Fit Fridays with Courtney: 5 things to know about autoimmune diseases

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Autoimmune diseases are a category of more than 100 chronic illnesses that occur when the body’s immune system mistakes its own tissues, cells, muscles, and organs as foreign invaders such as a virus. As a result of this attack, symptoms can occur that evolve into illnesses such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Here are five quick facts you should know about autoimmune diseases:

1. Approximately 50 million Americans are living with one or more autoimmune diseases (

2. Women comprise 75 percent of all autoimmune diagnosis (

3. 1 in 250 African American women will be diagnosed with lupus (Journal of the National Medical Association. 2002 Aug;94(8):670-7.)

4. Gluten sensitivity is linked to many autoimmune diseases (Przeglad Lekarski. 2009;66(7):370-2.)

5. Although there is no known cure, in some cases people have been able to manage their symptoms and even go into remission through proper diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep.

Courtney G. Smith is the producer of the award-winning film, Beauty Does Lie: The Untold Stories of Autoimmune Diseases. She is also a spokesperson for the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. Smith was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis in 2001. She manages her symptoms through bikram yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and a gluten free diet.

She is currently preparing for a charity walk to raise awareness for autoimmune diseases. For more info on her walk, please visit her team page.

You can also reach her via email at [email protected] or via Twitter : @mecourtneyg.

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