The Barrel Effect–or, it’s the Last Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back

Each person, with his or her unique genetic composition, is exposed to a unique combination and level of autogens depending on what they encounter in their day-to-day lives through the air they breathe, the substances that come into contact with their skin, their stress levels, their diet and their genetic predisposition. Chemicals and heavy metals, additives in our highly processed twenty-first century diet, and viruses and bacterial agents to which we’re exposed all combine to impact our immune system. Chronic stress, which releases a slow drip of cortisol into our body, also plays a role in triggering autoimmune diseases. As long as your barrel is less than full, however, your immune system is still able to deal with what it confronts every day. But once the immune system becomes overburdened and that barrel fills to capacity it can begin to misread signals, causing the immune system to make costly mistakes and attack the body itself. Unfortunately in modern life we’ve created a perfect storm of factors – a plethora of chemicals, heavy metals, processed food additives, viral hits and stressors – for today’s autoimmune epidemic to take hold. So much of what we encounter in twenty-first century life is causing our barrel to fill to the brim – and spill over. At that point, disease strikes.

Recently, researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins reported that even people without a genetic predisposition are vulnerable to autoimmune diseases. Whether or not you get an autoimmune disease depends on how many of these triggers you’ve been exposed to over your lifetime – or how full your barrel is. People with a genetic predisposition may be more vulnerable, but anyone whose immune system is overtaxed or over-stimulated can develop an autoimmune disease.

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