I go by many titles – CEO, doctor, mother, wife, and New York Times bestselling author. Yet, one title I also have is autoimmune disease patient. I desperately struggled with gut issues and chronic symptoms from Graves’ disease that nearly destroyed my life. Thankfully, I took control of my health and reversed my autoimmune disease.
Conventional medicine fails patients struggling with autoimmunity by treating the symptoms rather than finding the root cause of their autoimmune disease. Whether you have lupus, Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, or one of the other hundreds of autoimmune diseases, there is a way you can find relief from your symptoms and live a healthy, normal life.
I’m going to give you a list of common autoimmune diseases and tell you about my proven method to get to the root cause of your symptoms so that you can reverse your autoimmunity and achieve optimal health. Before we get into my list of common autoimmune disorders, I will review what an autoimmune disease is.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is simply a disease where your immune system goes rogue and mistakes healthy cells in your body for foreign invaders. A healthy immune system knows the difference between healthy cells and foreign ones. However, when you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakes your joints, skin, and even your organs as foreign invaders.
There are over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases. Some common autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. However, others are rare and difficult to discover because the symptoms mimic other conditions.1 Regardless of what type of autoimmune disease you have, the common denominator is your immune system, and that’s where the solution lies.
Our current healthcare system does not recognize autoimmune diseases as diseases of the immune system. Instead, conventional medicine treats autoimmune diseases as diseases of particular organs. For example, insulin administered through a pump or single injections because your pancreas stops producing insulin is used to treat type 1 diabetes. In this instance, your pancreas is what’s under attack by your immune system.
In contrast, functional medicine sees the body as a whole and works on the principle that one system’s health impacts others’ health and function. Instead of focusing on disease symptom administration, functional medicine focuses on supporting and strengthening the immune system by getting to the root of what causes autoimmune disease in the first place.
Type 1 diabetes is just one common autoimmune disease. Let’s talk about some other common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms.
Common Autoimmune Diseases & Symptoms
Conventional medicine will tell you that once you have an autoimmune disease, there’s nothing you can do except manage the symptoms, which typically involves harsh medications to suppress your immune system. Functional medicine believes five key elements are at the root of autoimmune disease – leaky gut, gluten, toxins, infections, and stress. I’ll discuss my proven method to get to the root cause of your autoimmunity later. Let’s get into the common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes, develops due to your immune system attacking your pancreas, destroying insulin-producing cells. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes produce little to no insulin, a vital hormone that helps your body regulate and metabolize glucose.
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are similar to type 2 diabetes. However, some significant differences exist between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes symptoms can take weeks or months to develop, yet they may not be noticed for months. Once symptoms appear, they can be severe. Common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:2
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) happens when your immune system mistakes your joints as a foreign invader and begins attacking them, causing painful inflammation and allowing fluid and immune complexes to build up in the joints. Typically, these immune complexes filter out your blood on their own; however, they tend to settle into different joints and cause local inflammation and tissue damage when a build-up occurs. This causes the characteristic swelling and pain that comes from rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically begins in smaller joints such as toes, fingers, and hands. After a while, it can progress into larger joints such as the wrists, ankles, knees, and hips.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms and the severity of them varies from each person. Common signs of rheumatoid arthritis include:3
- Joint pain in one or more joints
- Swelling and tenderness
- Stiffness of joints
- Deformity in the joints of fingers
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Nodule or stiff bumps under the skin
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that speeds up the lifecycle of your skin cells. Yet, while psoriasis symptoms manifest on your skin, it is not a simple cosmetic issue. The actual cause is your immune system, which went rogue and began attacking healthy tissues in your skin.4 This can then cause redness and dilated blood vessels in the affected area. Typically, the process of skin renewal takes weeks. Yet, with psoriasis, your body goes through the process within days. The result is skin cell build-up that forms thick, scaly, red patches.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
There are six common signs and symptoms of psoriasis, including:5
- Inflamed, raised, red, and scaly patches of skin.
- Small scaling spots.
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed.
- Itching, burning, and soreness around inflamed patches of skin.
- Thick, pitted, and ridged nail plates.
- Swollen and painful joints.
You may notice that psoriasis symptoms come and go. Even so, psoriasis is a severe affliction that significantly affects everyday life. Many people find psoriasis’s discomfort, pain, and embarrassment interfere with work, school, household duties, and social activities.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord that causes your immune system to attack the myelin, which is the protective coating surrounding the nerves. This impedes your brain’s communication with the rest of your body. When this myelin coating is damaged, your body loses control over vital functions, including vision, balance, muscle function, and even your ability to feel sensations.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis symptoms are hard to predict because they progressively worsen over time, and you may have some that are severe and some that aren’t. They affect your body’s different parts, brain activity, and senses. Common symptoms include:6
- Eye pain or blurred vision from Optic Neuritis is usually the first sign
- Numbness and tingling in the face or extremities are the most common symptoms
- Muscle pain or spasms
- Muscle weakness, particularly in the legs
- Unexplained fatigue
- Balance problems and dizziness
- Bowel and bladder problems
- Brain fog, depression, and decreased cognition
- Sexual issues such as loss of interest or erectile dysfunction
There are many symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The symptoms, severity, and duration can vary from person to person. Some people may be symptom-free most of their lives, while others can have severe chronic symptoms that never go away.
Most autoimmune diseases affect one specific system. On the other hand, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) affects more than one system simultaneously. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, internal organs, and nervous system. No matter which system lupus attacks, it is always an immune response that leads to systemic inflammation.
Symptoms of Lupus
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 with women are women. Here are common symptoms of lupus:
- A butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
- Hair loss
- Joint pain and swelling
- Photosensitivity (sensitivity to light, especially sunlight)
- Raynaud’s disease (extremities turning white or blue when exposed to the cold)
- Ulcers in the nose and mouth
- Water retention in the hands, feet, and face
Men can have any or all the symptoms that affect women. However, they are more likely to have heart complications, kidney disease, and low blood count.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a combination of inflammatory conditions that affect the intestines and colon. The two primary forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which cause significant inflammation in the gut.
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 Bowl 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.
When thyroid hormones are too high, energy metabolism will speed up, causing the body to burn through nutrients too quickly. This can result in malnutrition and lead to a wide range of problems. In college, I ate everything in sight and went from a size 4 to a size 0 in months. Trust me when I tell you that it was not healthy! I later found out this was due to Graves disease.
There can be many reasons for the thyroid to be overactive, but this commonly occurs due to an autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease. Usually, the pituitary gland regulates thyroid function. The pituitary gland is responsible for secreting TSH, which signals the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
With Graves’ disease, an thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) can mimic pituitary hormones and completely override the system, causing an overactive thyroid. You can also develop Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) antibodies or Antithyroglobulin antibodies. I did not have TRAb antibodies. I only had TPO antibodies.
Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
Common symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
- Hot flashes, sweating
- Unintentional weight loss
- Frequent stools, loose stool, or diarrhea
- Difficulty sleeping and insomnia
- Anxiety, irritability, or constant fatigue
- Elevated heart rate
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Reduced libido
- Bulging eyes
- Thick red skin on shins or feet
- Increased appetite
- Hand tremors
- Muscle weakness
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is on the opposite side of the spectrum from Graves’ disease. Rather than causing an overactive thyroid, Hashimoto’s leads to an underactive thyroid and is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. Hashimoto’s is responsible for about 90% of hypothyroidism cases.
Dr. Kakaru Hashimoto discovered Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 1912. As I’ve mentioned, Hashimoto’s causes your immune system to mistake your thyroid gland as a foreign invader, whereas with Grave’s disease, the immune system attacks the pituitary gland.
Your thyroid produces an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO), a vital component of producing thyroid hormones. When you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, your immune system creates TPO antibodies designed to attack the thyroid in a mistaken attempt to fight off what it believes to be a threat.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s
If your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, it causes your metabolism rate to decline. This can lead to a myriad of symptoms, including:
- Brain fog and poor concentration
- Weight gain or the inability to lose weight
- Cold hands or feet, or decreased body temperature
- Low libido
- Decreased heart rate
- Hair loss
Celiac disease is an autoimmune response to gluten. 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.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
The symptoms of celiac disease can vary greatly and differ in children and adults, yet they primarily involve the digestive system. However, that’s not always the case. Here are common symptoms of celiac disease.7
- Weight loss
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anemia, usually from iron deficiency
- Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or softening of the bone (osteomalacia)
- Mouth ulcers
- Headaches and fatigue
- Joint pain
- Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
Now that I’ve told you about common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms, I’m going to tell you about my proven method to reverse your symptoms, get off your harsh medication, and achieve optimal health. I call it The Myers Way®!
Reverse Autoimmune Disease with The Myers Way®
I developed an autoimmune disease, and conventional medicine failed me, and I have made it my mission to ensure it doesn’t fail you too. Conventional medicine seeks a diagnosis and medicates symptoms but fails to determine the root cause of the symptoms and the disease. This is why, many years ago, I created The Myers Way®.
This proven approach is rooted in functional medicine, a medical approach that looks at how all the body’s systems interact and seeks to get them functioning optimally. This approach rests on four pillars, each of which has been tested through extensive research and has seen excellent results with thousands of patients over my years as a physician while empowering the world to achieve optimal health.
Pillar I: Heal Your Gut
To get to the root cause of your rheumatoid arthritis, we start with addressing your gut. I have used the 4R approach successfully with thousands of patients.
- Remove the bad – Get rid of inflammatory and toxic foods and infections such as yeast overgrowth and SIBO.
- Restore what’s missing — Adding digestive enzymes and Gut Restore with Betaine and HCL to your daily regimen will help support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption and assist your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria — Restore beneficial bacteria with probiotics to re-establish a healthy balance of good bacteria to heal your gut.
- Repair the gut — Provide nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. Leaky Gut Revive® Max supports gut lining and your immune system. Drinking bone broth or adding collagen protein 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 lifestyle and diet changes by eliminating foods that are causing inflammation and damage to your intestinal tract: Gluten, grains, and legumes! I also recommend that those with autoimmune diseases avoid vegetables in the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, peppers, 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
Most patients see improvement after addressing the first two pillars. When I saw a patient whose symptoms didn’t approve, I knew more work would be done. You are exposed to thousands of toxins every day, even if you don’t live in a polluted area or work in an industrial job. They are in the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, cookware, cosmetics, and cleaning products. While you can’t avoid toxins, the solution is to reduce your body’s toxic burden. You can do this by:
- Using clean skin care products.
- Buying clean body products.
- Cleaning your air by getting a HEPA filter for your home. I use AIRDoctor® air filters in my home.
- Clean your water by installing water filters on your sinks and shower taps. I, myself, have a complete filtration system from Aquasana.
- Buy clean food and eat organic whenever possible. It can be expensive, so if anything, buy grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild-caught seafood.
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® addresses your infections and relieves your stress. Adopt daily stress-relieving strategies. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Breathing: When you are overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to connect with your breath. Concentrate on breathing in and out until your anxiety has calmed.
- Music: Listening to music can release endorphins and reduce your cortisol levels.
- Dance: Just moving your body can help you shake off your stress.
- Gentle exercise: Try yoga or a long walk in a natural setting–changing your environment can help you escape stress.
You don’t have to live with an autoimmune disease for the rest of your life. As a functional medicine physician and autoimmune patient, I’ve seen firsthand how following The Myers Way® can reverse your common autoimmune disease and achieve optimal health.
- Autoimmune Diseases. National Institute of Environmental Sciences. 2022.
- Diabetes Symptoms. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 2022.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 2022.
- Psoriasis: An Overview. Mayo Clinic. 2022.
- Psoriasis causes as much disability as other major medical diseases. Science Direct. 2022.
- MS Signs & Symptoms. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. 2022.
- Celiac disease. Mayo Clinic. 2022.