In a simplistic definition, they are dis-eases of the immune system that occur when our bodies mistakenly attack their own healthy tissues.
Functional medicine begins by examining the commonalities among all autoimmune disorders — two of which are gut health and inflammation. Many autoimmune diseases stem from and affect the gut, because this is where 70%-80% of our immune system lives. Inflammation is another common symptom among autoimmune patients because it is the immune system’s natural reaction to fighting off foreign agents like bacteria and viruses. However, in the case of an autoimmune dis-ease, the body cannot tell the difference between the bad cells and its own healthy cells, and the inflammation becomes chronic.
Autoimmune diseases don’t surface overnight, and therefore won’t be fixed overnight. But by tuning into your body and making gradual, sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, it’s possible to restore balance. Many of my clients progress to the point where they’re a-symptomatic and get to enjoy the life they’ve always wanted — and deserve.
Over 100+ conditions are now classified as autoimmune diseases. While some affect the whole body, many target one organ — for example, psoriasis affects the skin and Type 1 Diabetes attacks the pancreas. For this reason, many people suffering from an autoimmune disease visit specialists to seek answers. The truth is that to effectively manage the condition and potentially reduce symptoms, we need to get to the root of the problem by looking at the body as a whole system.
Many autoimmune diseases share symptoms like swelling and pain, which can make it difficult to distinguish between conditions. Also, people who live with an autoimmune disease are 50% more likely to have at least one more autoimmune condition.
Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands (located above the kidney) don’t produce enough of the hormones cortisol or aldosterone. These hormones help regulate the body’s carbohydrates and sugar, and manage stress. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure.
Alopecia areata occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own hair follicles. Symptoms includes patchy hair loss on the scalp, face, and sometimes other parts of the body. Other forms of alopecia can also cause hair loss on just the scalp (alopecia totalis) as well as the entire body (alopecia universalis).
Celiac disease occurs when the small intestine overreacts to gluten, damaging the small intestine and preventing the proper absorption of nutrients. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and other grains. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, anemia, and weight loss.
Graves’ disease occurs when the thyroid (a small gland at the base of the neck) overproduces hormones. These hormones control the body’s metabolism. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, anxiety, heat sensitivity, sweating, trembling, weight loss, and bulging eyes.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs when the thyroid (a small gland at the base of the neck) doesn’t produce enough hormones. These hormones control the body’s metabolism. Symptoms include fatigue, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, and hair loss.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is used to describe disorders that cause chronic inflammation to the digestive tract. Types of IBD include Ulcerative colitis, which is characterized by ulcers in the colon and rectum, and Crohn’s disease, which can cause inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, blood in your stool, and weight loss.
Lupus can affect many organs including the skin, kidneys, brain, and heart. Symptoms include joint pain and swelling, skin rash, fatigue, and fever.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that damages the protective lining around the nerve cells, inhibiting the flow of information between the body and the brain. Symptoms include numbness, weakness, muscle spasms, fatigue, bladder problems, and difficulty walking. Though the disease can progress at different rates, about half of people with MS need help walking within 15 years of getting the disease.
Myasthenia gravis occurs when the nerves that affect muscle control are damaged. Symptoms include weakness, rapid muscle fatigue, double vision, and difficulty swallowing and chewing.
Pernicious anemia affects the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B-12, causing a decrease in red blood cells, which carry oxygen to every part of the body. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and poor circulation to the hands and feet.
Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis occurs when skin cells multiply too quickly, causing red, scaly patches on the skin. Psoriasis symptoms include itchy, dry, cracked, burning, or bleeding patches of skin. Psoriatic arthritis affects the joints, causing stiffness, pain, and swelling, and can also include the symptoms of psoriasis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints. Symptoms include chronic pain in the joints, stiffness and swelling, and, if left untreated, bone erosion and joint deformity.
Sjogren’s syndrome occurs when the immune system attacks the tear and salivary glands, which help lubricate the eyes and mouth. Symptoms include chronic dry eyes and mouth, and joint pain.
Type 1 Diabetes is a condition that attacks cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin, which helps regulate the body’s blood sugar. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels, the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, weight loss, and fatigue.
Vasculitis attacks the body’s blood vessels, causing inflammation that narrows veins and arteries, and restricts blood flow. This can ultimately cause organ damage. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, weight loss, and joint pain.
These are just a few of the many autoimmune diseases that exist. Using simple, natural approaches, I support clients who struggle with these conditions and many others, as well as inflammatory conditions that can include weight issues, helping them to identify the most effective path to wellness, reduce their symptoms, and restore balance in their lives.
Your plan will be rooted in your body, your health, and your life circumstances. Together, we’ll explore many areas of your life that directly impact your well being—your nutrition, physical activity, stress, sleep, relationships, career, spirituality, and more. We will build a framework that’s both practical and effective in reaching your wellness goals.
It’s important to note that while I offer suggestions and guidance, I never tell clients what they can and cannot do.
Ultimately, you choose to make the conscious effort to tune into and align your body with what it needs. Your Wellness Partner acts as a support system, a champion, and a real partner who’s invested in and committed to helping you reach optimal health and access the tools to greater longevity.
There are many benefits to having a wellness coach that are completely different from having a friend or family member you on your wellness path.
As a coach I provide:
Accountability; holding you accountable to the outcomes
Insight into blind spots and how to adjust for them
Clear, effective action steps to take, in a sustainable approach, leading to greater longevity
Deeper clarity regarding your own health
Safe, compassionate ‘no-judgement’ zone to deal with challenges