Autoimmunity Is On The Rise: 5 Early Warning Signs and What You Can Do To Protect Yourself and Your Family

As many as 20 million people in the United States have some sort of autoimmune condition – and millions of them don’t know it.

Autoimmune disease gets missed frequently by doctors because the symptoms can be so variable, and the early warning signs non-specific.

Too often I see people finally diagnosed when Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis is full blown, when it easily could have been caught, and in many cases reversed or slowed down with Functional Medicine, months – if not years – sooner.

Here are 5 early warning signs that you could have an immune related disorder:

1. Unexplained rashes. Your skin is a great mirror for the level of inflammation in your body. Red, itchy, blotchy or scaly rashes that come and go can be an early warning sign of autoimmune diseases like lupus or psoriasis. Even acne and eczema can be signs that there is underlying hyperactivity of your immune system – food sensitivities like sugar, gluten and dairy are a frequent trigger I see, but autoimmune disease shouldn’t be ruled out.

2. Body aches. Unexplained persistent muscle pain and joint pain can be a sign of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus or Rheumatoid arthritis. If you hurt all over and it’s not from your workout, you may need blood work and even x-rays to rule out an autoimmune condition.

3. Fatigue and brain fog. If you feel foggy and exhausted despite getting at least eight hours of quality sleep, you could have underlying immune dysfunction. Sometimes fatigue is a sign of “anemia of chronic disease,” a type of low blood count that develops when there is underlying inflammation in the body. This can be one of the earliest signs of an autoimmune condition.

4. Belly pain. Sometimes people think that diarrhea cramping and bloating that come and go are just the hard knocks from eating one too many take-out meals, but if you frequently have abdominal discomfort, autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, and Celiac could be the issue. It’s much better to catch these conditions early as the longer they persist the more damage they can do to the digestive tract.

5. Weight gain. If you feel like your metabolism has stalled, maybe it has, and it might not be that glass of wine – it might be a thyroid condition. Hypothyroidism affects as many as 1 in 8 women in their lifetimes. I see it frequently come and go. It can be caused by nutrient deficiencies, chronic stress, inflammation, and waxing and waning autoimmune activity. Most doctors don’t routinely test for thyroid antibodies, but, at EPIC Functional Medicine Center, this testing is part of our proprietary baseline panel that we order for every member. If caught early and addressed with Functional Medicine, often these antibodies will go away entirely, or at least lower, stabilize, and not cause further thyroid destruction.

If any of these symptoms sound like you or anyone you know, we welcome you to work meet with us at EPIC Functional Medicine Center to get properly evaluated and tested.

Why Grains are Slowly Killing You

I avoid eating grains, and I am often questioned as to why.

Why don’t you eat bread? Isn’t bread a part of a balanced diet? How do you get your fiber? Aren’t we supposed to have nine servings of grains (remember that food pyramid thing we used to have)?

In the United States, we have severe misconceptions about grains

Grains are touted as a source of fiber, part of a balanced diet, and low in fat. Even the food pyramid (which is now defunct by the way) sets grains as the foundation of a healthy diet.

There’s also the idea that people have always eaten grains. The Bible talks about breaking bread, so grains must be good, right?

Scientific and archaeological research has shown that humans have not always eaten grains, and that the human body is not designed to function on grains.

Regular grain consumption began around 10,000 years ago. Before the agricultural revolution, humans went for several hundred thousand years without consuming grains.

Studies show that human brain function and physical ability peaked just prior to the agricultural revolution as well. Since then, there has been a gradual but steady decline in human strength.

Modern grains are devoid of nutrients

The invention of the roller mill in 1872 made flour accessible to nearly everyone.

The bran and germ were stripped out, leaving very little nutritional value from the original grain. Grains do not have the nutritional profile that commercials of late make them out to have.

When ground into flour, the surface area of a grain is increased to 10,000 times the surface area of the grain itself, resulting in a high-starch food that is biologically similar to consuming pure table sugar.

It is much better to get nutrients from vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats which have dense nutrient profiles.

The danger of phytic acid

Grains contain phytic acid, a mineral blocker that prevents absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. This phytic acid is found in the bran of all grains as well as the outer coating of seeds and nuts.

Even after grains became more mainstream during the agricultural revolution, grains were allowed to sit in the fields for several weeks before thrashing. This allowed the grains to be exposed to the elements and sprout. Sprouting increases the content of many important vitamins, and breaks down the phytic acid.

Grains today are not sprouted, leaving behind high levels of phytic acid. The presence of phytic acid blocks the absorption of calcium, a risk factor for osteoporosis and other bone-related problems.

Despite this, many doctors prescribe a low-fat, high-fiber diet and a calcium supplement for those with osteoporosis but the calcium isn’t being absorbed anyway because the phytic acid block its uptake.

Grains spike insulin and damage our endocrine and immune systems

Besides the phytic acid which strips your body of nutrients, grain consumption results in a spike in insulin production. Insulin production is an important process for storing nutrients and processing glucose in the bloodstream, but our bodies simply can’t handle the insulin requirements we throw at them with the carb load we consume these days.

When carbohydrates enter the body, they are broken down into glucose. Any extra glucose we are not able to immediately use is stored as fat.

This natural response to store energy and use it for later use has allowed humans to survive for thousands of years. But, we are not commonly faced with famine, and we don’t use up the stores, so the fat accumulates.

If carbohydrate consumption is excessive, the body kicks in cortisol and adrenaline production to handle the extra load. This extra load on the endocrine and immune systems creates inflammation in the body.

And then there’s gluten and lectins

If this isn’t bad enough, there’s the danger posed by gluten and lectins.

Gluten is a sticky, water soluble protein that is found in grains like wheat, barley,and rye.

Grains including corn, rice and oats have similar proteins that cause problems over time.

Gluten and similar grain-based proteins work to break down the microvilli in your small intestine, eventually letting particles of your food leak into your bloodstream (called “leaky gut syndrome”) causing allergies, digestive disturbances or autoimmune problems.

Lectins are toxins that inhibit the repair of the GI tract. Lectins are not broken down in the digestive process and bind to receptors in the intestine, also causing leaky gut syndrome.

The body views these lectins and the food they bring with them as dangerous invaders and initiates an immune response to get rid of them. This immune response to particles of common foods explains the allergy creating potential of grains.

Gluten and lectin then move to the gallbladder. The gallbladder releases bile salts that help break down and properly digest foods. When the intestines are damaged, the chemical responsible for starting this bile secretion is not released. Bile backs up in the gall bladder, and cholesterol that is left there crystallizes into stones that are usually surgically removed with the rest of the gall bladder.

Grains increase the risk of chronic diseases

In the last 130 years, as grain consumption increased, chronic disease rates increased along with it. The average weight of the population has risen and fertility rates have fallen.

Chronic disease rates are directly correlated to grain consumption.

The United States is facing an epidemic involving insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance, obesity, pre-diabetic conditions, and Type-2 Diabetes

Heavy grain consumption has been shown to increase your risk of:

  • Pancreatic, colon, stomach and lymphoma cancers
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infertility
  • Type-2 Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Depression, Anxiety and Schizophrenia
  • Allergies

    Our bodies can’t handle grains or function optimally when consuming grains

    As you can see, grains are not healthy and are toxic to the body. Non-digestible grain-based proteins wreak havoc on our systems.

    A grain-free diet can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, end digestive issues, and dramatically increase energy levels.

    From my own experience and work with patients, I can tell you that you will feel exponentially better when you don’t eat grains.

    You probably really like grains, and the thought of giving them up sounds like it will be too difficult. It will be difficult at first, but you’ll start to notice a massive improvement in your health.

    Giving up grains is one of the best things you can do for your health, especially if you suffer from a chronic condition or want to lose weight.

    Try cutting grains out of your diet for two weeks and see how your body responds. You will need to cut out wheat, barley, oats, rye, millet and corn as well as limit consumption of beans and legumes.

    What’s right for you?

    If you suffer from chronic disease such as low-thyroid or type-2 diabetes, your condition may be partly caused or enhanced by grain consumption.

    Everyone is different, so the foods you eat and avoid should be individualized to you. Certain lab tests can help customize the right diet for you. We offer health evaluations to work through your unique case and develop a recommendation individualized to you.

    Schedule a consultation today and start the process of getting your life back from chronic disease.

    New Year, New You?

    On New Year’s Day, I burned my right index finger, got bit by a spider, and — to add insult to injury — got a paper cut on that same darn finger.

    But, you know what? I am ok. And because of this fact, I am determined to become a superhuman this January.

    Not in a hardcore, militant, stringent sort of way​, b​ut in an effortless way.

    I am determined to make my life easier​ and healthier​ in the most intense month of the year.

    Here it goes.​ :)​

    What I mean is that I am determined to give myself all the tools I need to start the year off with affirmation, enthusiasm, clear intention, and focus.

    This month is where performance meets balance. It’s about mind-strength, not ab-strength​, ​calm​, ​not intensity​, and ​experiments, not punishments.

    We all have things we want to achieve this year. So what’s your strategy for making both happen at once without feeling like a failure if you don’t post up at the gym every morning at 6 a.m.?

    Here are my 5 simple strategies for being an effortless superhuman this January. Hint: It’s about working smarter not harder.

    1. ​Clear the decks​

    I’m starting off with a simple detox. Like, tomorrow. Based on our ​21​ day program, I’m going booze/gluten/sugar/dairy-free ​and hitting the ClearVite again – ​not for my waistline but for my brain. New Year’s was ​a little ​​late for me to stay up ​(​let’s face it​: I’m not 17 any more)​. I now need mental stamina and nothing clears the fog like a short and sweet cleanse.

    ​2. ​Make fear a commodity​

    ​I was lucky on my break to spend some serious ​time exercising (both my body and my brain) and meditating. In both practices I worked on manifesting fearlessness. Do you ever feel like fear and self-doubt are like an old item of clothing that you keep buying and selling back to yourself in a weird vicious cycle? Don’t sell yourself fear and don’t buy it. Meditate on releasing it for good.

    3. ​Live the N​-​of​-​1 principle​

    The “N of 1” refers to the fact that in any study, the N, otherwise known as the denominator, is usually a huge group of people (a necessity in order to draw broad conclusions). But in life, the N is always 1 – aka YOU. For example, if artificial sweetener doesn’t cause cancer in 9 out of 10 rats, the N is 10, but from the perspective of the rat that gets cancer, the N is 1 – the odds were 100%. This doesn’t mean​ that you should​ freak out about getting cancer. It does mean that at the end of the day nothing can tell you about your body like experimenting with it does. My January experiment will be intermittent fasting 16 hours a day 2 days per week. I’ll have dinner at 8pm and not eat again until noon the next day, a max of 2 days per week, just to see what happens to my focus and metabolism.​ Wanna join me?

    4. ​Hack your habits​

    ​My habit is to skip exercise when I get super busy. I am about to be super busy. So, I am scheduling ​Tabatas into my Google calendar like a meeting and making sure I get ​them done ​four​ days per week as my new years gift to myself. What’s your habit of cutting yourself short? How can you hack making it a true priority to put yourself first?

    ​5. ​Ask for help

    Sometimes I try to boil the ocean and take on the world, instead of leaning on the people who support me to help me be 100 times more productive. If your answer is “I’m soooo busy” when people ask how you are, you need help, and you need systems in place so that you’re not living under water. This month I am asking for help from everyone so I can create the things I am capable of. What do you need help with? If getting ​back ​on track with your health is one of those things, ​make sure you are scheduled with one of our ​EPIC health coaches. Doing this alone is probably less productive than doing it with support from experts. Instead of a new jacket you don’t need, get a new team in your corner.

    ​With that said, here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year — for the WHOLE year — in 2016! I can’t wait to see what’s next!​