Mystery symptoms autoimmune? How to find out

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Do you have mysterious health symptoms — such as fatigue, pain, brain fog, unexplained weight gain — that rob you of your quality of life, but lab tests and doctors keep saying nothing is wrong? Or maybe doctors tell you your chronic symptoms are depression and you need an antidepressant. Maybe you’ve even been accused of complaining too much.

Most people know when something is wrong with them, even if lab tests come back normal and doctors say you’re fine. This is because the standard health care model does not screen for autoimmunity — a disorder than occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys your own tissue. You can suffer from symptoms of undiagnosed autoimmunity for years and even decades before it is severe enough to be diagnosed and treated in the conventional medical model.

Fortunately, in functional medicine we can screen for autoimmunity against multiple tissues in the body at once. Knowing an autoimmune reaction is causing your symptoms can remove the mystery and bring significant peace of mind. It is confirmation your health symptoms are real and proof you are not a whiner or hypochondriac.

We identify autoimmunity by testing for antibodies in the blood against a particular tissue. For instance, we can screen for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease that causes hypothyroidism, by testing for immune antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (TGB). Positive results mean autoimmunity is causing your hypothyroid symptoms of weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.

Cyrex Labs tests for 24 different types of autoimmunity at once. The panel is called Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen. It is more cost effective than testing for each autoimmunity individually, and Cyrex Labs tests are highly sensitive. To do the test, simply ask us for the kit, take it to an approved blood draw center, and we will send you the results.

If your test results are “positive” or “equivocal,” it means your immune system is attacking that tissue. You may not even have symptoms yet. This is a best-case scenario because managing your health with functional medicine can prevent the autoimmunity from progressing.

Array 5 screens for the following autoimmunities:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: Stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: Intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: Thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): Adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: Cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: Phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: Reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: Joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: Bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): Liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): Pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: Neurological autoimmunity

If you have no but a positive result, then you may be able to prevent the autoimmunity from expressing itself. If you have symptoms that correspond with a positive test result, other testing may help you track your condition. For instance, if you test positive for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, follow up with thyroid testing will track the severity.

Knowing you have an autoimmune reaction means you can halt its progression and prevent it from worsening. This can mean preventing or even reversing devastating and debilitating symptoms.

Ask my office for more advice.

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Travel tips to prevent autoimmune flares on the go

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Although managing an autoimmune condition requires us extra care with diet, stress levels, sleep, and exertion, that doesn’t mean making travel off limits. Many people with autoimmunity have learned how to travel flare-free, even though it may take some extra prep time before hand. Be mindful to go into a travel experience with the mentality for a slow and steady marathon and not an all-out sprint.

Although travel can be busy and distracting, self-care must always be a priority. Taking command of some travel basics will allow you to relax and better enjoy your trip so you can come home rejuvenated instead of needing a vacation to recover from your vacation.

Here are some tips to manage your autoimmune condition while traveling.

Know what to expect food-wise and plan ahead

The autoimmune diet, or some version of it that works for you, will prevent you from flaring and crashing. Do some research and planning to make sure you can stick to it on your journey.

For instance, is there food you can safely eat where you’re going? Find out if there are health food stores in your area, or gluten-free friendly restaurants that serve other safe foods.

If you’re staying in a hotel room, make sure it will include a mini fridge or ask them to have one in your room. Some people even bring their own mini crockpot or hot plate to heat up frozen meals — stews, curries, stir fries — they cooked ahead of time.

Bring safe snack foods for when you’re stuck on a plane or on the road so hunger doesn’t tempt you to stray into dietary danger zones. Ideas include coconut chips, beef jerky, celery, sardines, olives, nuts and nut butter packets (if you’re ok with nuts), and other filling snacks.

Bring glutathione support. Travel includes many stressors, such as lack of sleep, jet lag, different time zones, long days, unfamiliar environments, crowds, and so on. Stress is hard on the body, but glutathione is a great defense system that works well for many people. Glutathione is the body’s main antioxidant and it helps keep inflammation and flare-ups under control. It basically protects cells from damage caused by stress and toxins.

Glutathione is not absorbable orally on its own but glutathione precursors are N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, cordyceps, and milk thistle. You can also take s-acetyl-glutathione, or liquid liposomal glutathione. A topical glutathione cream may help too.

Is your hotel room overly toxic? Call your hotel and ask whether scents are used in the rooms. Some hotels offer room options for extra sensitive people, such as allergy-free bedding, air purifiers, and windows that open.

Carry a mask. Sometimes you just can’t avoid toxic exposure, whether it’s from pollution, exhaust, perfumes, or the person next to you on the plane sneezing and coughing. It’s becoming more common to see people wearing a face mask when flying or in polluted cities, and it’s a good idea to always have one with you. A good face mask is comfortable and is easy to breathe through reducing the load of toxins and other pathogens in the air. This can help prevent flare-ups and glutathione depletion. Some companies even make face masks  for children and babies.

Ask my office for more advice on managing your autoimmune condition and improving your quality of life.

Could you be developing an autoimmune disease?

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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.