What is Autoimmune Disease & Answers to Your Other Questions
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.
I was lying in bed, clutched in the grip of a panic attack. I desperately wanted to continue with my second year of medical school. However, I was struggling with the nightmarish symptoms of Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid gland attacks itself and overproduces its own hormone. Awful as the symptoms were, the helplessness was worse—the feeling that my life was no longer my own.
My conventional medicine doctor brushed away my signs. “I think this is just stress,” she said briskly. “You’re a second-year medical student, and it’s very common to think you have every disease you’re currently learning about. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
I was later diagnosed with Graves disease and conventional medicine offers three treatments for it: take medication with awful side effects, have my thyroid surgically removed, or take a radioactive pill to kill the gland. I knew there had to be a better way, and I will show you how later in this article.
After years of working as an emergency room doctor, I turned to functional medicine which focuses on getting to the root of the problem rather than treating its symptoms. Conventional medicine failed me, and I have made it my mission not to let it fail you too.
As both a physician and patient, I’m confident that The Myers Way® works, and I want you to be confident too. So let’s examine what autoimmune disease is, common questions I got in my practice, and the answers I gave my patients.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune disease is a disease of the immune system where your immune system goes rogue and attacks your own tissues. It could be your thyroid, skin, brain, intestines, or other organs that go under attack. In order to treat, prevent, and reverse autoimmune disease, you need to get your immune system under control.
Common autoimmune diseases include Graves disease or hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and diabetes. Symptoms will vary from person to person and even within each disease, yet common symptoms of autoimmune disease include joint or muscle pain, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, recurrent rashes, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, heat or cold intolerance, and hair loss.
Can Autoimmune Disorders Be Reversed?
Yes. There’s a genetic component to autoimmune disorders. However, as we have learned from the brand-new field of epigenetics, genetic expression can be modified. For you to develop an autoimmune disorder, something in your environment, diet, or personal circumstance has to turn on the group of your genes that causes autoimmune disorders.
For most autoimmune diseases where genetic studies have been performed, HLA has emerged as the locus with the strongest association: for example, the DQ8 allele in type 1 diabetes (OR around 7), DR3 in Sjögren syndrome (OR around 9) and Graves disease (OR around 3), DR2 in ulcerative colitis (OR around 4), etc.1
By going on an elimination diet to discover any unknown food sensitivities, healing your gut, and eliminating toxins, you can instruct your problematic genes to turn off again, thereby restoring your beleaguered immune system to health.
Will Your Symptoms Disappear Without Harsh Medications?
It’s sad to say, yet most conventional practitioners dismiss the importance of nutrition as a major factor in our health. The very concept of a toxic burden is foreign to most conventional medicine doctors, let alone the power of removing that burden from those who suffer from autoimmune disorders.
As a result, when it comes to fighting autoimmune conditions, conventional medicine really has only one weapon in its arsenal: medications.
Many people who have followed the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet report improvements in the way they feel, as well as reductions in common symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as fatigue and gut or joint pain. Yet, while research on this diet is promising, it’s also limited.2
The Myers Way® uses food and supplements to strengthen and support your immune system while you heal the infections in your gut. Medications are not your only option in treating autoimmune disorders.
Should I Worry About the Side Effects from Medications for an Autoimmune Disorder?
I wish I could say no — however, I can’t. Conventional practitioners, trying to bring aid and comfort to their patients, are likely to reassure you that your medications won’t cause side effects and that the side effects they do cause are minor. As a former “conventional medicine patient,” I know this all too well.
The first and least invasive choice I was given to treat Graves’ disease was to take a drug known as propylthiouracil (PTU). Simple enough, right? Then I looked at the side effects. Here’s just a partial list: rash, itching, hives, abnormal hair loss, changes in skin pigmentation, swelling, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, loss of taste, joint or muscle aches, numbness, and headaches. As awful as that sounds, the other two options were worse.
I opted for the PTU. I got my first lesson in the potentially disastrous side effects when I developed toxic hepatitis a few months later as the prescription drug started destroying my liver. The condition was so severe, I was sent for extended bed rest and nearly had to drop out of medical school.
The truth is, the side effects of the medications most often used to treat autoimmune disorders are common, frequent, and disruptive. That’s why I created The Myers Way®, my unique, solutions-oriented approach to empower you to discover the root cause of your autoimmune disease.
Does Improving Digestion and Gut Health Have Any Effect On the Progression of Autoimmune Disease?
I heard it from my doctors when I was a patient, and I hear it from my colleagues now that I’m a functional medicine physician: The immune system and the digestive system are two different aspects of the body, and never the twain shall meet.That’s simply not true.
Your gut is the gateway to your health. It’s where nearly 80% of your immune system lives.3 If your gut is full of infections such as SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) or Candida yeast overgrowth, it can lead to a whole host of health problems, including a leaky gut, and set you on the path to autoimmune disease.
My 4R approach to healing your gut is the first step to restoring your health and reversing autoimmune disease.
Does Going Gluten-Free Make a Difference to Your Autoimmune Disease?
As the gluten-free lifestyle becomes more popular, you may be wondering if it’s right for you. Fortunately, there is a world of nutritious and delicious, gluten-free foods waiting for you and it’s not down your grocery store’s gluten-free aisle.
The problem with gluten-free products is that they’re even more refined than their gluten-containing counterparts. In fact, gluten-free products are often very low in a number of vitamins and minerals.
The single best way is to go completely gluten-free for 30 days, then reintroduce it. Your body knows better than any test. If you feel significantly better when you’re not eating it or feel worse when you reintroduce it, then gluten is likely a problem for you, even if your lab tests are negative.
Some natural gluten-free foods you can enjoy include: 4
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Proteins such as grass-fed beef, chicken, and wild-caught fish
- Healthy fats and oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil
The idea that gluten doesn’t make any real difference to your condition is one of the most dangerous myths about autoimmune disorders. I can say with 100% confidence that if there is one food that will wreak havoc on your body, it’s gluten.
Are You Doomed to a Poor Quality of Life with An Autoimmune Disease?
“My doctor said that, over time, I could expect to get weaker and weaker.”
“I’ve had to tell my son not to bring the grandkids over — I can’t take a chance on getting sick.”
“Sometimes the pain gets so bad, I can’t even take a walk with my husband.”
These are the kinds of problems that someone with an autoimmune disorder can frequently expect — however, they are by no means inevitable. Although conventional medicine would counsel you to accept a poor quality of life as the likely outcome of your condition, I’m here to tell you that it is not at all inevitable.
I know from my own personal experience, as well as my years of clinical practice in functional medicine that when it comes to overcoming autoimmune conditions, there really are just three simple steps you can take to make a world of difference: Know your options, empower yourself, and heal your gut with my 4R approach.
Do Only Your Genes Matter? What About the Environment When It Comes to Autoimmune Disease?
Genetics does account for about 25% of the chance that you will develop an autoimmune disease. That means the remaining 75% of the picture is environmental — and therefore up to you. I find that an incredibly empowering statistic.
Some environmental factors that have been implicated with autoimmunity are:5
- Infections (usually viral)
- Dietary components (feeding infants with cow’s milk instead of mother’s milk, gluten, a vitamin D deficiency, and an increased ingestion of iodine)
- Pollutants (chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls)
- Medications (such as streptozotocin, a form of chemotherapy)
The good news is that you have a lot of control over your environment. Changing your diet, exercising 30 minutes a day, getting enough sleep, limiting your stress and taming your toxins are great ways to begin taking control of your health.
Don’t become a prisoner of your genetics. Whatever genes you were born with, you have the power to manage your body’s response to autoimmune disease and the power to create a happy, healthy life.
Is Your Immune System What It Is, or Can You Do Anything to Support It?
The immune system consists of two parts: innate and adaptive. 6
Your innate immune system is made up of defense mechanisms that are already in the body, such as your skin, mucous membranes, defense cells and proteins that non-discriminatory attacks foreign invaders and pathogens.
The adaptive immune system is made up of T cells, B cells and antibodies that fight against specific types of germs that your innate immune system cannot kill.
Innate immunity is genetically programmed from birth. Adaptive immunity actually learns! Your adaptive immune system keeps a database of every germ it has defeated so it knows to destroy it again in the future.
What are the Best Supplements for Autoimmune Disease to Support My Immune System?
The top four supplements I recommend to support optimal immune system function are Resveratrol, Glutamine, Glutathione, and Curcumin.
While they are effective when taken individually, if taken together, they work synergistically to even more effectively support optimal immune function.
- Resveratrol is a powerful free-radical fighter which supports a healthy inflammation response and has the health benefits of 25 glasses of red wine, without the alcohol, sugar, or risk of yeast overgrowth!
- L-Glutamine is an important amino acid that helps maintain a healthy intestinal barrier and beat sugar cravings.
- Glutathione is the body’s most powerful detoxifier! It is critical for supporting your immune system and clearing toxins from your body.
- Curcumin helps to support a healthy inflammation response, healthy immune function, and to help relieve occasional pain and discomfort caused by exercise or overuse.
The Myers Way® Autoimmune Kit has these four top-quality supplements and is ideal for anyone with an autoimmune condition or those who are looking to support optimal immune system function and balance.
Being told you have an autoimmune disease is scary. It doesn’t have to be. Over the years I’ve treated thousands of patients with The Myers Way® approach – and I’ve also treated myself with it. As I said earlier, conventional medicine failed me, so I had to develop an autoimmune solution that would help myself and others overcome the staggering side effects of conventional treatments for autoimmune disease, and empower others to take back their health and live a busy, healthy life.
- How do autoimmune diseases unfold?. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2021.
- Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Gauree G. Konijeti, MD, MPH. NCBI. 2017.
- Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. NCBI. 2008.
- 54 Foods You Can Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet. Brianna Elliott, RD . Healthline. 2019.
- How do autoimmune diseases unfold?. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2021.
- The innate and adaptive immune systems. NCBI. 2020.
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