About 10 years ago, I developed an autoimmune condition, and conventional medicine failed me. I have made it my mission to make sure it doesn’t fail you too.
Conventional medicine seeks a diagnosis and medicates symptoms, but fails to get to the root cause of the symptoms and the disease. This is why, many years ago, I created The Myers Way®. This proven approach is based in functional medicine, a medical approach that looks at how all the body’s systems interact and seeks to get them functioning optimally.
The Myers Way® relieves and reverses your symptoms, helps you get off your harsh medication, and enables you to live a healthy, energetic, and pain-free life. This approach rests on four pillars, each of which has been tested through extensive research and has seen amazing results with thousands of patients over my own years of practice as a physician and while empowering the world to achieve optimal health through Amy Myers MD®.
Pillar I: Heal Your Gut
Your gut is the foundation of your whole body’s health because 80% of your immune system is located there. Without a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system. Without a healthy immune system, you’re open to infections, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. When your gut loses the ability to discriminate between the good and the bad bacteria, you have a leaky gut.
When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. The constant onslaught of inflammation from your immune system causes a widespread immune response throughout your body.
Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
Gut imbalances and leaky gut have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema and rosacea, just to name a few. If you have any of these nine symptoms, you most likely have a leaky gut:
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies or food sensitivities
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD, or ADHD
- Mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances such as irregular periods, premenstrual syndrome, or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
A Four-Step Approach to Healing The Gut
The 4R approach is a proven method to healing your gut. I’ve highlighted the steps below, but they are outlined in much greater detail in my book, “The Autoimmune Solution.”
- Remove the bad – Get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections such as yeast overgrowth and SIBO.
- Restore what’s missing — Adding digestive enzymes and HCL to your daily regimen will help support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as 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. L-glutamine is an amino acid that will support gut lining. Drinking bone broth or collagen will also help to heal your gut, as will supplementing with omega-3s, zinc, and herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera.
Pillar II: Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes
Leaky gut puts you on the autoimmune spectrum, which is why healing your gut is the first pillar of The Myers Way®. Once you’ve healed your gut, it’s time to make lifestyle and diet changes to put you on the path toward optimal health. One of the best ways to do that is through diet and eliminating foods that are causing inflammation and damage to your intestinal tract: Gluten, grains, and legumes!
Gluten is a group of proteins found in many grains, including wheat, rye, and barley – the common ingredients in bread. It’s what gives bread its sticky, doughy texture, but that’s not the only place you’ll encounter it. Gluten is used as a food additive in practically every processed food, from salad dressing to ketchup.
It is not found in rice, millet corn, or quinoa. While oats don’t inherently contain gluten, virtually all conventionally farmed oats are cross-contaminated either in processing or in storage, so for all practical purposes, they are not considered gluten-free.
The Problem with Gluten
For some people, there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating gluten. However, for many, it is a real problem contributing to real disease. The prevalence of celiac and gluten intolerance has increased significantly over the last 50 years. One theory as to why there has been such a dramatic increase in celiac disease is that the wheat in the United States has been genetically modified and contains much higher amounts of gluten.
By doing so, the food industry has been able to super size food and create products like extra large cinnamon buns and gigantic fluffy bagels. As I have said before, inflammation is the root cause of so many diseases. Both celiac and gluten sensitivity create inflammation that can affect virtually every organ system in your body.
Grains are the seeds of starchy plants cultivated for human or animal food. Examples of grains include wheat, rye, barley, rice, millet, and oats. While corn and quinoa are technically not grains, they contain proteins very similar to grains.
Legumes are plants that grow their edible seeds in long cases. Examples of legumes include lentils, chickpeas, peas, green beans, and other types of beans – red, white, black, and kidney.
The Problem with Grains and Legumes
Wheat is not unique. Other grains, pseudo-grains (like quinoa), and legumes contain similar proteins that contribute to leaky gut in several ways:1
- By damaging intestinal cells
- By opening the tight junctions of the gut lining
- By feeding unfriendly bacteria to create gut dysbiosis
The edible portion of these plants is the seed, which contains the embryo. In order to pass on its genes, a plant produces its own chemicals to repel pests and prevent digestion. These chemicals can be very damaging to someone with an autoimmune disease.
Other Foods to Toss
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, easily enter the bloodstream, and do not break down in cooking.2
If you are following an elimination diet, there will be many foods you will avoid temporarily and then reintroduce. Grains, pseudograins, legumes, and a few other foods will probably need to stay out of your diet for good. Gluten is an absolute “no-no,” I don’t recommend that anyone add gluten back into their diet.
Pillar III: Tame the Toxins
For many people, 80% of healing occurs while simultaneously addressing Pillar I and Pillar II of The Myers Way®. If you haven’t seen a full reversal of your symptoms after following Pillar I and II, we need to dig deeper.
Pillar III addresses and reduces your exposure to toxins, a poison or any substance that’s dangerous to the human body. That includes things you know are a problem such as heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium, industrial chemicals and pollutants, and pesticides.
However, toxins lurk in common products you may not think of as being toxic, such as home cleaning products, body products, and even makeup.
How Do Toxins Get into Your Body?
You might be thinking you aren’t exposed to many toxins because you live a very “clean” lifestyle. In reality, 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’re found in the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, and in the cosmetics, cleaning products, and cookware you use every day.
Our government leaves it up to the company itself to do the testing and tell us it’s safe. And if a product is made up of five ingredients they test each one separately for safety–not all five together. And yes, these chemicals end up inside your body.
So how do these toxins end up in our bodies?
- We breathe them in: People spend an estimated 90% of their time indoors.3 Considering that indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, it’s no surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health.4 I recommend using a HEPA air filter in your homes. My homes are equipped with air filters from AIRDoctor®.
- We eat them: The Standard American Diet is full of pesticide-treated produce and animals who have been given artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. The National Research Council claims that, in children especially, dietary intake of pesticides accounts for most pesticide exposure.5
- We drink them: Since more than half of your body is composed of water, the quality of your water is tied directly to your health. Heavy metals, chemicals from plastic, and other pollutants can get into your body through your drinking water.6 I recommend purchasing a high-quality whole-house purifier or filter so you’re more in control of the process. You know you’re getting high-quality water once you’re done!
- We absorb them through our skin:The average person uses 10-15 personal care products per day, each with 125 different ingredients, and many of these chemicals are approved for use by the FDA with little or no safety testing.
Each exposure to toxins adds to your body’s toxic burden. Think of your body like a cup, and toxins like drops of water: if your cup is already full because you have a leaky gut, a poor diet, infections, and stress, those small, cumulative toxic exposures cause that cup to overflow. When it does, you’re pushed down the autoimmune spectrum into full-fledged autoimmune disease.
What is the Solution?
I like to break it into two main toxin-taming strategies: prevention and detoxification. The best thing you can do to lighten your toxic burden is to prevent the toxins from getting into your system in the first place.
If your home is toxin-free, you’ll have a little bit more leeway when you go out into the environment. Here are four ways to make your home as toxin-free as possible:
- Clean your air. You may not be able to clean the air outside, but you can keep the air inside your home as toxin-free as possible. I recommend getting a HEPA filter for your home and office.
- Clean your water. Install water filters on your sinks and shower taps. I myself have a full-house filtration system. Avoid drinking out of plastic bottles (even BPA-free plastics).
- Buy clean food. Eat organic whenever possible. It can be expensive, so when you can only buy some things organic, buy grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild-caught seafood.
- Buy clean body products. Many personal care products are made with hormone-mimicking chemicals that can be absorbed through your skin. If you find it overwhelming to replace your body products with cleaner options all at once, try replacing one item at a time over the next few months. Every replacement you make takes away from your toxic burden.
How to Detoxify Your Body
A key part of The Myers Way® is supporting your body’s own natural detoxification whether it be through our food, drinking lots of water, or naturally by doing something that makes you sweat. One of my favorite strategies is to use an infrared sauna to help detoxify. Infrared saunas are especially useful for those who are limited in their ability to exercise.
Most of your detoxing is done through your liver, so the goal is to support your liver during this process. The nutrients you’ll be eating while on The Myers Way® will help your liver mobilize the toxins that are in your tissues. Your body creates its own master detoxifier called glutathione. I recommend supplementing with extra glutathione while your body is trying to excrete toxins, especially if you are anywhere on the autoimmune spectrum.
Pillar IV: Heal Your Infections and Relieve Your Stress
When I saw a patient in my clinic who has not experienced full reversal of their symptoms after simultaneously addressing Pillar I and II, I knew we had more work to do. Once Pillar III was addressed, and I determined that toxins weren’t the issue or were taken care of, I turned to the next piece of the puzzle: underlying infections and stress. Some infections associated with autoimmune disease are caused by viruses. Some common culprits I saw in my clinic were:
Herpes simplex (HSV): This is the virus that gives you cold sores and/or genital herpes. It’s very common: about 90% of Americans have one or both types of HSV, although they might not show symptoms.
Epstein-Barr (EBV): EBV is the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis. 95% of all US adults contract this virus by age 40. You’ve likely had mono at some point, even if you don’t remember, because it’s often misdiagnosed as the flu or strep throat. EBV is the infection that has been studied the most extensively in connection with autoimmune disease, and it has been strongly correlated with multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), lupus, fibromyalgia, Graves’ disease, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
When a patient isn’t getting better on the first pillars of The Myers Way®, I always consider the possibility that they could have another bacterial infection: Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacteria called Spirochaetes. It shares many similarities to autoimmune diseases. Many people are misdiagnosed with autoimmune disease or another inflammatory condition, like chronic fatigue syndrome, when the underlying issue is actually Lyme.
Viruses like EBV and HSV don’t leave your system. When your immune system is healthy, it keeps the viruses in check, but when it is suppressed by stress or illness, the infection can become active once again. Once the virus is active, the inflammatory immune response damages tissue, which then causes more inflammation and a stronger response from the immune system. Autoimmune disease develops from that chronic state of inflammation.
The Stress Connection
Stress can be emotional, mental, or physical; it can come from physical injury, sleep deprivation, exposure to toxins, leaky gut, or eating a diet full of inflammatory foods. The relationship between stress and infections is complex.
Stress isn’t just a feeling. It’s an actual release of hormones that your body produces when it’s met with a challenge. The number one stress hormone is cortisol. Think of cortisol like a chemical messenger. When you’re in a stressful situation, cortisol tells your immune system to gear up for a challenge. Your immune system responds by producing inflammation, and then cortisol signals your immune system to calm down when the danger has passed.
This system works really well when you encounter acute stress that happens suddenly and then passes. But too many of us are dealing with chronic stress: constant sleep deprivation, poor diets, long hours at work, problems in our relationships… the list goes on and on.
When you have constant stressors in your life, your immune system never really gets to turn off. Your inflammatory immune response is activated for too long and eventually goes rogue, attacking your own bodily tissues. Pretty soon, your stress hormones try to suppress the response but go overboard, leaving you with a weakened immune system.
Simultaneously, your body is inflamed and you are vulnerable to infections, including latent infections like EBV and HSV that never left your body in the first place. Each time these viruses are activated–when you have symptoms of mono or an outbreak of HSV–they replicate and damage more of your cells.
This begins a vicious cycle where the infection becomes active, it destroys tissue and provokes an even greater immune response, your body releases cortisol to calm it down, which triggers more infection, and so on.
Heal Your Infections, and Relieve Your Stress
Addressing your infections and relieving your stress are necessary steps to get your immune system back to proper functioning:
Adopt daily stress-relieving strategies. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Breathing: When you find yourself overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to connect with your breath. Concentrate on breathing in and out until your anxiety has calmed.
- Dance: Just moving your body can help you literally “shake off” your stress.
- Music: Amazingly, a half hour of listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels.
- Gentle exercise: Try yoga, or a long walk in a natural setting–changing your environment can also help you get away from your stress.
Here’s the great news about The Myers Way®: Once you start following this way of life, you’ll notice that it isn’t willpower keeping you on The Myers Way®! I know following The Myers Way® can empower you to reverse your symptoms naturally – restoring your energy, vitality, and health.
- Effect of primary processing of cereals and legumes on its nutritional quality: A comprehensive review. Morteza Oghbaei & Jamuna Prakash. Cogent Food & Agriculture. 2016.
- Effects of lectin ingestion on animal growth and internal organs. A Pusztai. National Library of Medicine. 1998.
- What are the trends in indoor air quality and their effects on human health?. U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency. 2020.
- The Total Exposure Assesment Methodology (TEAM) Study. Lance A. Wallace. U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency. 1987.
- Pesticides, Disease Vectors and Public Health. U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency. 2021.
- EWG’s Water Filter Guide. The Environmental Working Group. 2020.