If you live in the U.S., you have a 1-in-5 chance of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease like cardio vascular, diabetes, Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Crohn’s, cancer, even Alzheimer’s. Your chances are even greater if you are a woman. Some reports suggest that 75% of autoimmune cases are women and it may take years to get a proper diagnosis.1
Autoimmune disease is increasing at a rapid rate. There has been up to a 3-fold increase over the past few decades, which makes autoimmune disease one of the most common diseases in America today.
Autoimmune disease is complex, not easily diagnosed and more problematic for women than men. In particular The National Institutes of Health (NIH) considers autoimmune disease as a major woman’s health issue, affecting more women than heart disease and breast cancer combined.2
Unfortunately 1 out of 3 people with autoimmune disease are actually diagnosed because our healthcare system waits until the signs and symptoms are severe enough with organ failure and irreversible damage before it is identified as an issue.3
Common Autoimmune Diseases & Symptoms
Even with its near epidemic numbers, which by the way are not abating, autoimmune disease is still a mystery to most of us. However, many of us are all too familiar with the many symptoms associated with this family of diseases.
Surprisingly, autoimmune disease isn’t just one condition. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses of the hundreds that makeup the autoimmune disease family, which is collectively the number one disease condition in the U.S.
Common autoimmune symptoms suffered by many people are:
- Food allergies, chemical sensitivities, sinus conditions, asthma
- Poor digestion, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea
- Brain fog, depression, anxiety, headaches, migraines, even Autism-spectrum
- Skin problems including eczema, psoriasis, rashes and acne
- Chronic pain and even weakness in the muscles and body, arthritis, joint pain
- Hormone and endocrine disorders, thyroid issues especially Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Fatigue, insomnia, energy slumps in the day, hot/cold imbalances.
Autoimmune Disease Diagnosis Conundrum
Autoimmunity IS a condition inherently of the immune system. Unfortunately, the standard model of health care does not see it this way and despite alarming statistics and the availability of new research data, autoimmune diseases still remain among the most misunderstood.
Because autoimmune diseases are seen by most in the medical profession as issues of particular organs systems in the body e.g., pancreas, thyroid, gut, blood, brain etc., where you can have recurring symptoms such as rashes, weight gain, hair loss, abdominal bloating and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, there aren’t standardized treatment protocols or solutions getting at root causes. This is why a functional medicine approach is so important for addressing autoimmunity… it looks at the body as an interconnected holistic system and seeks to identify where lack of imbalance in the body lives, how it got there and how to restore harmony and vitality.
Getting diagnosed with an autoimmune condition is NOT a life sentence!
Autoimmune Diseases Get Worse Over Time
Unfortunately you can’t just magically “turn off” an autoimmune disease or symptoms caused by years of inflammation. This is why it is extremely important to catch the early warning signs and get into a preventative wellness program.
Individuals with autoimmune disease often suffer more as time goes on and more tissue destruction and loss of function occurs. Things in life that once were easy, fun and brought tremendous joy are now painful, hard to do, and often bring on feelings of anger.
Today, most doctors focus on suppressing the immune system and controlling symptoms. There is little focus paid to how to stop the fire of inflammation raging in the body and put symptoms into reverse. Modern health care doesn’t often offer very good preventative strategies such as discovering and eliminating the triggers of inflammation and integrating simple healthy diet and lifestyle changes to prevent flare-ups of symptoms.
If you don’t address the root causes of autoimmune disease the immune system will continue to battle itself, causing more and more tissue destruction over time, which will eventually lead to organ failure, pain, immobility, and reduced quality of life.
Women Battle More with Autoimmune Disease
Another alarming concern is that often women who suffer from autoimmune diseases are not taken seriously when they first begin to have symptoms and consult their doctors. Unfortunately women are usually shuttled between specialists and forced to take a battery of inconclusive tests before a diagnosis is made. Even if a diagnosis is made, the data is showing that many women are likely to have been misdiagnosed, which means… their symptoms never go away. In many cases, women are shuffled from doctor to doctor over a period of 8-10 years before they finally get a diagnosis and by that time damage has already taken root in the body.
All too often, women are prescribed medications that do harm more often than good, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or immunosuppressants. While these drugs can sometimes help people feel better and get their lives back, they are by no means a healthy long-term solution. You should think of these drug therapies as a temporary bridge (if they must be used at all) to begin to dampen the fire of inflammation. Meanwhile, you need to be focusing on the more important issue: where the inflammation is coming from AND putting out the raging fire in the body.
Early Warning Signs of Autoimmune Disease
So many people in the modern world live incredibly busy and stressful lives. It’s often the case that most people simply ignore little recurring aches and pains and they assume they can take care of the problem later.
When the early warning signs are ignored, the body starts speaking even more loudly, trying to get your attention. Often the body just can’t get your attention and the immune system keeps producing antibodies and attacking healthy tissues and organs. This will continue until the body has only one way to get your attention… PAIN.
Autoimmune disease exists on a spectrum from mild (hardly any symptoms and tests are in normal range) to severe (tissue damage and loss of function is occurring and confirmed by antibody testing). But symptoms of autoimmune conditions CAN BE reversed and even abated if the triggers are removed from the body early on.
Preventative Treatment is the Answer to Autoimmune Disease
Unfortunately, conventional treatment for autoimmune disease is focused on suppressing the immune response and controlling symptoms, but little is offered in regards to modulating the immunity and avoiding the triggers that cause flare-ups of the autoimmune response (like intestinal permeability). As a result, autoimmune conditions tend to cause more and more tissue destruction over time, eventually leading to severe tissue destruction and organ failure in many cases.
Instead of dulling the immune response with medication, the focus needs to be on identifying WHAT is causing the fire of inflammation in the body and removing it and then slowly rebuilding the immune system. The best strategy from a functional perspective to address autoimmune conditions is a 4-step process: root cause (find it), remove (the triggers), repair (immune system and damaged tissue), and restore (immunity and vitality).
Just to Recap Diagnosing & Treating Autoimmune Disease
- Rates of autoimmune diseases are increasing every year in the U.S.
- The diagnosis of autoimmune disease is only made after there is damage or destruction of the tissue has occurred and there are severe symptoms
- Most autoimmune cases remain undiagnosed and most doctors will tell you that everything is normal until it is too late
- Autoimmune conditions continue to progress over time… the earlier you intervene the better your chances are for a successful outcome
- Most autoimmune patients develop more than one autoimmune disease during their lifetime (autoimmune diseases are often seen together)
- Conventional healthcare has very little to offer patients with autoimmune disease besides steroids and pain pills.
Do YOU have an autoimmune disease or possibly on the “early” end of the spectrum of an immune condition where symptoms are not quite so bad? Don’t let these warning signs go unchecked, because down the road, they can become more severe health conditions.
Because the gut is a key factor in healing autoimmune disease, get my Gut Health Secrets 8-Week Boot Camp. Better yet, if you are serious about getting out of the pain and suffering caused by autoimmune conditions, I offer a 90-Day Autoimmune Remedy Program 4 times a year.
1American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association at http://www.aarda.org
2National Institutes of Health at www.niaid.nih
3Carroccio, A., Dâ€™Alcamo, A., Cavataio, F., et al. (2015). High Proportions of People With Nonceliac Wheat Sensitivity Have Autoimmune Disease or Antinuclear Antibodies. Gastroenterology. 149:596-603
4American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association at http://www.aarda.org
Disclaimer: the views and nutritional advice expressed in this publication are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical advice. No information provided should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. All information in this publication is for educational purposes only and Aine-Marie and Advesta Health encourages its clients and members to continue to work in a partnership with qualified medical professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider or seek medical assistance. Reading, sharing, or downloading this publication does not establish a doctor patient relationship with Aine-Marie or any Advesta Health employee or consultant including any of our licensed health practitioners, coaches, dieticians or nutritionists.