You too can have an autoimmune disease | Integrative functional medicine blog

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You too can have an autoimmune disease

Just think, you too could be developing an autoimmune disease all on your own. And for a lot of people you probably don’t even have to try. You probably aren’t even aware of it. This is because autoimmune diseases sometimes start off as
“silent” autoimmunity, or what some like to call “smoldering” autoimmunity. This means your immune system is attacking tissue in your body but the damage isn’t bad enough to cause symptoms yet.

Think of it like a fire that is just smoldering waiting for a chance to flame up.

And this is often how traditional medical treatment approaches autoimmunity. You may have some indications or symptoms of autoimmunity but if its not a “full blown” case you are told to just wait.
Wait for what?

Basically you will be told to wait until your symptoms are bad enough to do something about it.

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 (everybody is doing it)

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. And there is always room for more.

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 (see my blog post on “why women are flocking to Functional Medicine Doctors”). 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. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have symptoms or affect your health.

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, which we will cover in another vlog post. And don’t forget to check out my post on type 3 Diabetes (also known as Alzheimers)

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 leaving it to get worse and worse.

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, it will often attack the weakest links first and then spread to other areas.

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.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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