Autoimmune Disease – Symptoms of the “Hidden Epidemic”
An estimated 50 million people in the US alone have some form of autoimmunity. For many, the symptoms of autoimmune disease are not always textbook. They can start small, last for years, and subtly grow into major health issues. Because they don’t always follow a clear path, many people go to the doctor with a plethora of vague problems that don’t quite match what the doctor was taught in medical school.
Another problem surrounding autoimmune illness is that medical training to understand how autoimmune symptoms can cross over to multiple organs and systems is not emphasized. Medical experts typically hyper specialize in either one organ, or one system; therefor, they do not recognize that the multitude of health issues a person might be having can all be related or tied into an autoimmune process.
Autoimmune Disease Can Be A Silent Killer
Many autoimmune diseases start with small symptoms that can insidiously grow and morph into more small symptoms. This can happen for decades before the problems have done enough damage to send you into a doctor’s office to get a definitive diagnosis. That means you could have years of accumulated inflammatory damage before learning that your body has been silently attacking itself. The following video breaks down that top 7 symptoms of autoimmune disease that often go missed leading to years of unnecessary suffering…
What are the Hidden Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
Symptoms of autoimmune disease are not always cut and dry. A common pattern is that the symptoms start small and get worse with time. They don’t usually have an obvious cause or trigger. They are often times blamed on the aging process, family history, or the favorite excuse of doctors when they don’t have an answer – stress. So the question is – “What are the hidden symptoms of autoimmune disease that could indicate that you are developing an AI related illness?”
- Muscle and Joint Pain – Aches, pains, stiffness, tightness, and proneness to injury with even light activity can be a silent and slow working AI process. People that suffer with these symptoms cannot link the onset of pain to any injury or traumatic event. They simply have a history of slow, progressive musculoskeletal issues. Early on, these people often make attempts at exercise and physical activity only to find that it becomes harder and harder. As the symptoms progress, these individuals find that they put on more weight, often retain water, and become extremely prone to injuring themselves with minimal activity. Often times, these people experience pains that migrate from one area of the body to another with no rhyme or reason. This migrating pain can worsen into swelling, redness, and stiffness in muscles and joints leading to a complete avoidance of physical activity for fear of more pain. The visit to the doctor will commonly lead to a prescription or over the counter pain medication that targets the issue by blocking inflammation. Pain medication use becomes more frequent with time, but is accepted because these people are typically told that there pain is normal, or that they are just getting older. As they spend years chemically masking there pain, the underlying AI process only grows and gets worse, leading to greater problems. For more information on this problem, see “The Prescription Pain Trap”. Some of the AI diseases related to this group of symptoms are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, migratory arthritis, reactive arthritis, dermatomyositis, myalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and scleroderma.
- Fatigue and Brain Fog – You wake up tired, push through your day feeling tired, and trying to concentrate or remember small tasks becomes more and more overwhelming. These individuals will often gravitate toward self-medicating with caffeine – usually in the form of coffee or high caffeine teas. Initially, the caffeine is helpful at stimulating morning energy levels and boosting afternoon energy. But the paradox of too much caffeine is that it can cause B-vitamin and magnesium deficiency. Because these nutrients are needed by the body to produce energy, the fatigue persists and in time worsens. Caffeine also disrupts the sleep cycle, so these individuals often have a hard time going to sleep at night. And when their rest is compromised, their ability to recover is stifled, and the fatigue becomes even more progressive. A visit to the doctor might lead to prescription medication for ADD or medication for thyroid disease. And although these drugs can sometimes improve the symptoms, they don’t resolve the underlying autoimmune process. These individuals will often end up confined to bed for most of the day, and when they try to get out of bed, they pay for it with overwhelming exhaustion for days afterward. Some AI diseases linked to this category of symptoms are, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism), autoimmune gastritis that causes anemia, pernicious anemia, type I diabetes, Addison’s disease, silent celiac, and myocarditis.
- Anemia of Unknown Causes – Much like #2, anemia can contribute to severe fatigue. The fatigue of anemia is often times described as relentless fatigue that is not improved with rest. It is coupled with the symptoms of shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains, cold intolerance, exercise intolerance, anxiety, and proneness to passing out. Because there are different types of anemia (iron deficiency, B-vitamin deficiency anemia, hemolytic anemia, etc), the symptoms can overlap as well. For example, B-vitamin deficiency anemia can cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet as well as nerve pain. Iron deficiency anemia can cause cold intolerance. People who fit these symptoms typically have a history of recurring anemias. For example, they go to the doctor and find out their iron levels are low. After a blood transfusion, they feel great for a time. But the anemia comes back, and know one asks why. So they go through this cycle never learning that they actually have an autoimmune illness. Examples of AI disease that can cause anemia are celiac disease, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, multiple sclerosis, pernicious anemia, and gastritis. It is important to know that anemia can also be caused by taking medication that block stomach acid. You need acid to absorb both iron and B-vitamins. So this category often has cross over with #7. Because B-12 deficiency can also cause neuropathy, it is also common to see symptom cross over with #4 on this list.
- Neuropathy – One of the most common symptoms of autoimmune disease. Nerve damage can manifest in many different ways. Physical manifestations can include numbness and tingling in the extremities, nerve pain, stabbing or shooting pain into the arms and legs, muscle weakness, muscle loss, and hypersensitivity to touch. Neuropathy can also effect the brain and spinal cord and muscles. Symptoms can manifest as dizziness, brain fog, vertigo, poor coordination, and ringing in the ears. This category commonly has overlap with #1, #2, and #3. AI nerve damage will also effect the gut leading to irritable bowel and in very bad cases, gastroparesis. There are a number of research studies that link gluten and dairy consumption to AI nerve damage. Examples of AI diseases of the nervous system include, multiple sclerosis, GBS, cerebellar ataxia, dynautonomia (reflex sympathetic dystrophy), ALS, Restless Leg Syndrome, transverse myelitis, polyneuropathy, and gastroparesis.
- Cold Intolerance – Cold intolerance is a common symptom that can indicate an autoimmune problem. A form of autoimmunity called Raynaud’s disease can contribute to cold intolerance. So can hypothyroidism. Anemia can also cause this symptom.
- Intermittent Low Grade Fevers – The body uses fever to help combat infection and sometimes to fight food allergy. Many who have this symptom also have swollen lymph nodes in the neck or throat. As infection and food allergies are both major triggers for autoimmune disease, low grade fevers without a known origin should be investigated further. Keep in mind that not all infections are obvious. Some of them are more chronic nature.
- Gut Problems – Gut problems are one of the most common symptoms of autoimmune disease. Gut symptoms often indicate intestinal hyper-permeability (Leaky Gut). Leaky gut is a trigger for autoimmune symptoms. Acid reflux, intestinal bloating, cramping, and pain are all common signs that this is happening. Additionally constipation, diarrhea, and frequent blood in the stool can be autoimmune symptoms. Damage to the gut is often a result of food allergies, intolerances, and exposure to harmful chemicals (pesticides, chlorine, etc). Many medications can also contribute to gut problems. So if you are taking medications, make sure you cross reference your medicines with side effects associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction. Ask your doctor to rule out food allergies and gluten sensitivity.
Did you have a list of vague symptoms before you were diagnosed with autoimmune disease? What were they? Share below…
Always looking out for you,
Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior