The symptoms of autoimmune disease can be difficult to understand, diagnose, and treat. Very often, these signs are brushed off as unimportant, diagnosed as something else, or treated incorrectly. Meanwhile, autoimmune disease is becoming an epidemic.
The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) states that 50 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease. Researchers have identified more than 80 autoimmune diseases and dozens of additional conditions that have similar characteristics to autoimmune.
[The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists the number of patients with autoimmune at only 23.5 million because they include only 24 diseases that they’ve extensively studied.]
5 Reasons Autoimmune Diseases are Raging Out of Control
- Human health is declining due to lifestyle habits (within your control) and exposure to toxic substances (out of your control). Everything from your food, air, water, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and cookware are potentially toxic. Sometimes, even when you know something is toxic (such as soda or cigarettes or drugs), you continue to consume it. It’s your body that pays the price of abuse, neglect, or exposure – whether you’re in control of it or not.
- The medical community’s drastic failure to recognize autoimmune disease symptoms and treat the patient’s whole body is a multi-faceted problem. Doctors are not trained in diagnosis or treatment of autoimmune in medical school outside of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Even then, this is only covered extensively for those who specialize. This presents another problem.
- The symptoms of autoimmune disease tend to affect multiple organs – meaning that if you see a specialist for your heart, he’s not looking at your liver, skin, or brain health. For those who suffer with autoimmune disease, it can take years of appointments with multiple specialists to get an accurate diagnosis. Even then, the treatments can be ineffective, the tests inconclusive. There’s a reason for that.
- The tests and pharmaceutical remedies we have available have not kept up with the diseases and conditions we’re developing. Companies make more money off of antidepressants, statins, and Viagra than they do from identifying and treating a disease that won’t be prescribed to most adults who visit their doctors.
- Often, even with tests and results, many doctors still roll their eyes at their patients. Take chronic pain, for instance. Unless you can point to a traumatic event that resulted in your pain, you’re looked at with skepticism. For decades, patients who presented with pain with an unknown source were considered hysterics. Now we understand that systemic inflammation and exposure to certain toxins can wear down your body from the inside out – gradually deteriorating your cells (including nerves that broadcast pain) without any physical trauma occurring.
Your immune system is “on” from your first breath. It goes to work immediately identifying, fighting, and flushing toxins, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more from the human body and it never stops, working tirelessly around the clock to guard you from foreign invaders.
Until it is forced to stop.
That’s what autoimmune disease is. Your body gets confused – wired wrong – due to fatigue or toxic overload. Researchers don’t truly understand what causes your immune system (your most faithful soldier) to turn and identify you (the host) as the threat.
Your healthy cells become enemies to be destroyed right alongside bacteria and parasites. Tissue is destroyed, organs are affected, abnormal cells are able to flourish, and you feel it.
You feel all of it.
You try to explain the symptoms to your doctor and you get a prescription. It doesn’t help, maybe it makes things worse. You return and get another prescription, and another, and another.
Perhaps after a year, you decide to see if another doctor can help. They send you to a specialist for the liver but your liver seems fine, the heart checks out, no signs of cancer. One person after another tells you everything is fine, the tests are good, here’s another pill (probably an antidepressant to keep you calm).
You know it’s not fine. You know something is wrong. The cycle repeats and repeats. If you’ve been in a support group for patients with autoimmune disease, the symptoms they describe are varied – seemingly unconnected – and their stories are almost always the same.
There is no cure at this time for autoimmune disease. Since doctors are unable to treat the source of the chronic condition, they work to treat the symptoms and keep them under control.
Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
- Persistent fatigue no matter how much rest you get
- General weakness
- Itchy, patchy, or dry skin (may be accompanied by rash)
- Sensitivity to temperature (hot or cold)
- Pain or bloating in the abdomen
- Dizziness, repeated falls, or poor coordination
- Hair loss
- Seizures, trouble concentrating, memory problems, or mood swings
- Unexplained loss or gain of weight
- Pain in muscles, joints, or head
- Digestive distress that may include constipation, diarrhea, or painful bowel movements
- Repeated issues with miscarriages or blood clots
- Tremors, numbness, tingling, or paralysis in extremities
- Difficulty swallowing, gagging, or dry mouth
Write down everything you feel before you make an appointment with your doctor. Keep a journal for a week or month prior to the appointment. Know your family history! Note everything you feel (even if it seems random or unrelated).
Whatever doctor you choose or specialist he sends you to, share your information. If they don’t take it seriously, go to someone else.
Controlling the Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
No matter what condition you have, getting diagnosed and treated (effectively) is probably going to take time. There are things you can do right now to help ease the discomfort or pain. Take them seriously and be consistent. Limit junk food, sodas, excess alcohol, and tobacco to help your weakened immune system push out toxins and damaged tissue.
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Drink plenty of water
- Get your healthy fats from avocados, fatty fish, grass-fed butter, olive oil, and coconut oil
- Avoid refined sugar, salt, and flour
- Work to resolve physical, mental, and emotional stress
- Get plenty of quality sleep (8 hours) every night
- Engage in consistent low-impact exercise
During flare-ups of autoimmune disease symptoms, remain calm. Find a place to be still and quiet, turn on calming music, practice deep breathing, and put every part of your mental focus on lessening the pain or discomfort. Use meditation to control (and even lessen) the symptoms.
You can still live a healthy, happy life while managing the symptoms of autoimmune disease. Be patient but firm with your physician. Keep searching for answers, treatments (conventional or holistic), and support.
Autoimmune disease may be an epidemic but you don’t have to be its victim.