Autoimmune disease in men is not a topic that is discussed very often. Women generally are more prone to develop an autoimmune disease than men, and it’s pretty disproportionate. Statistics tell us that autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (75% women to 25% men), rheumatoid arthritis (80/20), and lupus and Hashimoto’s (90/10) are much more common in women.1
There’s several schools of thought as to why. One belief is that a higher percentage of men do not have health insurance, which in turn leads to fewer resources. Men are also less likely to have routine health checkups. The most recent data shows that 4.7 million men are living with a diagnosed autoimmune disease, which accounts for just 20% of all autoimmune patients. I believe the number of men with autoimmune disease is much higher due to the two factors mentioned above.
The truth is that men get autoimmune diseases, too. I will tell you about some of the common autoimmune diseases in men and their symptoms and how you can reverse your autoimmune condition with my proven method. First, let’s talk about why autoimmune disease in men is underdiagnosed.
Is Autoimmune Disease in Men Underdiagnosed?
A Cleveland Clinic survey showed that just half of the 1,174 men asked got regular checkups. Of the respondents, 72% preferred doing household chores over seeing a doctor. The survey revealed several reasons men would rather do laundry or the dishes than go to the doctor.2
Some men reported feeling embarrassed, uncomfortable, and judged when going to the doctor. While some were worried about discussing issues like erectile dysfunction, others didn’t want to appear “weak” or get judged for unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor diet, lack of exercise, alcohol use, and other risky behaviors. Many studies reveal that even men who go to the doctor withhold information from their physicians or ignore symptoms altogether.3
For these reasons, thousands of men may live undiagnosed with potentially treatable conditions, including autoimmune disease. Although there are many types of autoimmune diseases and they can affect many different organs (such as your thyroid if you have Hashimoto’s, or your joints if you have rheumatoid arthritis), at their core they are all similar in that they are an immune response that leads your body to attack itself. Your immune system doesn’t care if you are a woman or a man.
5 Common Autoimmune Diseases in Men
New data becomes available every day in regards to autoimmune disease in men, and it points to a growing trend of autoimmunity being highly prevalent in men – with many cases going undiagnosed. While multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are still more prevalent in women than in men, the gap is getting smaller. Let’s look at some of men’s five most common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms.
Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the adrenal glands. The primary role of your adrenal glands is to produce and regulate the stress hormone cortisol. Your adrenal glands also produce sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and neurotransmitters adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine.
To receive an Addison’s disease diagnosis, you must have lost 90% of your adrenal glands’ function. However, you can still have adrenal insufficiency without this diagnosis of Addison’s disease. Anything between optimal health and Addison’s disease is referred to as adrenal fatigue. I find that most people fall somewhere between this spectrum.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease develop slowly over several months. Symptoms are often subtle or mirror symptoms for other conditions, which unfortunately makes symptoms easy to ignore as signs as Addison’s disease.
Signs of Addison’s Disease
- Weight loss
- Decreases appetite
- Hyperpigmentation (dark spots on the skin)
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Dizziness or fainting
- Salt cravings
- Abdominal pain
- Joint and muscle pains
- Hair loss
Occasionally, Addison’s Disease can come on suddenly and intensely. This is called acute adrenal failure (Addisonian crisis), which may lead to shock. Symptoms of an adrenal crisis include severe weakness, confusion, lower back pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of consciousness.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks the small intestine. It’s also an autoimmune response to gluten. Gluten (from Latin, “glue”) is a protein in wheat made up of the peptides gliadin and glutenin. It is found in other grains such as semolina, spelt, Kamut, rye, and barley. Gluten is what makes bread airy and fluffy—but it’s also highly inflammatory for most people.
Consuming gluten when you have celiac disease causes damage to your villi or the tiny hair-like projections that run along the surface of your gut to help you digest food. This leads to nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, and increases your odds of developing another autoimmune condition.
Signs of Celiac Disease
- Frequent bloating
- Excessive gas
- Chronic diarrhea
- Lactose intolerance
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
Women are twice as likely to have multiple sclerosis, yet it’s still one of the more common autoimmune diseases in men.4 This autoimmune disease happens when the immune system attacks the protective coating around your nerves, known as myelin.
Multiple sclerosis is identified by one of four disease courses: clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and secondary progressive MS (SPMS). RRMS is the most common type of MS and affects 85% of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary in severity and duration from person to person. They can also change over time.
Signs of Multiple Sclerosis
- Extreme fatigue
- Double vision or inflammation of the eye (optic neuritis)
- Muscle weakness
- “Pins and needles” sensations, numbness, and other bodily sensations (dysesthesia)
- Muscle stiffness, jerks, exaggerated reflexes (muscle spasticity)
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Cognitive problems
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Unlike most autoimmune conditions that attack one bodily system, lupus erythematosus (lupus) is an autoimmune disease that impacts multiple systems in the body. It can be life-threatening and affect the skin, joints, internal organs, and nervous system.5
Men account for 1 in 10 diagnosis of lupus.. Research also indicates that the disease typically presents more severe symptoms in men than women. That’s likely because the disease is underdiagnosed in men.
Symptoms of lupus vary widely and can range from mild to severe. Nicknamed “The Great Imitator,” lupus mimics other diseases because it impacts multiple bodily systems, and symptoms often come and go or change entirely. Symptoms can differ in men and women, yet approximately 90% of people diagnosed are women. Here are common symptoms of lupus:
Signs of Lupus:
- A butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
- Heart problems
- Anemia or low blood count
- Weight loss
- Unexplained fever
- Increased risk for blood clots
- Kidney disease
- Extreme fatigue
- Pain/ swelling of the joints, hands, feet, or eye
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to a group of inflammatory conditions affecting the intestines and colon. Despite falling under the umbrella of IBD and sharing many symptoms, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are quite different. For instance, inflammation occurs anywhere along the digestive tract in people with Crohn’s disease, whereas it’s limited to the large intestine in those with ulcerative colitis.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
People with Crohn’s disease have patchy inflammation, thickened colon walls, and ulcers that extend into deep tissues into the wall. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Persistent diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Stomach ulcers
- Mouth sores
- Rashes, skin ulcers, and other skin disorders
- Dry, inflamed eyes
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
As I mentioned, inflammation is limited to the colon in patients with ulcerative colitis. However, a difference is that inflammation is continuous in those with ulcerative colitis instead of patchy. Here are common symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Anemia that is caused by severe bleeding
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Urgent Bowel Movements
- Inability to defecate
- Weight loss
By the time symptoms have begun, conventional medicine treats both diseases the same way: with a slew of immunosuppressive medications and invasive surgeries. By ignoring the upstream factors that led to the condition, these methods don’t address the thing that caused the inflammation in the first place. Over time, IBD symptoms can reach beyond the gastrointestinal tract, including the eyes, joints, and skin.
These are the most common autoimmune diseases in men, yet that doesn’t mean men cannot get other autoimmune diseases. The great news is that regardless of which autoimmune disease is affecting you, you can eliminate your symptoms and reverse your condition using my proven method I developed after my own autoimmune journey. It starts by getting to the root cause of your symptoms.
Functional Medicine’s Approach to Autoimmune Disease in Men
Conventional medicine does not recognize autoimmune diseases as diseases of the immune system as a whole. Instead, they are treated as diseases of particular organs. Unfortunately, that means that there isn’t a unified branch in conventional medicine to treat autoimmune conditions.
In conventional medicine, the belief is that there’s nothing you can do to reverse an autoimmune disease once you develop one. It is believed you can only manage the symptoms, which typically involves harsh medications that are aimed at suppressing your immune system.
In contrast, functional medicine sees the body as a whole unit and views autoimmunity as a disease of the immune system. Instead of focusing on disease symptom management, functional medicine focuses on supporting and strengthening the immune system by getting to the root of what causes autoimmune disease in men in the first place.
Before I became a physician, functional medicine expert, and a two-time New York Times bestselling author, I faced my own struggle with autoimmune disease. It led me to develop my proven solution that I’ve used with thousands of patients who saw amazing results.
A Proven Solution: The Myers Way®
The Myers Way® is based on functional medicine, a medical approach rooted in science that looks at how all systems in the body interact with one another and seeks to get them functioning optimally.
The Myers Way® addresses the root cause of your health problems, eliminates your symptoms, helps you get off medications, and allows you to live a vibrant and pain-free life. This approach rests on four pillars.
Pillar I: Heal Your Gut
You begin by healing the gut. In functional medicine, we use the proven 4R approach:
- Remove the bad – Get rid of things that negatively impact the environment of your GI tracts, such as toxins and inflammatory foods, as well as intestinal infections such as SIBO and yeast overgrowth.
- Restore what’s missing — Add HCL and digestive enzymes to your daily regimen to help support digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria — Restore beneficial bacteria with a probiotic supplement to re-establish a healthy balance of bacteria to heal your gut.
- Repair the gut — Provide the necessary nutrients to help the gut repair itself. Leaky Gut Revive® Max supports your immune system and gut lining. It now comes in three different flavors to satisfy various taste buds. Adding collagen protein or drinking bone broth will also help to heal your gut.
Pillar II: Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes
Once you’ve healed your gut, it’s time to make diet changes and eliminate foods such as gluten, grains, and legumes that cause damage to your intestinal tract and inflammation. I also recommend that those with autoimmune diseases avoid vegetables in the nightshade family, which includes peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. These plants are very high in lectins that damage the gut lining, quickly enter the bloodstream, and do not break down in cooking.
Pillar III: Tame the Toxins
Many patients notice improvement after addressing the first two pillars. However, when I saw patients whose symptoms didn’t improve, I knew there was more work to be done.
We are exposed to thousands of toxins every day, and they are found in the water you drink, the air you breathe, food, cookware, cleaning products, and cosmetics.
Unfortunately, we cannot altogether avoid toxins. As such, the solution is to reduce your body’s toxic burden by:
- Buying clean skincare and body products
- Cleaning your air by getting a HEPA filter for your home. I use AIRDoctor® air filters in my home.
- Buy clean food and eat organic whenever possible. It can be expensive, so if anything, buy free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught seafood.
- Clean your water by installing water filters on your shower taps and sinks. I have a complete filtration system from Aquasana.
Pillar IV: Heal Your Infections and Relieve Your Stress
If your symptoms haven’t cleared up after addressing the first three pillars, it’s time to dig deeper. The fourth pillar of The Myers Way® focuses on healing your infections and relieving your stress.
To relieve stress, I suggest adopting daily stress-relieving strategies. A few of my favorites include breathing exercises, listening to music, dancing, taking a long walk, or practicing yoga.
For total support, The Myers Way® Autoimmune Kit combines four of the most important nutritional supplements for anyone concerned with autoimmunity. Your immune system is a complex puzzle influenced by multiple aspects of health. The integrity of your gut barrier, oxidative damage done by free radicals, inflammation, toxic load and detoxification, and much more all play a role in how your immune system functions.
Autoimmune disease in men is still being studied. What we do know is that it is underdiagnosed for many reasons, including men not going to the doctor or recognizing the symptoms as having an autoimmune disease. I’m here to tell you men can get an autoimmune disease. By following The Myers Way®, men can reverse their autoimmunity and achieve optimal health. I’ve seen the success of The Myers Way® firsthand with patients, including myself.
- Why Are Women and Men So Different in Autoimmune Disease?. Derk Lowe. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2021.
- Why Men Don't Go to the Doctor. Christina Ianzito. AARP. 2022.
- Why So Many Men Avoid Going to the Doctor. Leah Campbell. Healthline. 2019.
- Multiple Sclerosis in Men. Heidi Moawad. Healthline. 2021.
- The Effects of Lupus on the Body. Rena Goldman. Healthline. 2018.