Hi, I’m Dr. Connie Jeon.
As most of you may know, the subject of autoimmunity is near and dear to my heart.
We are currently in the midst of an autoimmune epidemic. Incidence of autoimmune disease has increased threefold over the past 50 years, and they affect over 75 million Americans. They are also the third leading chronic illness in the US.
In addition, autoimmune conditions are a costly disease, totaling around $100 billion annually in healthcare costs alone.
I’ve experienced the detrimental effects of an autoimmune disease first hand during the last year of my doctoral studies in physical therapy.
After experiencing so much frustration while seeking out effective treatment, I now specialize in autoimmune treatments and prevention at my center.
The most difficult thing for autoimmune patients is that it takes an average of five to six doctors and up to five years to receive an actual diagnosis.
Additionally, 1 out of 3 autoimmune patients also have another disease, typically another autoimmune condition they are battling.
The worst experience is the fear of the unknown all while your health is quickly declining.
You are sick to the point of being bedridden, yet doctors just shrug their shoulders and pass you onto the next doctor. And this goes on for months, and sometimes years.
Symptoms of autoimmunity, and in my case Lupus, can range from mild to severe, and they’re different for every patient. So why are autoimmune conditions so hard to diagnose?
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
There are many types and subtypes of autoimmune disease. They can affect essentially any organ in the body, such as thyroid, kidneys, heart, lungs, ovaries, gut, brain, etc., and they involve every system in the body, including endocrine, digestive, reproductive, cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal, with the focus being on our immune system.
Scientists know in part that genetics can have an impact on the cause of autoimmunity, however, more research is showing that most are idiopathic in nature.
They truly don’t understand the disease, but respect the dangers of the disease so much so that the treatments are centered around severely suppressing the immune system.
While suppressing the immune system may dodge the bullet of real damage, it can have secondary effects, such as cancer and other diseases.
What Causes an Autoimmune Disease?
So let’s talk specifically about autoimmunity. Auto means “self” and immunity means “attack”, therefore, an autoimmune disease is a self destructive phenomena.
The body works hard to defend itself agains substances that threaten your health, such as allergens, toxins, infection, and sometimes food. In a healthy and robust state, this is the way of life and most people do fine.
The theory of autoimmunity is that somehow, you as the host become compromised and weakened over time, and the opportunity for toxins or allergens to invade your body becomes easier.
Over time, as your enemy is strengthened, you become weakened.
Our line of defense is typically the gut. The term “leaky gut” refers to when our defense line becomes weak due to antibiotic usage, poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep.
These degrade the tight junctions of the gut lining, resulting in gaps that make it easier for intruders to enter our bodies.
Once the toxins start entering, our bodies react by cranking up our immune system to increase the white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and inflammatory cytokines, which defend and protect our cells through phagocytosis (eating and destroying the enemy).
The war against the toxins becomes prolonged and cumulative over time.
The debris left behind, which are part of our cells, now triggers our immune cells to tag these fragments of our DNA as enemies to be destroyed.
This is where the body begins forming “antibodies” against our own cells, and our body truly becomes “crazy” and is now self destructive.
Conventional treatments are not really focused on treating the root cause, rather, they are focused on putting a temporary bandaid on the issue by suppressing our immune system, which can cause cancer, or providing various powerful anti-inflammatories, which can often further damage our gut lining, our first line of defense.
See how it becomes a vicious cycle?
Lets switch gears now and talk about the symptoms of autoimmunity.
10 Signs You May Have an Autoimmune Disease
- Joint pain, muscle pain or weakness, or a tremor
- Weight loss, insomnia, heat intolerance, and rapid heartbeat
- Recurrent rashes or hives, sun sensitivity, a rash across your cheeks and nose
- Foggy memory and difficulty focusing
- Mental fatigue, general fatigue, weight gain, or cold intolerance
- Severe hair loss, patches of baldness, and cold sores on your skin and inside your mouth
- Digestive discomfort, gut pain, blood or mucus in your stool, or diarrhea
- Extremely dry eyes, mouth, or skin
- Paresthesia (numbness, tingling, or raw pain on skin with redness)
- Unexplained miscarriages, blood clots, uterine cysts, or pelvic pain
How Can You Improve and/or Heal Your Autoimmune Disease?
It’s really simple. If you have any of the symptoms above, you’ll be able to admit that some part of your life is seriously out of balance, whether you are overly stressed, eating a poor diet, unable to sleep, or severely sedentary.
Therefore, you need to get your body back in balance.
Before we delve into what to do, please be patient with yourself. Most often, changing a diet or beginning an exercise regimen can be hard.
Rather than jumping right into making large accomplishments, start slow and set small wins.
We tend to overestimate what we can get done in a short time and underestimate what we can get done in a long time.
Set some long term goals and follow these general guidelines:
- Eat “real” foods. Try to avoid packaged goods that come in a box at the grocery store. Focus instead on meats, vegetables, fruits, fish, etc.
- Cook with healthy oils, like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee (clarified butter)
- Drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water daily. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water per day. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go.
- Park far when you go places, and get in the habit of walking
- Find a good source probiotics to take everyday. We have great ones I can recommend for you
- Take Vitamin D, as most of us who have an autoimmune disease don’t get much sun and are severely deficient
- Also take a good quality mineral supplement, which includes magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, etc.
- Go for a walk outside everyday, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Just get started! It will change your brain chemistry and have a healing effect
- Look at your relationships. Often, those that we hang around the most may be the most toxic. Set some boundaries and eliminate unnecessary negativity, or else it’ll perpetuate your stress
- Breathe. Close your eyes and take a deep, deliberate breath in and slowly breathe out. Try to do this throughout the day
Just Take That First Step
Taoists say, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with that one step.” Count your wins everyday and understand that you’ll have resistance.
Resistance is a natural phenomena, and it may come from your mind or your closest friends and family around you.
We are creatures of habit, and if you threaten the status quo, you’ll receive lots of resistance.
Be ready for that and understand that it’s just a part of doing something worth while. Preparation will set you up for success.
I would really appreciate it if you share, leave a comment or like this post.
Have a great day and I’ll see you next time!