- 5 Early Signs Of Autoimmune Disease
- 4 Causes & Solutions for Stubborn Weight Gain
- Four Underlying Causes of Stubborn Weight
- Four Solutions for the Underlying Causes of Stubborn Weight Gain
- The 4 Best Diets to Try If You Have an Autoimmune Disease
- Autoimmune Diseases | Symptoms & Causes
- What causes autoimmune disease?
5 Early Signs Of Autoimmune Disease
With autoimmune diseases on the rise in the past few decades, medical scientists came up with some interesting theories to fill up the gap in knowledge about what causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues and organs.
One such theory speculates that due to the rapidly accumulating pollution in the environment we are now exposed to more chemicals than ever before and this could be the reason why autoimmune diseases are plaguing us at a higher rate than half a century ago.
Another theory puts a different spin on recent developments. According to the hygiene hypothesis, we live in a much safer world than our great-grandparents did – we have antibiotics now, vaccines, sterile environments and we raise children with much more caution. The proponents of this theory reason that this newfound safety from infections and germs leaves our immune system with almost nothing to fight and thus, no way of knowing friend from foe.
As interesting as both of these theories are, the truth is that medical professionals and researchers alike truly don’t know what causes autoimmunity. It’s very likely that environmental factors play the biggest part in the increasing prevalence of autoimmune diseases since according to researchers, genes don’t mutate fast enough to cause this dramatic increase. Heredity, however, cannot be ruled out as a risk factor.
With many variables and unknowns, there a few things we do know about autoimmune disease. For starters, autoimmune conditions can be managed and some of the damage can even be reversed if diagnosed early enough.
The trouble is, most people get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when significant damage has been done to major organs and so the symptoms are clear and prominent enough to make the diagnosis relatively easy to arrive to. In fact, research shows that signs of autoimmunity can show up on tests months and even years before the patient has symptoms of a fully developed autoimmune disease. So, why is it so hard to for autoimmunity to be diagnosed early on before the damage is irreparable?
There are as many as about 80 different autoimmune diseases. The earliest symptoms of autoimmunity, however, are very, very similar. So this was the good news. The bad news is, they’re also vague, non-specific and sometimes, hard to identify as a reason for concern until the disease becomes acute.
The FindMeCure team, being dedicated to the fight against autoimmune diseases, wants to equip you with the knowledge you need to seek a medical opinion (or a few, if you have to) and receive an early diagnosis, especially considering the impact a timely intervention can have on the course of an autoimmune disease. So, here are some early signs to look for and some suggestions for how to track and address them with your doctor.
The skin is often the first indicator of inflammation. Any unusual rashes, redness, itchiness or blotchy and sensitive areas that there is no particular reason for can point to underlying inflammation. Even acne can be a sign that something is not quite right internally.
While none of the things listed here in and of itself can be directly linked to an autoimmune disease, noticing more than two of these symptoms should be reason enough to track anything unusual or suspicious you notice, especially if you have a family history of autoimmune diseases.
So, if the condition of your skin inexplicably changes, be aware that among the many possible causes can be an overactive immune system. Some autoimmune diseases especially, like lupus, are directly linked to changes in the texture and the color of the skin, so be mindful of swollen, scaly areas. Sun sensitivity can be another thing to look out for and keep in mind when assessing any changes in how your skin ‘behaves’.
Feeling mentally and physically exhausted even after some solid 8 or even 9 hours of sleep should not go unexamined. Fatigue and ‘brain fog’ can be among the earliest signs of autoimmunity.
Fatigue is sometimes the physical manifestation of anemia of chronic inflammation – a type of anemia that can be present in cases of underlying inflammatory disease and as you know, inflammation can be one of the concerning signs of an autoimmune condition, which should be taken very seriously.
Weight fluctuation without any specific reason for it, especially if other symptoms are present, can also point to issues with the immune system. While some autoimmune diseases are associated with weight loss, others, on the contrary, can cause weight gain.
If your diet and physical activity haven’t changed but your weight has and it can’t be attributed to changes in metabolism that happen gradually with age, it’s possible that it’s your immune system that needs medical attention. Hypothyroidism, for example, is linked to slower metabolism which can translate into rapidly gaining weight even if your diet has stayed the same. And while it’s a myth that you can’t maintain a healthy weight with hypothyroidism (especially when you’re on the right treatment), you should be suspicious of changes in your body’s response to food.
Muscle or joint pain can be an unsurprising indication that something’s going on with your immune system. If you’re not an athlete or an avid gym enthusiast that recently overdid their work-out, your muscles and joints shouldn’t just randomly hurt.
Rheumatoid arthritis is not the only autoimmune disease linked to this type of pain. Aches all over your body can also be an early sign of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition of hypofunction of the thyroid, the result of the immune system attacking the gland. A lot of autoimmune conditions have very similar early symptoms, so don’t jump to conclusions. Muscle and joint pain can also be a symptom of lupus but if it’s really early on, general autoimmunity is what you should look out for and then if confirmed, look into specific conditions.
Any discomfort of the digestive tract should be examined if other symptoms are also present. A lot of IBDs cause mild symptoms at first that come and go and can easily be attributed to ‘bad eating’ or stress. But you shouldn’t wait for blood in your stool to take diarrhea seriously.
Abdominal pain, cramps, bloating can all be caused by different things that have nothing to do with your immune system. However, if such symptoms appear ‘out of nowhere’ and you notice other signs of inflammation too, seek a medical opinion. The lining of your digestive tract shouldn’t be severely compromised before you’re eligible to fight the inflammation. In fact, the sooner you do, the more of your beneficial microflora can be preserved.
Autoimmune diseases are not easy to diagnose unless specific prominent symptoms are present. Autoimmunity, however, can be diagnosed with a blood test that looks for auto-antibodies or tests looking for inflammation and dysfunction of certain organs most likely to be damaged by an immune system gone rogue.
If you have noticed some of these early signs of autoimmunity, demand a blood test and a second opinion if your doctor refuses to take your concerns seriously. The earlier an autoimmune disease is detected, the easier it is to manage it and limit the damage done to the organs. So, if you’re experiencing unusual symptoms, keep track of them and team up with medical professionals focused on screening and prevention.
Nelly Katsarova 6:00 pm
4 Causes & Solutions for Stubborn Weight Gain
August 16th, 2019
• Free eBook: 35 Gut Recovery Recipes
Are you eating a clean diet of real, whole foods yet still in a constant battle with the scale? Are you exercising regularly yet feel as though your metabolism is at a crawl?
The truth is that stubborn weight gain can often be a result of an underlying health issue. As with all symptoms, my functional medicine approach to stubborn pounds is to identify the real underlying cause and address it using lifestyle changes to help you reach your healthy, ideal weight naturally.
Here are the four most common causes of stubborn weight gain that I’ve seen in my patients and four solutions for them.
Quick note, if you haven’t yet adopted a clean, anti-inflammatory diet, that is step one to addressing weight issues and I recommend checking out this article for tips to do that.
Ok, let’s begin!
Four Underlying Causes of Stubborn Weight
1. An Underactive Thyroid
It’s estimated that 27 million Americans have a thyroid problem, and up to 60% of them are completely unaware of it. Hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid, accounts for 90 percent of all thyroid imbalances, and one of the primary symptoms of hypothyroidism is unexplained weight gain or the inability to lose weight.
This is because your thyroid is responsible for regulating many of your body’s processes, including metabolism. So if your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism slows down and your overall energy production decreases. In addition to an inability to lose weight, hypothyroidism can lead to fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, muscle and joint pain, hair loss, constipation, brain fog, and a low body temperature.
2. Chronic Stress
You’ve likely heard that stress contributes to weight gain, but it goes far beyond the urge to reach for the chocolate after a long, stressful day. When you experience stress, your body releases a flood of cortisol, the hormone that powers your fight or flight response. One unfortunate side effect of cortisol is that it can actually cause you to gain weight and prevent you from losing weight. Furthermore, when you’re chronically stressed, your cortisol levels go up and stay up, which can cause progressive weight gain or a weight loss plateau.
Numerous studies have shown that when animals are stressed, they gain weight, even if they’re eating the same number of calories as they did before they were stressed. These studies also show stressed animals gain more weight than unstressed animals eating the exact same number of calories.
3. Other Hormonal Imbalances
Imbalances in thyroid and stress hormones are common causes of an inability to lose weight, but they’re not the only hormones that can cause an issue. Imbalances in insulin and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) are also common culprits of stubborn weight.
When insulin and blood sugar levels are off, it can cause sugar cravings, weakness, irritability, and excess belly fat. An imbalance in sex hormones can cause an inability to lose weight in addition to muscle loss, poor sleep, memory problems, and sexual difficulties.
4. A High Toxic Burden
Today’s modern world is filled with dangerous chemicals, heavy metals, medications, and other toxins that can wreak havoc on your endocrine system. Many of the toxins in your food, water, and personal and household care products, such as shampoo, lotion, candles, and makeup, mimic the activity of hormones, such as estrogen. This disruption in your natural hormonal cycle can cause an inability to lose weight, as well as other more serious issues, including autoimmune diseases.
Four Solutions for the Underlying Causes of Stubborn Weight Gain
1. Get a Complete Thyroid Work Up and Implement the Right Treatment Protocol
If you suspect that you may have an underactive thyroid, it’s important to get a complete thyroid panel to get a proper diagnosis. Most conventional doctors only use one or two tests, as opposed to a full panel, and use the “normal” lab reference ranges as their guide. For a full list of all of the thyroid tests I run on my patients, and optimal lab ranges, see this article, and check out my book The Thyroid Connection.
The book walks you through how your thyroid produces its hormones and how to restore optimal function using dietary and lifestyle changes. It also explains how to work with your doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment protocol. Plus, it includes a 28-day plan to jumpstart your thyroid and your metabolism.
2. Adopt Stress Relief Practices that Work for YOU
Step one, take an honest look at your daily stress levels. Are you constantly feeling overrun and overworked? Are you doing anything to reduce stress? If not, you’ll want to incorporate stress reduction techniques into your daily and weekly routine. You can read more about how stress impacts your health, and how to relieve it, in my book, The Thyroid Connection. And here are a few of my favorites.
Daily Stress Relief:
- HeartMath Inner Balance App– I love the Inner Balance app for iPhone. It uses an external sensor on your earlobe to help you synchronize your heart rate, breath, and mind. It’s super easy to use, and convenient since I always have my iPhone with me. Plus, as a very goal-oriented person (yes, even in my stress reduction!), I love that it lets you set goals and track your progress.
- Amber Glasses for Restorative Sleep – Getting a great night of restful, restorative sleep can do wonders for minimizing your stress and equipping you to deal with the stress that you do experience. However, the blue light from our phone screens, computers, and even light bulbs reduce our ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall and stay asleep. Amber glasses block out blue light so that your body produces melatonin naturally after sunset. I wear mine around my home every night! You might feel a little silly at first, I know my husband certainly did. However, once you see the difference in your sleep you’ll never look back!
Weekly Stress Relief:
- Sensory Deprivation Floatation Session- Floatation tanks provide a light and sound-free environment, with a shallow pool of water containing about 1,000 lbs of dissolved epsom salt. The high concentration of epsom salt allows you to float effortlessly, and the temperature is the same as that of your skin, so that you can’t even feel the water around you. The effect is a completely dark, quiet, and weightless flotation that reduces your cortisol levels, relieves muscle aches, and allows you to spend 60-90 minutes free from any stimulation whatsoever.
- Infrared Sauna Therapy– Spending time in an infrared sauna has many health benefits, including stress relief and detoxification. I personally have one in my home, and you can also receive treatments from natural spas that house their own. I try to get in a few sessions a week to keep my stress levels minimized.
3. Balance Your Hormones
To keep your hormones balanced and metabolism back on track, I recommend working with my Wellness Coach and Registered Dietitian, Dana Faris. She works with complex autoimmune, thyroid, and chronic health conditions from all over the world and is an expert in The Myers Way®. She can recommend and review functional hormone testing and offer recommendations on lifestyle changes to reduce your exposure to estrogen-mimicking chemicals. While you work to address the root causes of your hormonal imbalances, you can also begin a Calcium d-Glucarate supplement, which helps your body naturally eliminate excess estrogens and xenoestrogens instead of allowing them to be reabsorbed.
4. Reduce Your Toxic Burden
My approach to reducing your toxic burden is two-fold. Part one is to reduce your exposure to toxins that may cause stubborn weight gain:
- Choosing 100% certified USDA organic foods
- Drinking filtered water
- Using a HEPA air filter in your home and workplace
- Opting for toxin-free body products and home cleaning products
Part two is to support your body’s natural detox pathways so that you can safely flush them out of your system. My top recommendations are:
- Supplement with Glutathione – this is your body’s biggest detoxifier and a powerful antioxidant
- Or try my Detox Support Kit– this kit includes three supplements to boost your natural production of glutathione and support your liver as it clears toxins from your body
- Infrared Sauna Therapy – in addition to its stress-relief benefits, infrared saunas are a great tool to help you sweat out your toxins
If you’d like some additional support, or an accountability buddy on your weight loss journey, be sure to join my free, online community forum, and consider booking a Wellness Coaching session with one of my registered dietitians.
Also, I know that for some of you who have been sick for years and are overcoming chronic illness, your goal is actually to gain weight not lose it. Check out this article with my tips on how to gain and maintain weight while still following The Myers Way®!
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Characterized as a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its healthy cells, autoimmune diseases can be both tricky to diagnose, as well as accompanied by a long list of rather dreadful symptoms, like fatigue, achy joints and bowel problems. According to experts, certain disorders can even cause shifts in your weight. Here’s what you need to know:
A rare disorder, this autoimmune disease is onset by eating gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) and only affects about 1 in 100 people worldwide. When the immune system attacks cells of the small intestine, decreasing proper nutrient absorption, people can experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, headaches, achy joints and anemia. Fortunately, a doctor can screen for the disease, with a simple blood test. Then, with a few diet adjustments, relief should be right around the corner.
This disease impacts the adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands), which regulate hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and the steroids aldosterone, which help you react to stressors like major illness, regulate blood pressure and burn protein and fat. When the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of these hormones, it can reduce appetite and create a feeling of nausea, in turn, resulting in sudden weight loss.
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The 4 Best Diets to Try If You Have an Autoimmune Disease
There’s no one accepted definition of an “autoimmune diet,” one which can help quell the symptoms of different autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
There is, however, some research to suggest that certain foods may benefit people with an autoimmune condition, which occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body.
“In general, most autoimmune diseases show a response to some changes in diet, whether Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or Crohn’s,” says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a nutritionist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Although there are common threads to so-called autoimmune diets (for example, most include anti-inflammatory foods), specific dietary changes need to be tailored to the person.
“There will be generalizations that always require individualization,” says Alicia Romano, RD a clinical registered dietitian at the Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the more popular autoimmune diets, what they are, and what we know about them.
RELATED: 9 Autoimmune Diseases Every Woman Needs to Know About
The autoimmune protocol diet (AIP)
Best for: IBD
Sometimes also called the Paleo autoimmune protocol diet, the AIP is an extreme version of the popular Paleo diet, which advocates a return to the types of foods our Paleolithic ancestors ate.
Foods to potentially avoid include grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, industrial seed oils, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, gum, alternative sweeteners, emulsifiers, and food thickeners, says Romano.
The AIP follows an elimination protocol where different food groups that might contribute to inflammation are taken out of the diet, then slowly added back in.
“We don’t have a reliable marker or test , so we have to work with the patient, starting with the cleanest diet and slowly adding things back,” says Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine of elimination diets in general. “Everyone is different. We have to live and learn.”
There’s no standard about how to actually implement these elimination protocols–and some protocols are Draconian, pulling out multiple food groups at one time, says Romano.
Such a restrictive approach may not be helpful for all people with autoimmune diseases, who, as a group, tend to be at risk for nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition, Romano cautions. But at least one study showed that for folks with inflammatory bowel disease or IBD–thought to be autoimmune or at least immune-related–this type of diet specifically reduced markers of inflammation in the gut. That inflammation is a hallmark of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two conditions that make up IBD.
RELATED: What an RD Really Thinks of the Paleo Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet
Best for: Rheumatoid arthritis
This diet is similar to the much-touted Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to lower the risk of chronic disease, extend lifespan, and reduce the symptoms of some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. The focus is on anti-inflammatory foods like fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Foods should be as natural as possible, such as ocean-caught fish, Dr. Li says. And homemade meals are even better, because then you know all the ingredients that have been used.
Some people also find dairy to be problematic. “I would recommend limiting dairy to start. It can be added in later on,” says Dr. Li. Some people with autoimmune diseases may react to lactose, a sugar in dairy products, or proteins in dairy, Angelone adds.
RELATED: 5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy
A plant-based diet
Best for: All around
There is evidence that plant-based diets can benefit people with autoimmune diseases. Plus, both the AIP and anti-inflammatory diets also focus strongly on fruits and vegetables.
If you have an autoimmune disease, you might find you tolerate vegetables better when they’re cooked, though. “Large molecules can provoke the immune system, but when you’re cooking you’re breaking the molecules down,” explains Dr. Li.
RELATED: What Is a Plant-Based Diet—and How Is It Different From Going Vegan?
A gluten-free diet
Best for: Celiac disease
Gluten is the name for proteins in wheat, rye, and barley, and it damages the small intestine of people with celiac disease, another autoimmune condition. “Gluten is large molecule that can provoke an immune response,” says Dr. Li.
The only way to manage celiac disease is to avoid gluten, which is found not just in bread, but also pasta, soups, sauces, salad dressing, and a range of other products.
Because many people with celiac disease also have other autoimmune diseases, going gluten-free may benefit others as well. “I have found that more people do well without gluten,” says Angelone. One small recent study found benefits to a gluten-free diet in women with autoimmune thyroid issues, for example.
In some cases, Romano says, simply improving the overall quality of someone’s diet might help. Then, “if patients have a strong suspicion that foods may be triggers, I will typically have them keep food and symptom logs, so we can get a better idea of patterns,” she says.
While the “best” autoimmune diet will be different for each patient, she says, “the patients that are willing to take the time to investigate their symptoms and improve their overall diet quality seem to do the best.”
“Lots of time people use the terms ‘autoimmune’ or ‘anti-inflammatory’ diets to mean lots of different things with a varying degree on how restrictive the diet is,” adds Kathryn Fitzgerald, ScD, of Johns Hopkins University, and a former National Multiple Sclerosis Society fellow. “However, a lot of the time there are many aspects of these diets that are common to a generally healthy diet like high intakes of fruits and vegetables and low intake of processed food. It may be that these aspects are the critical component rather than adhering to stricter dietary protocol.”
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Autoimmune Diseases | Symptoms & Causes
What causes autoimmune disease?
The exact reason that some children’s immune systems begin attacking their own bodies is still a mystery. We do know that autoimmune diseases are not contagious, and they don’t appear to be caused by any one thing in particular. Instead, scientists believe there’s a multi-step process at work:
- Heredity: Certain genes passed down by parents make some children susceptible to an autoimmune disease.
- Environmental factors: An autoimmune disease may not reveal itself until it’s triggered by something like an infection or exposure to certain toxins or drugs.
- Hormonal factors: Given that many autoimmune diseases tend to affect adolescent girls and young women, certain female hormones may also play a role in when these illnesses flare up.
Researchers are now working to discover which genes are involved and how they interact. They are also investigating a number of potential environmental and hormonal triggers so that one day it may be possible to cure, or even prevent, autoimmune diseases.