Outside factors influencing autoimmune disease include infections, UV irradiation, cold temperatures and emotional stress. For example, sunlight not only acts as a trigger for the autoimmune disease lupus, but it can actually worsen the disease. These environmental factors are also closely related to oxidative stress. Excessive oxidative stress is thought to have an important role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases by enhancing the inflammation, including the apoptotic cell death, and breaking down the immunological tolerance. Looking at patients with rheumatoid arthritis, oxidative stress was found to induce cellular responses, including apoptosis [programmed cell death] and gene activation.
“Antioxidants may play a role in immune function, particularly with respect to autoimmunity,” NIH’s Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee reported.
(Source: Natural Products Industry Insider, vol. 9, no. 5, April 26, 2004.)