Signs You May Have An Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune conditions affect 24 million Americans (and that number is rising), a large percentage of whom are women.

Autoimmune diseases are considered a top 10 leading cause of death in women under the age of 65.

They come in many different varieties, including rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s or Graves), irritable bowel disorders (IBS, Chrohn’s), lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and more, and can cause many different types of symptoms all over the body that range from mild to severe in nature.

Although each autoimmune disease is unique, many share hallmark symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, and low-grade fever. For many autoimmune diseases, symptoms come and go, or can be mild sometimes and severe at others. When symptoms go away for a while, it’s called remission. Flares are the sudden and severe onset of symptoms.

But what are they, what causes them, and how can they be treated?

What Are Autoimmune Diseases?

Although there are many different types of autoimmune diseases and they can affect many different organs, at their core they are all similar in that they are an immune response caused by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself. Your immune system has a very sophisticated system for keeping you safe that leads it to identify all of the foreign substances that enter your body or that you come into contact with. If your immune system deems anything dangerous, it will produce antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.

Autoimmune diseases are born when your body is working hard to defend itself against something potentially dangerous, such as an allergen, a toxin, an infection, or even a food, and it fails to differentiate between the intruder and parts of your own body. Mistaking certain types of tissues for harmful substances, your body turns these antibodies against itself, wreaking havoc on your organs.  

What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?  autoimmune woman

There are many underlying factors that can cause people to develop an autoimmune condition. There certainly is an underlying genetic component. However, whether these genes get expressed or turned on is actually caused by a host of other factors, such as toxins from heavy metals like mercury or mycotoxins from molds, infections like Candida, Epstein-Barr and the herpes simplex virus, and most significantly, chronic inflammation tied to food sensitivities — particularly gluten intolerance.  There is a significant link between autoimmune diseases and gluten intolerance.

Who Gets Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune diseases can affect anyone. Yet certain people are at greater risk, including:

  • Women of childbearing age — More women than men have autoimmune diseases, which often start during their childbearing years.
  • People with a family history — Some autoimmune diseases run in families, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. It is also common for different types of autoimmune diseases to affect different members of a single family. Inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease. But a combination of genes and other factors may trigger the disease to start.
  • People who are around certain things in the environment — Certain events or environmental exposures may cause some autoimmune diseases, or make them worse. Sunlight, chemicals called solvents, and viral and bacterial infections are linked to many autoimmune diseases.
  • People of certain races or ethnic backgrounds — Some autoimmune diseases are more common or more severely affect certain groups of people more than others. For instance, type 1 diabetes is more common in white people. Lupus is most severe for African-American and Hispanic people.

 

10 Signs You May Have an Autoimmune Disease

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially a combination of several of them, you may have an autoimmune disease.

  1. Joint pain, muscle pain or weakness or a tremor.
  2. Weight loss, insomnia, heat intolerance or rapid heartbeat.
  3. Recurrent rashes or hives, sun-sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks.
  4. Difficulty concentrating or focusing.
  5. Feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance.
  6. Hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth.
  7. Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in your stool, diarrhea or mouth ulcers.
  8. Dry eyes, mouth or skin.
  9. Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
  10. Multiple miscarriages or blood clots.

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What To Do If You Think You Have An Autoimmune Disease?

If you suspect that you have an autoimmune disease, the most important steps to stopping and reversing your disease and symptoms are to identify and then to treat the underlying cause.

Conventional Doctors

Conventional doctors only treat the symptoms of autoimmune diseases; they don’t look to find the root cause. Often, they prescribe medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or immunosuppressants. All of these treatments fail to address the underlying cause of the autoimmune condition in the first place and, while they may be effective in the short term, they are not a long-term solution. Treatments involving immunosuppressant drugs increase the risk of severe infections and cancer when taken for long periods of time.

Functional Medicine / Dr. Akiba Green

Identifying which autoimmune disease is affecting you can be a difficult process. Symptoms may be vague, and autoimmune diseases can present themselves in so many different ways, affecting the thyroid, the brain, the skin, or other organs. Working closely with a functional medicine physician to review your family medical history, understanding your risk factors for infections, food sensitivities and toxins, as well as listening to you closely to discover how all of your symptoms are related is an essential part of getting well. A functional medicine physician will help to narrow down which labs they recommend in order to help find the root cause of your condition.

My Approach To Treating Autoimmune Diseases

My approach to a patient who has a known or suspected autoimmune disease is to immediately place them on a comprehensive elimination diet (the AutoImmune Diet) to remove the top twelve inflammatory foods. I also recommend that they remove all grain and legumes from their diet if they think they can. Lectins in grains and legumes have been implicated in autoimmune diseases.

I order a comprehensive stool test to look at levels of good bacteria, check for infections and leaky gut. I then focus on  healing the gut. This is essential! More than 80% of your immune system is in your gut. If you have an autoimmune disease, then by definition you have a leaky gut that needs to be repaired, otherwise you won’t be able to reverse your condition.

I check blood levels for various antibodies and look for hidden or underlying infections.

After all of this has been done, if the symptoms have not completely resolved I look for hidden toxins like mercury and mycotoxins.

As a leader in the non-drug treatment of autoimmune conditions in the Lake Norman area of Charlotte, I want to help you!   At my practice, Lake Norman Health & Wellness, we will work with you to find the core elements causing your condition and  help you develop long term solutions for your health.  We combine our unique metabolic and neurological treatments to work with those that have been failed in their search for health by the traditional medical model.

Contact my office for more information on leaky gut and the connection between gluten and depression, anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based disorders. Call 704-987-3993 to schedule an appointment to discuss your health!

 

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