Could you be developing an autoimmune disease?

710 silent autoimmunity

You could be developing an autoimmune disease, one of the most common diseases today, and are not aware of it. This is because autoimmune diseases sometimes start off as “silent” autoimmunity. This means your immune system is attacking tissue in your body but the damage isn’t bad enough to cause symptoms yet.

Autoimmune disease is more common than cancer and heart disease combined, and that’s just the diagnosed cases. Many, if not most, cases of autoimmunity are happening without a diagnosis.

This is because medicine does not screen for autoimmunity until symptoms are advanced and severe enough for a diagnosis and treatment with steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery.

Autoimmunity: The disease for the modern era

Autoimmunity can affect any tissue in the body or brain. It occurs when the immune system attacks and damages tissue as if it were a foreign invader.

Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and psoriasis. More than 80 different autoimmune diseases have been identified so far.

Autoimmune disease affects 1 in 5 people, the majority of them women. It is believed women are more commonly affected because of their hormonal complexity. Although autoimmune disease is very common, the statistics do not tell the whole story.

Autoimmunity can happen long before diagnosis

Autoimmunity can begin long before damage is bad enough for a disease to be diagnosed. Many people can go years, decades, or even an entire lifetime with symptoms but never have damage bad enough to be labeled disease.

As an example, autoimmunity against the pancreas can cause blood sugar issues long before the development of type 1 diabetes. Additionally, about 10 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is caused by diet and lifestyle, also have pancreatic autoimmunity. This is called type 1.5 diabetes.

One of the most common autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Patients may need to gradually increase their thyroid hormone because although they were diagnosed with low thyroid, the autoimmunity was overlooked and left unmanaged.

Or a patient may have an autoimmune reaction that has not been recognized as a disease. For instance, autoimmunity to nerve cells may produce symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an autoimmune reaction to nerve sheathes. However, because the autoimmunity is not attacking nerve sheathes specifically, the patient cannot be diagnosed despite MS-like symptoms.

Autoimmunity can attack anything in the body

People can also have symptoms that suggest many types of autoimmunity. Although symptoms vary depending on which tissue is being attacked, many autoimmune sufferers experience chronic fatigue, chronic pain, declining brain function, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, brain fog, and more.

Fortunately, functional medicine offers lab testing that can screen for autoimmunity against a number of different tissues. We also use strategies such as an anti-inflammatory diet, blood sugar stabilizing, gut healing, addressing toxins, and habits that minimize stress and inflammation.

Ask my office if autoimmunity may be causing your strange and chronic symptoms.

Ignored by doctors, women choose functional medicine

705 female patients

It doesn’t take long once you learn about functional medicine to realize it attracts primarily women. Why? Chronic disorders affect more women than men and conventional medicine’s treatment of women often ranges from disappointing to dehumanizing.

Conventional medicine failing women

When women show up at doctors’ offices with “mystery” symptoms from chronic disorders they are often left feeling demoralized and hopeless.

What are some of areas where conventional medicine fails women?

Mystery symptoms dismissed as psychosomatic or whining. Autoimmune disease overwhelmingly afflicts more women than men and can cause years and even decades of symptoms before diagnosis. Many women are told to exercise more, meditate, or take anti-depressants for their symptoms but given no real solutions.

Told to exercise more for chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue affects four times as many women as men. However, these women are often simply told to exercise as many doctors don’t believe in chronic fatigue, even though it is now medically recognized. These women often end up feeling worse.

Pain in women undertreated. Studies show doctors are slower to treat pain in female patients in emergency rooms and generally undertreat women for pain due to the belief that childbirth makes women more resilient to pain.

Fibromyalgia, a disorder of chronic pain, also affects mostly women and is often regarded as not legitimate.

In fact, some researchers believe disorders such as fibromyalgia and autoimmunity are so frequently belittled and dismissed because they affect predominantly women.

Poorer response to female heart disease. Women have worse outcomes from heart attacks because medicine looks at male-based heart symptoms. For instance, many women do not have chest pain. As a result, treatment is often less aggressive than necessary.

Hospital childbirth practices traumatic. If there is one place where many women lose their faith in medicine, it is during a hospital childbirth. Women are often pressured into unnecessary procedures or left hung out to dry emotionally in the event of a problem or emergency. As a result, many leave the hospital with postpartum PTSD.

Female sexual abuse survivors also experience worse outcomes in hospital childbirth scenarios.

Male-based studies don’t translate to female patients. Most medical models are based on male physiology. As a result, many signs and symptoms that present differently in women go misdiagnosed or dismissed. Autism and heart attacks are two examples.

Plus, women experience chronic diseases such as autoimmunity, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism at significantly higher rates than men and thus are often told their symptoms are “in their head.”

Functional medicine for women

Fortunately, in functional medicine we conduct comprehensive histories, examinations, and testing with all patients regardless of gender.

We specialize in working with chronic so-called “mystery” disorders that predominantly affect women and are explained in the scientific literature.

One thing we frequently hear from women is how good it feels to finally be heard.  We encourage you to work with a Functional & Lifestyle Healthcare provider who looks into your unique needs as a client.  This allows every client to have an individualized action plan to restoring health.  To learn more about the Empowered Living Institute and our Empowerment program, click here. 

The best form of exercise for aging gracefully

interval exercise mitochondria copy

Aging gracefully is all about taking care of your mitochondria — the little energy factories in each cell. As we get older, their function can start to diminish, which plays a key role in aging of the body. However, new research has shown a little-known strategy to boost the longevity and function of your mitochondria — regular bursts of high intensity exercise.

People are told to exercise for all sorts of reasons, but regular exercise is one of life’s magic bullets when it comes to remaining physically and mentally agile into the elder years. Any kind of regular exercise is better than none when it comes to health and longevity.

However, when it comes to nurturing cellular mitochondria and thus better preserving your overall health, one form of exercise outshines the rest — intervals of high intensity exercise. This means an exercise routine that boosts the heart rate to healthy upper thresholds for several minutes at a time.

How different forms of exercise affect aging

Although any regular physical activity makes for a better aging process, a recent Mayo Clinic study showed different types improve aging in different ways.

The study divided healthy but sedentary men and women under the age of 30 and over the age of 64 into several groups of exercise:

  • Vigorous weight-lifting several times a week.
  • Interval training three times a week on stationary bikes (they did three sets of pedaling hard for four minutes and resting for three minutes).
  • Alternated between mild weight lifting and moderate pedaling on a stationary bike throughout the week.
  • No exercise.

Not surprisingly, all the groups who exercised reported better blood sugar control and fitness after three months of regular exercise. The vigorous weight lifters gained muscle mass while the interval exercises gained more endurance.

But the finding that surprised researchers was cellular improvement in the interval exercisers. The under-30 interval exercisers showed changes in 274 genes, compared to 170 genes in the young moderate mixed exercise group and 74 genes in the young weight lifters.

However, the older interval exercisers showed changes in 400 genes, compared to only 19 for the older moderate exercisers and 33 for the older weight lifters.

In other words, interval exercising is the most advantageous at any stage of life, but it’s significantly more advantageous the older you are compared to other forms of exercise.

How interval exercise improves the aging process

Researchers theorize interval training is beneficial because it increases the number and health of cellular mitochondria. This means more energy for muscles (including the heart), better brain function, and better recovery and regeneration.

The fact that the older participants had more robust responses to high intensity interval training shows it is never too late to exercise, especially if you do the most beneficial kind. Another bonus? You can extract the most gains in the least amount of time from interval exercise, which requires less time than other forms.

How to interval train for better cellular health

To interval train  simply push yourself to your maximum effort for several minutes several times in your routine, with short periods of rest in between sets. Work within your capacity and don’t over train — over exercising causes inflammation and can damage mitochondria.

Ask my office for more advice on the best way to exercise for optimal health.

Functional Medicine Approach to Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases are one of the top 10 causes of death in women under the age of 65, and of the second-highest cause of chronic illness, and the top cause of morbidity in women in the United States. Additionally, autoimmune diseases have been reported to be on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, making this poorly understood category of disease a public health crisis at levels comparable to heart disease and cancer.

Autoimmune diseases come in many different varieties,including rheumatoid arthritis,thyroid disease, lupus, psoriasis,multiple sclerosis, and more.They can cause many different types of symptoms all over the body,that range from mild to severe in nature.Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system,whose usual job is to protect us from outside pathogens(bacteria, viruses, parasites, etc.), gets confused and ends up “attacking”normal tissue instead.The body then forms antibodies to healthy tissue and disease results.A typical example is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the body makes antibodies that are directed against normal thyroid tissue.These antibodies and the associated inflammatory process can ultimately destroy the gland.Similar processes occur in other autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases can affect various tissues in the body,and are difficult to diagnose.Autoimmune disease symptoms can vary widely based on which organ is being attacked and the severity of the attack.Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of damage at a cellular level for abnormalities to show up in lab work or imaging studies, leading to a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.

Thyroid

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 teams 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, and infection,  or even food, and it fails to differentiate between the intruder and parts of your body.  Mistaking certain types of tissue for harmful substances,  your body turns these antibodies against normal tissue, wreaking havoc on your body.

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

Numerous underlying factors  cause people to develop an autoimmune condition. There certainly is an underlying genetic component.  However, whether these genes get expressed or turn on is 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 intolerance.  There is a significant link between autoimmune disease and leaky gut.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease

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

  •  joint pain, muscle pain or weakness;
  •  weight loss, insomnia,  heat intolerance or rapid heartbeat;
  •  recurrent rashes or hives, sun sensitivity, a butterfly shaped rash across your nose and cheeks;
  •  difficulty concentrating or focusing;
  •  feeling tired or fatigued,  weight gain or cold intolerance;
  •  hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth;
  •  abdominal pain, blood or mucus in your stool,  diarrhea or mouth ulcers;
  • dry eyes, mouth or skin;
  •  numbness or tingling in your hands or feet; and
  •  miscarriages.

Factors that Play a Critical Role in Causing Autoimmune Conditions

A quick glance at today’s supermarket shelves reveals that the American diet is overloaded with highly processed foods, most of which have little to no nutritional value, but are loaded with harmful chemicals and other ingredients.  Even some so-called health foods are often lacking essential vitamins and minerals.

Mental health and stress also have a direct impact on physical health.  Today’s world provides more chronic stress than any other time in history.  Television and other media provide a constant stream of violence, crime  and sad stories. Few people get enough sleep every night. most people are over scheduled, overbooked and overrun –  with no time for meditation and rejuvenation.

Pesticides,  antibiotic overuse,  heavy metals,  EMF pollution,  pharmaceuticals,  GMOs,  heavily processed foods, poor water quality,  smog and pollution runoff are just a few of the components of our daily lives that regularly serve up a load of toxins and impurities.

 

 

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How Are Autoimmune Diseases Treated?

Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions and treatments usually involve attempts to control the process of the disease and to decrease the symptoms, especially during flare-ups.  The following are some of the things that you can do at home to help alleviate the symptoms of an autoimmune disease:

  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet;
  • exercise regularly;
  • get plenty of rest;
  • decrease stress;
  • avoid any know triggers of flare-ups.

The following therapies also have been shown to provide relief for some people:

  • herbs;
  • chiropractic therapy;
  • acupuncture;
  • hypnosis;
  • nutritional intervention; and
  • lifestyle modification.

Final Thought

It is very important to remember that when an autoimmune disease goes untreated, the risks increase for additional autoimmune diseases to develop.  It is not uncommon for a person to have multiple autoimmune conditions when first presenting.  When a person is equipped with knowledge and is empowered, the symptoms from the autoimmune condition can be minimized to the point where you can live your life an overall sense of health and well being.

When a person is equipped with knowledge and a plan, that person is empowered.  And when a person is empowered with knowledge and a plan, they can live an empowering lilfe.