10 Signs You Have an Autoimmune Disease and How to Reverse It

April 19th, 2013


Autoimmune conditions affect over 50 million Americans, a large percentage of whom are women. In fact, I myself had an autoimmune diseases called Graves. Autoimmune diseases are considered a top 10 leading cause of death in women under the age of 65. They come in many different varieties, including rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, thyroid disease, lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and more, and can cause many different types of symptoms all over the body that range from mild to severe in nature. But what are they, what causes them, and how can they be treated?

What are autoimmune diseases?

Although there are many different types of autoimmune diseases and they can affect many different organs, at their core they are all similar in that they are an immune response caused by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself. Your immune system has a very sophisticated system for keeping you safe that leads it to identify all of the foreign substances that enter your body or that you come into contact with. If your immune system deems anything dangerous, it will produce antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.

Autoimmune diseases are born when your body is working hard to defend itself against something potentially dangerous, such as an allergen, a toxin, an infection, or even a food, and it fails to differentiate between the intruder and parts of your own body. Mistaking certain types of tissues for harmful substances, your body turns these antibodies against itself, wreaking havoc on your organs.

What causes autoimmune diseases?

There are many underlying factors that can cause people to develop an autoimmune condition. There certainly is an underlying genetic component. However, whether these genes get expressed or turned on is actually caused by a host of other factors, such as toxins from heavy metals like mercury or mycotoxins from molds, infections like Candida, Epstein-Barr, and the herpes simplex virus, and most significantly, chronic inflammation tied to food sensitivities — particularly gluten intolerance. There is a significant link between autoimmune diseases and gluten intolerance.

10 Signs You May Have an Autoimmune Disease

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially a combination of several of them, you may have an autoimmune disease.

    1. Joint pain, muscle pain or weakness, or a tremor
    2. Weight loss, insomnia, heat intolerance, or rapid heartbeat
    3. Recurrent rashes or hives, sun sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks.
    4. Difficulty concentrating or focusing
    5. Feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain, or cold intolerance
    6. Hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth
    7. Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in your stool, diarrhea, or mouth ulcers
    8. Dry eyes, mouth, or skin
    9. Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
    10. Multiple miscarriages or blood clots


What should you do if you suspect you have an autoimmune disease?

If you suspect that you have an autoimmune disease, the most important steps to stopping and reversing your disease and symptoms are to identify and then to treat the underlying cause. Conventional doctors only treat the symptoms of autoimmune diseases; they do not look to find the root cause. Often, they prescribe medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or immunosuppressants. All of these treatments fail to address the underlying cause of the autoimmune condition in the first place, and while they may be effective in the short term, they are not a long-term solution. Treatments involving immunosuppressant drugs increase the risk of severe infections and cancer when taken for long periods of time.

Identifying which autoimmune disease is affecting you can be a difficult process. Symptoms may be vague, and autoimmune diseases can present themselves in so many different ways, affecting the thyroid, the brain, the skin, or other organs. Working closely with a functional medicine physician to review your family medical history, understanding your risk factors for infections, food sensitivities and toxins, as well as listening to you closely to discover how all of your symptoms are related is an essential part of getting well. A functional medicine physician will help to narrow down which labs they recommend in order to help find the root cause of your condition.

What is my approach to treating and reversing autoimmune diseases?

My approach to a patient who has a known or suspected autoimmune disease is to immediately place them on a comprehensive elimination diet to remove the top twelve inflammatory foods. I also recommend that they remove all grain and legumes from their diet if they think they can. Lectins in grains and legumes have been implicated in autoimmune diseases.

I order a comprehensive stool test to look at levels of good bacteria, check for infections and leaky gut. I then apply a functional medicine 4R approach to healing the gut. This is essential! More than 80% of your immune system is in your gut. If you have an autoimmune disease, then by definition you have a leaky gut that needs to be repaired, otherwise you won’t be able to reverse your condition.

I check blood levels for various antibodies and look for hidden or underlying infections.

After I’ve done all of this, if the symptoms have not completely resolved I look for hidden toxins like mercury and mycotoxins. If we find heavy metals, I often will place the patient on oral chelation treatment. If we find mycotoxins, I have the patient remediate their home.

I know from personal experience how overwhelming, confusing and scary a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease can be. I also know that conventional medicine only offers treatment of the symptoms, not a real solution to the disease.

I urge you to find a functional medicine physician in your area to help you get to the root cause of your illness and to help you reverse your disease. It can be done.


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  • Are you saying you can reverse/cure Type 1 diabetes?

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  • jen

    Amy I have tested negative ana, negative ss-a and negative ss-b but I have dry eyes. My naturopath diagnosed adrenal issues through muscle response testing and said that is the cause. Have you ever seen this? Im only 23 but I’ve been living with this issue since I was 17. Im taking adrenomend for now, eat AI paleo ans well as other supplements and probiotics. Think adrenal burnout is causing insufficient tear production? I know some people don’t believe in adrenal fatigue…

    • yes I see people with neg AI markers but have symptoms — I go with symptoms. Most people have some sort of adrenal fatigue or issue.

      We’d be happy to see you!

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  • linda wilcox

    Tips on inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerated bowel? Thank you Amy Myers.

  • Jean Atchley Hindman

    I have mg n fibro n diabetic. On messition for mg. Don’t ever fell good or wanna go anywhere take iv ig 2 times a month 2 days in a row ????? What now

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  • Lorna Paris

    I have Multiple Sclerosis, I got a flue shot last year but I am not sure if I need to get any more of em. I livr in NE Newmexico and amy still trying to get past The Whpp[ing Cough that I [icked up about a month ago. . .I hate all this crud and having it effect me

  • Debbi

    I was diagnosed with fibro 4 years ago, IBS 2 years ago, RA, Connective Tissue Disease & beginning stages of Lupus 3 months ago. I am currently taking 26 prescriptions per day, along with 12 vitamins, and 4 allergy pills a day. Do you have any suggestions… I am not getting too much relief, still in pain every where, feeling like I am dehydrated, mouth is always dry and on the edge of thrush, eyes are dry, nose bleeds, The list could go on and on. Any suggestions/help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Terri M

    Amy I was recently diagnosed w/neutropenia (moderate). Will be going back to Dr. tomorrow. Then I plan to make an appt. w/integrated health Dr. I just found in the area. What should I be doing in the mean time??? I am gluten sensitive and avoid sugar.

    • Check out my article and eBook on Candida. I find many with Candida have low WBC count and nutrapenia

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  • Kimberly DeWalt

    Amy, I have made several lifestyle changes, cured my LG and have gotten my immune systems calmed down. I’ve been able to lower my Methimazole from 50 mg a day down to 7.5 but I still have a large goiter. Is there a trick to getting the goiter to shrink? Thanks!

  • Doc Red

    Important for health professionals, is the ability to diagnosed the level of Immunologic response of the patient. Balance and hyper-reactive IR are considered normal for vertebrates immune system. We should be very careful for Hyper-reactive type, because it can over-react and developed Auto-immune diseases.

  • Elaine Frances McMurren

    Amy, I have achieved remarkable improvement in health by eliminating foods. I now eat Paleo but no eggs or night shades. Last Thursday I had an allergy test. They poked my back w/every food under the sun. What a HORRIBLE mistake! That was 5 days ago. How do I get this flair up to stop? (Very swollen face, neck, upper torso. Adrenal glands pumping. Heart racing. Joint pain. Ears ringing. It feels like people are beating me up.) I should have known this would happen. The gastroenterologist sent me to the allergist. Both doctors must have known about this. This is a huge setback in my health. I will NEVER consult a doctor again. I was hoping to find I could be a little less strict because my diet isolates me & I live alone. Also I can’t sustain the weight loss much longer. I was always 5ft, 6in & 120-125lbs. Now

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  • Laura Elizabeth Foss

    I have been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome as the cause of my gluten and grain intolerance. Can i do the AIP diet while breastfeeding my 4 month old daughter?

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  • Vwelch7

    I was diagnosed with SLE, FM, CFS. I went down to 95 lbs and nearly died. I do not tolerate the drugs ( which are horrible) for SLE. I gained 40 lbs in eight weeks after being on steroids for two years and Lyrica for FM for five years. ANA always positive as well as dbl DNA positive. I am looking for a solution bc this has literally taken my life over . I can no longer work . I live in missouri any suggestions of who to see?

  • thebaglady13

    I have lupus nephritis and decided to get your book and give it a try. Have been on your autoimmune diet for 2 weeks. Problem is, the protein leakage seems to be getting worse! Maybe I shouldn’t be on a diet with meat? I’m really confused by all of it. I’m trying so hard to be able to go back to the doctor in 2 months and say I don’t need the kidney biopsy after all!!

  • elisal

    Hi Amy. Any feedback you can offer would be so appreciated. After years of exploration and working on my health at all levels, with some progress, I have recently been diagnosed with toxic gadolinium levels.I’ve been unable to find anybody other than my immediate MD to communicate regarding this issue. Seems that it is unheard of. Am trying to get up the nerve to begin the EDTA suppositories recommended by my MD. Have no idea how I’ve come to have this overload. Have never had an MRI with contrast material. My traditional medical labs come back pretty healthy.. I struggle with numerous issues, however, including chronic pain in my hips, lower back, and thighs, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, dry eyes, anxiety, and depression to name a few. Any info. you might have would be so appreciated. Thank you. Micki

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