Today, I'd like to talk about autoimmune disease, sharing my personal experience and discussing how to minimize its chances of recurring.
Autoimmune Disease is a peculiar condition. It is said that the immune system attacks itself, and women seem to suffer from it more than men. It is not easy to classify a single autoimmune disease, as symptoms can vary widely, depending on how and where the body decides to say no.
Below, I will share my own story, detailing my specific symptoms and how I addressed them. This can provide insights into how the disease can occur and what the root cause may be.
Ironically, I thought I was personally immune to autoimmune disease. I maintained what I perceived to be a healthy lifestyle: eating whole foods, opting for organic choices, varying my diet to avoid monotony, ensuring sufficient sleep by going to bed around 10 PM, drinking plenty of glass-bottled spring water, engaging in strength training rather than aerobic exercises to avoid adrenal fatigue, and practicing Qi Gong daily. I also had regular and healthy bowel movements, portraying the image of a role model holistic health practitioner.
However, I suffered from severe pain and extreme coldness in my extremities—hands and feet. They would sometimes turn bright red, blue, or purple with a tingling, itchy sensation. On some days, walking became painful, to the extent that I needed to stop despite being a fit and healthy-looking 30-year-old at the time.
Twice, I found myself crying on my way home due to despair—once after a dinner date, where I had to stop the date due to intense foot pain, and the other while at a job I disliked, where I literally couldn't walk anymore. Seeking help, I went to the clinic, but since my body didn't exhibit obvious symptoms according to medical literature, I was sent back home.
Before then, I had been referred from one doctor to the next: from the dermatologist to the neurologist, who did not have the equipment to look at the capillaries in the extremities. They then referred me to another neurologist, back to a dermatologist, and so on.
Eventually, after consulting a doctor I knew, I was referred to a rheumatologist.
They conducted various blood tests, all of which came back normal, a common occurrence in autoimmune cases. I made the decision to quit my job, realizing the need for more rest. Over the previous years, I had chosen a busy life, flying globally as an executive manager of a non-profit organization, starting health and kinesiology studies, and stressing over academic excellence. As I focused on catching up on sleep and adopting a more relaxed approach to my studies, my symptoms significantly reduced.
I remember the rheumatologist being baffled by the lab reports, contemplating sending me to a cardiologist. While she looked at her screen, I asked, "Could stress have an effect on the body like that?" She turned around, looked at me seriously, and affirmed that stress indeed plays a big role in health and disease.
During the lockdown, I had been very lonely, working a job I disliked to fund my schooling and taking my studies a notch too seriously. As I started catching up on sleep and reconnecting with family, things improved.
So, it's clear that stress is a significant contributor to autoimmune disorders, but the story doesn't end there.
What about gut health?
As a health coach, my curiosity about the gut grew, leading me to request a gut expert to be my mentor, Emma Lane, the director of Parasite Testing Europe Ltd. Throughout the mentorship, I discovered that I had been suffering from irritable bowel syndrome since a severe food poisoning incident while traveling. Testing for Candida and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) revealed a negative result for Candida and a positive result for SIBO. My mentor, Emma, guided me through a SIBO protocol, helping me make dietary adjustments to starve the bacteria and reduce inflammation in the gut. As a result, my autoimmune symptoms diminished.
Here I was, treating my SIBO, and suddenly, my autoimmune issues diminished as well. Continuing the protocol also improved my mental clarity.
It appears that my autoimmune disorder was triggered by inflammation in my gut and overall stress in my life, such as working jobs I disliked to fund my schooling I stressed over. Loneliness and stress have a severe effect on the body, and our gut health mirrors our overall well-being.
As of 2024, many medical doctors do not want to hear that their patients' pain and disease may be due to gut inflammation. I believe that in the years to come diet and lifestyle habits will become the fundamental building block of a new healthcare system.
To learn more about what I wished I knew before attempting a SIBO protocol, check out my latest blog post SIBO essentials to consider before attempting treatment