Autoimmune diseases have become a huge health burden. They're now estimated to impact over 24 million Americans, or between five to eight percent of the population. In fact, more than 80 diseases have been classified as autoimmune, and the list continues to grow. That includes conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Celiac disease, and thyroid disease. They often involve hard-to-classify syndromes like inflammation, pain, swelling, and misery.
Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system—your body's defense against invaders—becomes confused. In other words, your body is fighting something, whether that's infections, toxins, allergens, or a stress response. But somehow, that immune army can't distinguish friend from foe. Your own tissue gets caught in friendly crossfire, and your joints, brain, skin, and sometimes your whole body become casualties.
Typically, drugs are used to address autoimmune diseases. In many cases, they are lifesaving and help people get their lives back. Still, they can also come with adverse effects.
I believe there's a better way to deal with autoimmune conditions. The problem with conventional medicine is we don't ask one simple questions: Why is the body out of balance and how do we help it regain balance?
Conventional medicine often addresses autoimmune disease with powerful immune-suppressing medication rather than searching for the cause. That’s like taking a lot of aspirin while we stand on a tack. The treatment is not more aspirin or a strong immune suppressant, but removing the tack.
Instead, I look for underlying causes. This approach, called functional medicine, is a fundamentally different way of solving medical problems, one that allows us to decipher the origins of illness and identify the disturbances in biology that lead to symptoms.
I believe that when you identify the underlying sources of inflammation, you can heal the body. These might include stress, hidden infections, food allergies or sensitivities, toxic exposure, genetic predisposition, nutrient deficiencies, and leaky gut.
Finding and eliminating the root cause of autoimmune diseases requires detective work, trial and error, and patience—but the results are worth it.
Here are nine strategies I typically implement with my patients looking to find the root of their problem: