recommend long term AIP as it can eventually erode your oral tolerance increasing the risk of food intolerance.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in the healthy functioning of our immune system, and low levels are associated with both cancer and autoimmune conditions. 


Exercise can help improve the following in autoimmune conditions:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood
  • Mobility
  • Brain fog
  • Quality of life

The amount and intensity of your exercise regimen will depend on your condition, but moving your body and getting your heart rate up every day is helpful.   

Improve sleep

Fatigue can be an issue for many people with autoimmune conditions, and sleep is an essential part of keeping your immune system healthy. Make sure to practice good sleep hygiene and try to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night.

Consider your climate

Weather changes or extremes can trigger symptoms in some people with AIDs. Because of this, it’s possible that some climates may be better for autoimmune diseases than others, like milder climates with minimal temperature variability. 

Manage stress

Working on stress reduction is important. High stress can have a negative effect on your immune system. This not only can lead to the development of autoimmune conditions, but it also plays a role in how effective treatment may be. 

Quit smoking

If you smoke, quitting is important. Not only can it trigger AIDs, but it can make your symptoms worse and weaken your immune system.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Autoimmune 

When someone with a genetic predisposition encounters an environmental trigger, it can lead to an AID. Figuring out the specific environmental cause is a puzzle that functional medical professionals like Dr. Autoimmune specialize in. He looks at triggers that may be caused by a toxin exposure, infection, or dietary trigger and then takes steps to improve your symptoms so you can take control of your autoimmune disease.

Our functional medicine practice uses the patient’s story as a key tool for integrating diagnosis, signs and symptoms, and evidence of clinical imbalances into a comprehensive approach to improve both the patient’s symptoms and their physiological function. 

Start your journey and request your patient exam by clicking here. We are 100% remote so anyone can heal from anywhere! 

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube for more information and tips regarding autoimmune diseases and the functional medicine approach. 

While you’re here, check out some of our testimonials.

The 5 Principles of Functional Medicine

There are a lot of different methods out there that encompass “alternative” medicine. And one of these methods in particular that has gained a great deal of attention in recent years, is Functional Medicine.

Functional medicine is a term which is largely unfamiliar to the general public. It has, however, evolved to become a mainstream approach to healthcare in recent times. 

The functional medicine model focuses on the process of the development of a disease or health condition through factors such as genetics, diet and lifestyle choices, rather than just treating the disease by masking the symptoms with lots of medication. 

What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine can be a little difficult to define, so it’s useful in the first instance to compare it to the conventional medicine approach.

In conventional medicine, doctors diagnose a disease and then match it to a specific treatment. When someone is diagnosed with an acute healthcare problem such as a heart attack, infection or trauma like a spinal cord injury, this approach works well.

For many chronic conditions, however, including high blood pressure, digestive issues or autoimmune diseases, this type of medical intervention can fall short of what is required (According to the 2021 Common wealth study, “​​The United States ranks last overall, despite spending far more of its gross domestic product on health care”).

With a chronic condition such as inflammatory bowel disease, for example, the medical approach will provide short-term relief but won’t have the impact desired on the long-term suffering of the individual.

Functional medicine takes a holistic process approach and considers the individual as unique.

It asks and answers important questions regarding “why” someone has developed a particular disease. 

Functional medicine professionals like Dr. Autoimmune looks at an individual’s lifestyle, diet and their family history to get to the root cause of their symptoms.

This in-depth investigation leads to suggesting potential changes, such as switching to a certain diet, that could improve the condition of the patient.

Principles of Functional Medicine

The key to this kind of approach is to look at what function has been lost and how it can be restored. As a model, there are 5 principles that help define the treatment for the individual.

1. The individual is not a disease but a person

We are all unique. Each of us has a genetic blueprint that defines how we look, how tall we are and how our biology works. Because of this, the first principle of functional medicine treats each person individually. 

They are not a disease but a person who will have their own biochemical makeup. Each has a set of healing mechanisms defined by their biological structure. 

“Encouraging this self-healing is an important part of dealing with many autoimmune diseases,” according to Dr. Autoimmune.

2. Functional medicine is evidence-based

As with the conventional approach to healthcare, functional medicine needs to be defined by the evidence. We utilize scientifically validated tests like blood chemistry, stool and hormone testing which is highly predictive in understanding the patients journey and what steps to take with intervention.


Each of us is the result of a network of interactions that can affect not only our health but how we respond to disease and illness.

These intricate relationships give us an in-depth insight into how the human body functions and how it affects the individual. The benefit of person-centered care is increasingly being highlighted in ongoing medical research.

3. The human body is self-healing

Research today tells us that the human body is incredibly effective at regulating itself and, in many circumstances, healing itself.

The balance between different organs in the body and how they interact is a key factor in creating an environment where healing can take place. There is significant evidence that functional medicine can help tackle major public health issues such as diabetes by changing lifestyle and diet.

There’s also evidence that there’s an ever-growing number of people suffering from anxiety and/or depression worldwide. Conventional medicine’s main solution is to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, but functional medicine uses a much more complex strategy to care for an individual. For example, Dr. Autoimmune and his team incorporates functional medicine, functional neurology, functional nutrition, brain mapping and neurofeedback when it comes to individuals that suffer from anxiety and/or depression.

4. We each have the potential to heal diseases commonly associated with aging

Many chronic diseases are related to aging. For example, high blood pressure usually occurs in later life. Some are associated with conditions such as obesity or simply the natural process of getting older.

One principle of functional medicine is that our bodies have an innate ability to heal under the right circumstances and even prevent diseases occurring in the first place.

5. Health is more than the absence of disease

We often consider good health as not having something wrong with us. The absence of disease is not the only signal that we are in good health. Vitality, a good appetite, optimum weight, and a settled emotional state are all indicators of general wellness.

We tend to ignore these important indicators as individuals. The functional medicine model puts them at the center of its approach to healthcare.

The Future of Healthcare

Personalized care is becoming increasingly prevalent in healthcare environments. The functional medical approach aims to understand the individual’s physiological, biological, emotional and cognitive makeup to determine the best way to achieve optimal health.

Dr. Autoimmune

The Functional Medicine model is an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors and leverages that data to direct personalized treatment plans that lead to improved patient outcomes.

To succeed, Dr. Autoimmune and his team look at the broad view as well as the microscopic and bring these together in an appropriate package of care. Patient-centered care that is responsive to the individual is becoming increasingly important, particularly for individuals that suffer from autoimmune disease

Click here to schedule your appointment with the Dr. Autoimmune team today! We offer 100% remote care so anyone can heal from anywhere! And we’ve set up ‘The Dr. Autoimmune Solution’ which is a comprehensive new patient special that includes everything necessary to determine the root cause of your condition and start you on the journey to getting your life back.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube for more information and tips regarding autoimmune diseases and the functional medicine approach. While you’re here, take a second to check out some of Dr. Autoimmune’s testimonials.