Autoimmune illnesses are becoming more common in the developed world than ever before. These diseases emerge when the human body is unable to tolerate the protective roles of antibodies and T-cells. Such defenses begin to destroy the affected tissues, thereby resulting in the development of such conditions. Medical professionals and researchers have succeeded to present various environmental factors that are believed to trigger the susceptibility of such illnesses. Proper knowledge of such potential causes can equip clinicians with the right ideas to guide more individuals to engage in better lifestyles and choices. Numerous environmental factors are linked to around 70 percent of all autoimmune diseases, including mercury, bisphenol A (BPA) contained in consumer products, pesticides, smoking, salt, sodium chloride, silica, pristane, and fatty foods.
Studies have linked autoimmunity to several factors, including genetic predisposition and environmental attributes. For instance, around 70 percent of all autoimmune diseases were directly linked to existing environmental forces (Correale et al., 2017). This observation has continued to encourage physicians and scholars to complete additional investigations to understand the topic much better. In research by Correale et al. (2017), it occurred that the nutritional aspects of an individual had the potential to determine the levels of body inflammation and autoimmune responses. In the same study, foods containing salt, sodium chloride, and increased fatty acids emerged as leading risk factors for specific conditions, such as hypertension, stroke, and autoimmunity (Correale et al., 2017). These findings have triggered additional studies aimed at understanding the role of the human gut microbe and how it dictates the development of obesity, autoimmunity, and type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Food has remained one of the possible reasons why people develop autoimmune diseases. Correale et al. (2020) indicate that increased intake of wheat products and milk could trigger the development of oral pathogens due to the gluten sensitivity associated with them. This development has the potential to trigger the induction of several autoimmune conditions. Such foods were also observed to affect both the mucosal and gut systems, thereby affecting the integrity of gut microbiota (Vojdani & Vojdani, 2021). These aspects have compelled many researchers to propose early mechanisms for the detection of such imbalances and provide better strategies to improve individuals’ health outcomes. The removal of some of these offending triggers could help minimize the chances of developing autoimmune conditions.
Many consumer goods in different parts of the world contain bisphenol A (BPA). Scholars have been interested in this compound since it has the potential to trigger autoimmune responses in the body. BPA was strongly associated with endocrine disruption, thereby affecting the overall medical outcomes of adults and children (El-Shebiny et al., 2021). Most of the studies focusing on immunological mechanisms in the human body were able to trigger increased autoimmunity. Similarly, analyses targeting to expose the dangers of mercury in the diet shed more light on the development of autoimmune diseases. For instance, Scudellari (2017) indicated that the compound triggered a unique form of arsenic proximity, thereby setting the stage for autoimmunity. These aspects show conclusively that the environment presents specific compounds that result in the development of such diseases.
The surrounding environment has become contaminated with a wide range of chemicals that are capable of affecting human health. Most of these compounds would be inhaled or find their way into the food chain. Consequently, the chemicals would trigger unanticipated changes in the human gut microbiome composition. Experts in the field of autoimmunity refer to such a scenario as dysbiosis (El-Shebiny et al., 2021). The emerging outcome is that the situation could trigger pathogenesis in the body and set the stage for increased cases of autoimmune diseases. Such developments in the gut have been associated with deregulation of the entire mucosal system and impairment of the human intestinal barrier. Since the available knowledge presents some gaps in the relationship between a better gut microbiome and such diseases, it would be necessary for researchers to complete additional studies and over evidence-based ideas shortly.
Some studies have gone further to present additional insights regarding the role of the environment in dictating the development of autoimmune conditions. For example, Björk et al. (2020) revealed that the continued use of pesticides in the agricultural sector and their subsequent consumption could be blamed for the current increase in autoimmune diseases. Individuals who engage in various health malpractices, such as smoking, tend to have increased chances of developing such diseases (El-Shebiny et al., 2021). This outcome meant that malpractice was a possible risk factor for these illnesses. Exposure to other chemicals, such as pristane and silica, has also been linked with autoimmune conditions in different populations.
These findings show conclusively that the surrounding environment can present various factors that can support the development of autoimmune conditions. Due to the complex nature of these diseases, additional research would be needed to shed more light on the exact mechanisms contributing to them. This understanding can encourage more people to protect themselves and consider living in areas with reduced exposure levels for some of the identified chemicals (Theofilopoulos et al., 2017). People would also find it easier to apply the emerging knowledge to improve their dietary intakes and avoid specific foods. They will also be ready to avoid various behaviors that could trigger these conditions, such as smoking.
Researchers in the field of autoimmunity, medical professionals, and environmentalists agree that there are specific factors that make human beings susceptible to various diseases. This consensus has helped more professionals to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to learn more about autoimmune diseases, possible environmental triggers, and the best ways to reduce their manifestations (Gershwin, 2017). These efforts have presented numerous gains whereby more people are presently able to avoid certain triggers of autoimmune diseases (Theofilopoulos et al., 2017). However, some key challenges exist that could disorient future studies and knowledge expansion on the role of environmental factors in the development of autoimmune diseases.
First, most prosperous economies have adopted inappropriate approaches to explore the environmental factors capable of triggering such illnesses. For instance, Vojdani and Vojdani (2021) observed that most of the research studies focusing on this topic mainly centered on the lives and experiences of people from marginalized populations. This malpractice resulted in disproportionate diagnoses, thereby affecting the quality and applicability of the available knowledge. This problem was also associated with reduced coordination among different stakeholders to learn more about the environment and pinpoint key factors that increased the chances of developing such diseases.
Second, many people in society were engaging in various hygiene behaviors and dietary intakes. In such a situation, a specific autoimmune disease could have its trigger misidentified or misinterpreted. For example, a condition caused by various carcinogenic compounds could be attributed to a prolonged history of smoking in some patients (Gershwin, 2017). The nature of the topic and the complexity of all the potential environmental factors affected the quality and accuracy of the recorded findings. This challenge resulted in inappropriate diagnoses and presented a strong reason for more informative studies in the future.
Third, autoimmune diseases are strongly linked to self-tolerance processes and mechanisms. In such cases, investigators can find it hard to single out a specific environmental factor and associate it with the selected autoimmune disease (Björk et al., 2020). The result is that clinicians have found it hard to provide the relevant drugs and help the affected person lead a comfortable and healthy life.
Finally, many patients with autoimmune conditions would seek timely interventions and treatments. This evidence-based approach improves their immune responses, thereby improving the functionality of the body. However, the use of various drugs makes it hard for investigators to identify the specific environmental factors that could have contributed to the specified autoimmune disease (Vojdani & Vojdani, 2021). This gap means that the presented evidence could be erroneous and capable of misleading interpreters. Future investigations should, therefore, be designed in such a way that they tackle most of the challenges directly.
Most of the completed investigations have shed more light on some of the leading environmental factors associated with autoimmunity. While some gaps exist in the available findings, most of the investigators offer evidence-based ideas and guidelines for future research. In such works, it occurs that complex interactions are evident in the manner in which people develop autoimmune diseases (Björk et al., 2020). This knowledge is expected to guide future scholars to analyze the roles of carcinogenic compounds in the body and how B cell receptors and B-lymphocytes distinguish the recorded signals in the body. Additional investigations are expected to understand how such diseases manifest themselves in people with diverse backgrounds.
The successful completion of most of these studies will offer new ideas for combating most diseases and empowering more patients to lead high-quality lives. The proposed research studies will also present evidence-based insights for empowering more people to transform their behaviors and health practices (El-Shebiny et al., 2021). Those who are vulnerable will receive timely guidelines and eventually be able to lead better lives. The future is, therefore, promising since more professionals expect to receive additional insights about their knowledge of autoimmune diseases and how they can tackle them more effectively.
The above discussion has identified autoimmune diseases as conditions that are strongly associated with environmental factors. Some of the identified attributes capable of triggering such illnesses include fatty acids, mercy, pristane, prolonged smoking, pesticides, and bisphenol A. The relationship between these conditions and the gut microbiome is also offered in detail. Despite the progress researchers have made in this topic, some challenges still exist, such as the biased focus on specific populations, the failure to identify the exact cause of a specific condition and the complex issue of drug use. Fortunately, the field remains promising since future studies are expected to shed more light and help the human population understand the prognosis of such conditions and how they could be tackled more effectively.
Björk, A., Mofors, J., & Wahren-Herlenius, M. (2020). Environmental factors in the pathogenesis of primary Sjögren’s syndrome. Journal of Internal Medicine, 287(5), 475-492.
Correale, J., Farez, M. F., & Gaitán, M. I. (2017). Environmental factors influencing multiple sclerosis in Latin America. Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical, 3(2).
El-Shebiny, E. E., Zahran, E. S., Shoeib, S. A., & Habib, E. S. (2021). Bridging autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The Egyptian Journal of Internal Medicine, 33(11).
Gershwin, L. J. (2017). Current and newly emerging autoimmune diseases. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice, 48(2), 323-338.
Scudellari, M. (2017). Clean up the hygiene hypothesis. PNAS, 114(7), 1433-1436.
Theofilopoulos, A. N., Kono, D. H., & Baccala, R. (2017). The multiple pathways to autoimmunity. National Immunology, 18(7), 716-724.
Vojdani, A., & Vojdani, E. (2021). The Role of exposomes in the pathophysiology of autoimmune diseases I: Toxic chemicals and food. Pathophysiology, 28(4), 513–543.