How to Stop Attacking Yourself: 9 Steps to Heal Autoimmune Disease.

Via on Aug 5, 2014

Mark Hyman

Editor’s Note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. For serious.

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Inflammation is a “hot” topic in medicine.

It appears connected to almost every known chronic disease—from heart disease to cancer, diabetes to obesity, autism to dementia, and even depression.

Other inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune disease are increasing at dramatic rates. As physicians we are trained to shut off inflammation with aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Motrin, steroids, and increasingly more powerful immune suppressing medication with serious side effects.

But we are not trained to find and treat the underlying causes of inflammation in chronic disease. Hidden allergens, infections, environmental toxins, an inflammatory diet, and stress are the real causes of these inflammatory conditions.

Autoimmune diseases, specifically, now affect 24 million people and include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.

These are often addressed by powerful immune suppressing medication and not by addressing the cause. That’s like taking a lot of aspirin while you are standing on a tack. The treatment is not more aspirin or a strong immune suppressant, but removing the tack.

If you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Treat the fire, not the smoke. In medicine we are mostly taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, not by their underlying cause.

Functional medicine, the emerging 21st century paradigm of systems medicine, teaches us to treat the cause, not only the symptoms, to ask the question why are you sick, not only what disease do you have.

I recently participated in a group discussion with a conventional doctor, a rheumatologist, and patient with an autoimmune disease, and one of my patients who was cured of a complex autoimmune disease by addressing the causes.

The focus of the other doctors, however, was on how to suppress the inflammation with medication, not finding and treating the cause. Functional medicine is a different way of thinking about disease that helps us understand and treat the real causes of inflammation instead of finding clever ways to shut it down. Medicine as it is practiced today is like taking the battery out of a smoke detector while a fire burns down your house!

Autoimmune conditions are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.

When my patient described how he cured his autoimmune disease by finding and eliminating the causes of inflammation in his diet and environment, it was dismissed as a “spontaneous remission.” In the face of a paradigm-shattering medical case, these doctors were hardly curious and quickly dismissive, describing what was shared as anecdotal.

My patient on that panel, a hard-working 46-year old father of three, was once so inflamed he could barely function. By treating the underlying causes of his inflammation he is now in vibrant good health, enjoying his life with his kids and fully capable of caring for them.

Stories like these (and the many others I have shared in my blogs, books, and on television) are not anecdotes but a giant compass pointing us in the direction we should be looking to find answers to our health problems.

In today’s blog, I will explain what autoimmunity is, how inflammation spirals out of control, describe some of the underlying causes for these fires in the body, and provide you with nine steps to cool the fires of inflammation and overcome conditions that range from allergies to arthritis and more.

lust naked love body skin self girl

Autoimmunity: What it is and How it Occurs

We are facing an epidemic of allergic (60 million people), asthmatic (30 million people), and autoimmune disorders (24 million people). Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, celiac disease, thyroid disease, and the many other hard-to-classify syndromes in the 21st century.

These are all autoimmune conditions, and at their root they are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.

Your immune system is your defense against invaders. It is your internal army and has to clearly distinguish friend from foe—to know you from others. Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system gets confused and your own tissues get caught in friendly cross-fire.

Your body is fighting something—an infection, a toxin, an allergen, a food or the stress response—and somehow it redirects its hostile attack on your joints, your brain, your thyroid, your gut, your skin, or sometimes your whole body.

This immune confusion results from what is referred to as molecular mimicry. Conventional approaches don’t have a method for finding the insult causing the problem. Functional medicine provides a map to find out which molecule the cells are mimicking.

Interestingly, autoimmune disorders occur almost exclusively in developed countries. People in poor nations without modern amenities like running water, flush toilets, washing machines, and sterile backyards don’t get these diseases.

If you grew up on a farm with lots of animals, you are also less likely to have any of these inflammatory disorders. Playing in the dirt, being dirty, and being exposed to bugs and infections trains your immune system to recognize what is foreign and what is “you.”

In this country, autoimmune diseases, when taken all together, are a huge health burden. They are the eighth leading cause of death among women, shortening the average patient’s lifespan by eight years. The annual health care cost for autoimmune diseases is $120 billion a year representing nearly twice the economic health care burden of cancer (about $ 70 billion a year). (i)

Unfortunately, many of the conventional treatments available can make you feel worse. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, steroids, immune suppressants like methotrexate, and the new TNF-alpha blockers like Enbrel or Remicade can lead to intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, depression, psychosis, osteoporosis, muscle loss, and diabetes, not to mention overwhelming infection and cancer.(ii)

When used selectively these drugs can help people get their lives back. But they are not a long-term solution. They shouldn’t be the end of treatment, but a bridge to cool off inflammation while we treat the root cause of the disease.

There is another way to deal with autoimmune conditions. Let me share the same story I told the doctors on that panel.

Recovering from Autoimmunity: Addressing the Root Causes of Inflammation

My patient Sam ended up on a long misadventure through the medical system before he came to see me. For years he went from doctor to doctor getting all kinds of labels for his problems but no real help in treating them.

This hard-working, once healthy trade professional had suddenly developed a series of inflammatory conditions including chronic sinus and prostate infections. Many doctors gave him many antibiotics for these infections.

Shortly thereafter, he developed severe chest pains and went to the emergency room. While he was there, doctors found swollen lymph nodes and told him he had lymphoma, a form of cancer. For three weeks he lived in despair until the biopsy results came back. It turned out he didn’t have cancer but an autoimmune disease. Which autoimmune disease? The doctors weren’t quite sure…

He had many abnormal blood test results—like low white blood cell and platelet counts, high levels of auto-antibodies of all types (antibodies that attack our own tissues), high immunoglobulins (the foot soldiers of the immune system), and autoimmune thyroid disease. But doctors had a hard time putting their finger on what was wrong. They couldn’t label him.

Meanwhile, Sam developed metabolic syndrome and weight gain (pre-diabetes) as a result of the runaway inflammation in his body.

Here is a quote from one his specialist’s notes:

“Whether he has lupus or Sjogren’s syndrome is a bit unclear. Regardless, he merely needs observation and no therapeutic intervention at this time.”

This unfortunately is all too common. What exactly did they plan to observe, how bad he felt? Or would they just wait for him to get worse before intervening?

That’s when he came to me. Using a functional medicine approach, a new way of thinking about the underlying causes and imbalances in chronic disease, I began by asking Sam some simple questions. Then I went hunting for toxins, allergens, and infections—all common causes of inflammation—and found the real causes of his symptoms.

He had taken so many antibiotics that altered his gut flora or bacteria and promoted yeast overgrowth. Fungus and yeast flourished in his body, growing between his toes, on his toenails, in his crotch, and scalp. He had Helicobacter pylori bacteria in his gut. He had a leaky gut and reacted to many foods, including dairy and gluten. He was exposed to toxins at his job and had high levels of mercury. And he had chronic sinus infections.

So we went to work cleaning house. I treated his yeast with anti-fungals and the H. pylori with antibiotics, got rid of his food allergies, fixed his gut, detoxified him from metals and cleaned up his sinuses.

Then I helped heal his immune system by supporting it with nutrients. I gave him zinc, fish oil, vitamin D, herbs, and probiotics, and put him on a clean, whole-foods, allergen-free, anti-inflammatory diet.

At his next follow-up visit, I asked Sam how he was doing, expecting him to say that he felt a little better. However, his response surprised even me. He said he felt fine.

“What about the fatigue?” I asked.

“I have great energy.”

“What about the bloating and gas?”

“Nope.”

“What about the reflux?”

“Gone.”

“What about your sinuses and chronic phlegm?”

“All clear.”

“What about your memory and concentration problems?”

“All better.”

And he lost 15 pounds.

When his labs came in, they confirmed what he told me—they were all back to normal. His white cells increased and his immune markers calmed way down.

Sam’s results simply reflect the application of a new model of thinking about problems called functional medicine—it’s a way to get to the root of health problems and treat the underlying causes of what ails you instead of suppressing symptoms with medications.

If you have an autoimmune disease, here is what you need to think about and do.

Nine Steps to Treating Autoimmune Disease

1. Check for hidden infections—yeast, viruses, bacteria, Lyme, etc.—with the help of a doctor, and treat them.

2. Check for hidden food allergens with IgG food testing or just try The UltraSimple Diet, which is designed to eliminate most food allergens.

3. Get tested for celiac disease, which is a blood test that any doctor can do.

4. Get checked for heavy metal toxicity. Mercury and other metals can cause autoimmunity.

5. Fix your gut. For details, see my blog on irritable bowel syndrome.

6. Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally.

7. Exercise regularly—it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.

8. Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.

9. Tell your doctor about Functional Medicine and encourage him or her to get trained—go to functionalmedicine.org for more information and to get a copy of the Textbook for Functional Medicine.

Give these steps a try—and see if you don’t start feeling less inflamed. As I said earlier, the answers are right in front of you. Treat the underlying causes of your illness and you will begin to experience vibrant health once more.

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Have you been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease?

How is your doctor treating you?

Have you been frustrated by the medical advice that you’ve been given?

What steps have you taken to get to the root of the problem, and what have your results been?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

Inflammation

 

References

(i) Nakazawa, D. (2008). The Autoimmune Epidemic. Simon & Schuster. New York.

(ii) Siegel, C.A., Marden, S.M., Persing, S.M., et al. (2009). Risk of lymphoma associated with combination anti-tumor necrosis factor and immunomodulator therapy for the treatment of Crohn’s disease: a meta-analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 7(8): 874-81.

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Relephant:

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How to Reboot & Stop Feeling Like Crap 

Bonus: Interiews with Dr. Mark Hyman:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

 

And The 3-Season Diet—How & Why to Eat Ayurvedically: 

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Author: Dr. Mark Hyman

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Author’s Own, Pixoto

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About Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, M.D. believes that every individual deserves a life of vitality—and that they have the potential to create it for themselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. Dr. Mark and his team work every day to empower people, organizations and communities to heal their bodies and minds, and improve our social and economic resilience.

Dr. Mark is a practicing family physician, a six-time #1 New York Times bestselling author and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator and advocate in his field. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post and a regular medical contributor on Katie Couric’s TV show, Katie.

To achieve his mission of transforming healthcare, Dr. Mark works with individuals and organizations, as well as policy makers and influencers. He has testified before both the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and before the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine. He has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention, and participated in the 2009 White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa also nominated Dr. Mark for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative and Public Health. In addition, he has worked with President Clinton, presenting at the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters, Achieving Wellness in Every Generation conference, as well as the Clinton Global Initiative.

Dr. Mark also works with fellow leaders in his field to help people and communities thrive—he co-created The Daniel Plan with Rick Warren, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Daniel Amen, a faith-based initiative that helped The Saddleback Church collectively lose 250,000 pounds. He has appeared as an advisor on The Dr. Oz Show, and is also on the Board of Dr. Oz’s HealthCorps, which tackles the obesity epidemic by educating the American student body about nutrition. With Drs. Dean Ornish and Michael Roizen, Dr. Mark crafted and helped introduce the Take Back Your Health Act of 2009 to the United States Senate to provide for reimbursement of lifestyle treatment of chronic disease.

Join Dr. Mark on his path to revolutionize the way we think about and take care of our health and our societies by following along and chiming in online through his website, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @markhymanmd.

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177 Responses to “How to Stop Attacking Yourself: 9 Steps to Heal Autoimmune Disease.”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 11. Then I was diagnosed with type one diabetes at age 12. I have been on insulin therapy since day one. I have been on thyroid pills since I was diagnosed, minus when I was pregnant and the following year. I was diagnosed with celiac disease about 1 1/2 years ago. I am now on a gluten free diet. I still have bloating issues, but feel somewhat better since cutting out gluten. I have tendonosis in my hip and knee and have had multiple injections to try and help that. I haven’t been able to find a doctor that wants to find out what is going on with my body. So far, everyone wants to treat symptoms. Very frustrating.

  2. Marjo says:

    You're wrong about people who played in dirt on farms growing up and their bodies not attacking itself. My family were all farmers in Minnesota and they passed a plethora of autoimmune diseases down to all the kids who also lived on and off the farms. We have RA, Addison's, COPD, Hashimoto's, CFS, fibromyalgia and who knows what else in our family, widespread. I don't think immunity to soil organisms has a thing to do with it.

  3. Henry says:

    You are looking at the triggers of inflammation, but not the root problem. I was diagnosed at age 4 with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune-induced disorder leading to severe hypothyroidism. That was 59 years ago. In that time since I have had to work through severe allergies to many different allergens from such things as, foods, medications, environmental, clothing, etc. I was officially diagnosed with SLE 20 years ago, as well as since then also Celiac disease, Raynaud's, Sojgrens, Type-I diabetes, peripheral neuropathies, pulmonary fibrosis, to name but a few. My major problem is inflammation resulting from one or more of the aforementioned triggers. Two additional things exacerbate the problem, cold and stress. The cold constricts the diameter of the vessels in the capillary beds making it next to impossible for the antigen-antibody-complement complex to flow through. The complexes get stuck, cause localized vascular necrosis, resulting in death of surrounding tissues which in turn stimulates a continued inflammatory response. This flare/crisis continues until it finally burns itself out. The missing tissue is then replaced with nonfunctional scar tissue and the.organs slowly lose their function.

    I agree that one can lessen the disease by identifying the triggers and staying away from them. But one is never safe following that route. To be truly safe one needs to replace the hyperactive immune system with agents that are.missing. In my case I am missing the enzymes necessary to degrade nuclear material (DNA, RNA, histone proteins) to their smallest forms for removal. The body senses that the intermediate forms of this material is foreign and mounts an attack against resulting in a flare. My method of "treatment " was/is to receive multiple stem cell transplants. While my own stem cells were good, stem cells from people without the disease are even better. And you do not have to kill your immune system to replace it with another. Just add the stem cells with normal genes to the existing system. In that respect you get the best of all possible worlds, a hyperactive immune system that will wipe out bacteria, viruses and cancer cells before they have a chance to do harm and normal agents released during the inflammatory response to nullify antibodies to yourself. Before my first transplant I was SLE Stage-IV, two weeks terminal with every "-itis" immaginable. That was almost 4 years and 10 stem cell transplants ago. While my treatments have not been a "cure" for the diseases they have given me a better quality of life. And I have lost most of my allergies, Celiac disease being one of them.

  4. Wendy says:

    Thank you for this article. I am 38 and have Vitiligo since I was 3 years old and a chronic sinus problem for 20 years (it's the same in any state and any season). I'll try going through your 9 steps. I suspect sinus is food related but I have a difficult time being disciplined with the elimination diet.
    I just need to commit. I had all my blood work done recently and it was really good. I know the Vitiligo is a much more complex issue but it would be interesting if a holistic approach could at least cause some re-pigmentation.

    Anyway, thank you.

  5. Kris says:

    As a 'scleroderma' diagnosed 'patient' and given 8 years to live, I could not believe the quantity of meds the medical world shoved on me. At one point? 14 prescribed meds/day. About 4 years into this circus…..I had enough! The side effects were so bad, I would rather have been dead! Research, chiropractic care and a change in eating changed my life! This was an exceptional article that described to the 'T' what happened to me. With more holistic & focused efforts, I am 15 years beyond my original diagnosis! Praise God and praise people like you who expose auto immune disease for what it is…..a money maker for the medical & pharmaceutical worlds.

  6. Wendy says:

    I started losing patches of hair after the birth of my second daughter, I was 35. I had blood drawn and was told everything was normal but that I have Alopecia. For the past three years in the fall my hair starts falling out. I receive steroid injections monthly and use a lotion on my scalp as well. Hair begins to grow back but in fall it starts all over. This year is the worst it has been and half of my hair is now missing. It's devastating. I am a very healthy person and exercise every day. I eat very week and am of good weight and body fat composition. I also have had a huge increase in my migraines which can be deliberating.
    I am desperate to find help. Reading this article has given me hope and I welcome any more info or ideas.
    I just don't believe that I have to suffer from this. Something is off balance in my body and I am hoping to find a doctor that will help me not just dismiss me.

  7. Susan says:

    Our daughter got PANDAS disease at age 6 1/2. Essentially, she got a case of strep throat and her immune system attacked her brain, causing sudden onset OCD, Anorexic behavior, hallucinations, rages, loss of creativity…the doctors said their “best guess” was to treat it like rheumatic fever, with antibiotics every day until she’s 18 or 21. We felt led a different direction. We knocked out the strep with 3 weeks of antibiotics, then we started a different route. We had huge success with Camel Milk (the poor man’s IVIG), and then when we switched to Donkey Milk she said “I love you Daddy” for the first time since onset months before. We also switched to the Autoimmune Paleo diet, and do epsom salt baths regularly. Our story and more info here, hope it can bless someone else struggling with autoimmune disease! https://buttercupfarm.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/tr

  8. Summer kiser says:

    This article pretty much describes my frustrating medical journey. I have been dealing with autoimmune problems for years with no real diagnosis. My tests are all inconclusive. The pain and loss of strength got so bad that I had to quit teaching yoga and scale my own practice back to mostly just restorative and Self Awakening Yoga. I have been on so many different meds with no help and am currently working on getting off everything to reset my body. The scary thing is that my mom has been dealing with the same issues and no diagnosis for almost 40 years and now my 13 year old daughter is starting to go through testing for similar issues. I pray that more physicians expand their training and insight so that we can get help and live a happier healthier life.

  9. Diane Nagle says:

    I came down with RA at the age of 39 while in a stressful marriage. I am now 64. After many failed treatments I was put on Remicade in 1999. Last year I started getting constant infections, staph, bladder, ear, etc and was taken off the Remicade. Changed my RA Dr and now am having terrible flare ups which I am now being treated with Nsaids, Prednizone and methotrexate. Just started these yesterday. I became lactose intolerant about 2 yrs ago. I would love to find a way to help myself heal enough to remove these medications and get more healthy. Loved your article and plan to see my PCP Dr tomorrow with a list of your suggestions. Hope he is open to this.

  10. Lyn Rozier says:

    Wow!
    I was diagnosed with RA 22 years ago aged 37.
    I couldn’t move, I was in pain in every single part of my body, I ached, I hurt, I cried, I was fatigued and it happened within the space of a few months. First some stiffness in one finger…then, well the rest is history. My then GP was brilliant, he advocated rest and a change in diet, he gave me anti inflammatories as a low dose and warned me off the usual strong drugs. I live in the UK and found someone who had promoted a healthier lifestyle and diet to push RA right back into remission (non existence!), she’d suffered from the disease herself and being medically trained she set about devising this cure. I can’t tell you the amount of ridicule I encountered -from people who have the disease themselves mainly!!!! But within 12-18 months I was without symptoms and any of the previous pain. I was in short, back to the person I used to be.
    Prior to falling ill I’d been a dancer, I was fit and strong and very healthy (though prone to migraines) so the RA was a complete surprise. However after a brilliant 16 years or so stuff started to change, personally that is. My marriage was falling apart and all sorts of stressors came back..culminating in divorce, the loss of my dad and a very close young friend….and possibly a spell of the worst eating habits ever. High carbs, high sugar and so on and of course the RA came back with a vengeance. I was told that the disease always comes back, that I’ll never be free of it and what happened previously was just luck or spontaneous remission! I’m sad to say that I’m now on pain meds, anti inflammatories and enbrel. Initially I’d been put on DMARDS and had horrific problems, from my hair falling out to feeling suicidal….I was taken off those and given anti TNF therapy. I’m doing fine….but after recent surgery have got myself back into the healthy eating and am feeling that the way forward is to kick these drugs out of my system and go back to what I know works. Whilst I was off them prior to and immediately after surgery I had no signs of any RA activity.
    Thanks for highlighting this, people are still cynical about using diet to help and doctors generally even more so.
    I’m always astounded that we do not see the connection with what we put into our bodies affecting us health wise.
    I really hope the approach to auto immune treatment changes as pumping these toxins into our bodies cannot be the way forward.
    There’s big money in sickness…they don’t really want us well it seems!

    • Wagner says:

      Hey Lyn,
      I was diagnosed with hashimoto’s (autoimmune) 4 years ago and haven t found a good functional practitioner yet. I’ve seen you live in the Uk and are happy with your practitioner. Do you nlive in London? Can you share the name of the doctor you’re seeing? Thanks a lot!

  11. Bonnie says:

    I have been diagnosed with IBS because all my tests (blood work, CT scans, ultrasounds, X-rays, MRI, GI testing, Gallbladder test, Uria Breath test, colonoscopy, endoscopy, ) you name it I have had it… and the all came back "NORMAL" but I get this FIST & Pain in my mid ab which sometimes spreads to my right side & back & sometimes left side an back. I have tried cutting Gluten, Dairy, sugar from my diet. A natural path put my on bacteria killers & 250B probiotics. I am now on FODMAP and GI med's but nothing seems to be working. This has been going on for 10 years & the last 6 months have been the worst as it is not going away, when normally it comes & goes a month or so long. What the heck is this?

    • Cheryl says:

      I have similar symptoms. I was diagnosed with eosiniphilic esophagitis/gastroenteritis. An auto immune disease. Ask your GI about it. They have to take a biopsy to diagnose it.

  12. RonCrew says:

    I have had Lyme ,and in August of 2014 was treated for rocky mountain spotted fever ,which has been cured ? I have bad headaches ,and fatque ,I keep getting upper respiratory crude and have had a rash that come and goes ,for over three years .I have seen infectious disease ,Dr ,and neurologist, and pulmonary Dr , the drs say I am an unusual case ,blood test show different signs of immune problem. I have no infections,h I v ,or Lupe’s or m s or venerial disease ,I have an appoint for rhemotolgist, and immune allergists, I never seem to get rid of one thing when another problem comes around. I am allergic, to a lot of out door stuff ,and have been tested for that. I do smoke ,and have epidurials ,for seven blown discs .

  13. Karen craig says:

    I have an Ana of 1:640 and my doctor said it was “alarming”. She sent me to a rheumatologist who agreed -but both doctors said the same thing to me as they did with the gentleman in your story-just sit and wait for something to happen. I have several symptoms-but non that have really affected me yet. But-I do feel sort of like a ticking time bomb.

  14. Madeline Corey-Thomas says:

    I take immune suppressant medications due to a kidney transplant . I had the transplant in 2004. I am now experiencing allergies to pollen and dust as well a sinus condition . A couple of weeks ado I had two dental appointments with a week in between . I had to premeditated for both with antibiotics. My digestive system is destroyed . My stomach rumbles constantly and I belch with out let up. Can you please give me some advice ?

  15. Lisa says:

    Wow. What a bunch of lies and bull in this post and I hope anyone suffering from any disease or condition looks for other opinions and takes the time to thoroughly research their condition and any treatments they may engage in. That being said, I've lived with lupus since before I was even a teenager. My knees would swell to the point that I would be unable to walk and would need to have them drained. I've suffered with debilitating headaches, nausea and vomiting, chronic infections, weight loss, weight gain, skin problems, organs swelling, broken bones, hair loss, chronic fatigue, fevers, depression, anxiety. I can't take any anti-inflammatory or lupus medications after a certain prescription ate holes in my stomach and caused ulcers and GERD and I've almost died from blood loss. I've had kidney stones since I was 11 or so that cannot be removed and form faster than I can pass them. I've passed over forty and the last CT scan two years ago showed nine. I have bunions and other bone and cartilage deformities. And I can tell you right now I've tried all kinds of diets, supplements, medications and nothing has worked or made any difference for me. And I lived a healthy and active childhood, playing outside exposed to all kinds of germs and whatnot. I've tried these suggestions and I'm far from cured. So you know how I deal with so many awful conditions? I live my life. I avoid things that I know are triggers, such as being in the sun, weather changes, over activity, tanning beds, exhaustion for Lupus. Medications, orange juice, caffeine, pickles, acids for the ulcers. Or grapes and being dehydrated for the kidney stones. I manage my stress levels and changed my way of thinking so I don't become stressed out and overwhelmed and learned to live in the moment and take each day as it comes. I eat fairly healthily but don't follow any specific diet. I don't go out of my way to read labels or avoid GMO's or eat organic. I can't say I exercise the way I should by any means although I have dogs and keeping up with them and the walks we do take are probably adequate. I keep a good relationship with my doctors and care team. I avoid any more X-rays, ultrasounds or CT scans because I've been overexposed to the point I should have super powers and they aren't really needed knowing what my disabilities are. And since I've given up the diets, medications (other than painkillers when needed), and stress I don't have nearly as many lupus flare ups or stone attacks. By accepting this is now my life and recognizing I can't do anything to change it, while enriching everything I care about and the things I can control, I can say I'm a much happier and content person. I still have days that I wake up and can't walk, I still have to watch what I ingest for fear of ulcers bleeding out, and I have insomnia pretty much every night but I'm happy. I look the best I ever have, I'm at a healthy weight, the days sick are down to a minimum, and I take those days to pamper myself and don't feel guilty about it. I allow myself to feel the anger and outrage that I'm only 28 and classified as disabled when I need to, but I won't dwell on it. The pain and infections have gone down incredibly. Even the fatigue and vomiting are pretty much under control. My mind is clear and I have systems in place to deal with the bad when it happens. Such as taking naps, hot baths, someone to walk the dogs for me, people to call or come over and wake me up if I have appointments during the day that I just can't reschedule for a later time, a parking pass for disabled parking should I need it. It's all about attitude and learning about what works best for you, compromise, and not giving up. I'm grateful for the good days and that my diseases aren't terminal. I learn everything I can about my conditions but I take any advice with a grain of salt. Only I know my body, broken as it may be, so I know what works and what doesn't to maximize my existence. It's entirely possible to have too many vitamins or supplements in your system that would cause adverse affects. Becoming a vegetarian could be a massive shock to your system and would cause a lot of health problems if you weren't careful to supplement the nutrients lost from that diet. The body cannot absorb calcium supplements naturally and ingesting them really doesn't do much good at all. Making money off the suffering of others is big business, and there are way too any snakes out there looking to exploit it. Only take advice from a trusted source and only after you've researched it inside and out, I can't stress this enough! Good luck to you all, I wouldn't wish our daily trials on anyone but you aren't alone in it!

  16. zudzzz says:

    My father was diagnosed with multiple blocks in arteries and was asked to rush for bypass surgery by more than half a dozen doctors.But one cardiologist after enquiring the details from him found that his capillaries are strongly supporting him ,as he found him at ease climbing 100 steps at one strtch and climbing mountain with no fatigue. He treated him on meicine and change in life style, deep breathing exercise and meditation. It is now over 15 years and he is 69 .By God's grace, he is as active as ever.

  17. Barbara says:

    I’m currently in Nursing school (LPN) and, having studied Ayurveda for 6 months, was excited to find we are studying not just nutritional therapies but also discuss yoga, meditation and herbal therapies. We need to keep the discussion going with great articles like this one. Thank You.

  18. Krystin says:

    I was diagnosed with scleroderma in 2003 which caused the skin on my legs to harden and tighten leaving me in constant pain. I was directed by various doctors to have PUVA treatments (light therapy) which was basically a mild form of radiation therapy increasing my chances of skin cancer and leaving me nauseous all the time. After a year of this I decided to stop and looked I to holistic medicine. I sought the help of Tulsi Holistic Center in Georgetown DC where I was put on an anti inflammatory diet, given various vitamins to take, acupuncture and required yoga/meditation practice and eliminating various stressors. Within a few weeks I felt like a new person and my symptoms of the Scleroderma begain to disappear. I am huge supporter of alternative medicine and can vouche for it first hand. I do have to say it is expensive and hard but very worth it.

  19. sheri says:

    Diagnosed 7 weeks ago with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. Fatigue, pain in hands, dry mouth, skin, eyes, hair loss. I've seen a rheumatologist for about 5 minutes, then 2 appts with a nurse practitioner. Supposed to see dr again after 3 months on plaquenil but he had to reschedule and will now see the nurse practitioner. I want to get to the cause of this and not just treat the symptoms. I have taken gluten out of my diet but other than losing about 7 lbs, I haven't seen much change. Should I change drs, change diet, or just be patient with the prescribed drug?

  20. scarlettpearlsnow says:

    ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS – I take sulfasalazine. I have the genetic marker: HLA-B27. I really need more exercise which I plan on when I move back to where it is warm from NY. I feel stable but not good. Always feel foggy and achy. I take Vitamin D, probiotics, shots for allergies, meds for high blood pressure and cholesterol (again genetics). Previously had 5 sinus surgeries (not yeast related). I’m 5’4″, 135 lbs. I eat fairly clean and low or no salt added. I get aggravated watching people eat crap but have no health issues (yet). LOL

  21. Susan Lide says:

    I was diagnosed with auto immune disease, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, about 6 years ago. I am a stage 3. I suspect I have had it several years prior to diagnosis. I recently was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and have concluded treatment. Due to my PBC, my body does not process the same as others. I also have many allergies and asthma. I take allergy injections and take about 12 different pills daily, in addition to a Tears Hydrate and Calcium Citrate with D. I want to get off this tremendous amount of education. I have not found a functional medicine doctor in Oklahoma, but believe they would be such a tremendous help in coordinating my care and help me begin down the path to decreasing these medicines I take daily. I have changed eating patterns…more veggies, no alcohol, no milk, Greek yogurt, plant fusion smoothies and beginning exercise program. I am about 30 pounds overweight. VERY tired of my many doctors who rarely communicate with each other and are not open to alternative/holistic medicine.

  22. Janise Hanusa says:

    I have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I was a very physically active, strong, young for my age, 55 year old that suddenly began to wake up each morning with pretty severe pain in the joints of both my feet, hands fingers, etc. The pain took several hours of activity to dissipate and nothing I had been doing physically the day before would explain a cause for the pain. Then I began to experience a lot of swelling in feet, ankles, and knees that was so painful and debilitating that I couldn’t walk after I had been doing a lot of walking or standing . There were several instances where the pain was so debilitating that I had to be taken to the doctor for pain medication and treatment (steroids) in a wheelchair because I couldn’t walk at all. This typically occurred after doing a lot of activity which I would classify as normal for me. So in fear of the pain it would likely cause, I became less active which caused a lot of weight gain. However, I was still experienced pain and swelling in my joints even though I had reduced my activity. I googled my symptoms and overwhelmingly saw these symptoms were typically associated with rheumatoid arthritis. I scheduled a complete physical and the Dr. confirmed this was likely based on symptoms and extremely high inflammatory markers from blood tests. The Dr. had me on Prednisone (steroid) which did help, but did not stop the symptoms entirely and I was so concerned about the side effects of long term steroid usage I just wanted to get off it. I saw a couple of Rheumatologists, and the idea of taking Methotrexate, was a horrifying prospect to me with all it’s attendant damaging side effects. Eventually we settled on one of the biologics (Enbrel) as a course of treatment. I have been on Enbrel for about 6 months now. I have to say it has been a miracle drug as far as allowing me to return to my normal activity level without having those severe incidents of inflammation and pain. However, recently in the last few months some of the pain and inflammation has returned, particularly in my fingers, not on a debilitating level, but enough to let me know that the Enbrel is not completely stopping the inflammation. I worry that the effect of the biologic is

    wearing off? I am so concerned about permanent joint damage which I understand is caused by the inflammation – my immune system attacking my joints. Thanks for the helpful information you have provided here. My biggest question has always been why a healthy, active, middle aged woman would suddenly, like overnight, develop an autoimmune disease when there is no family history of this disease. I wish more doctors focused on the “Why” trying to focus of the cause of the problem and resolving it, instead of just medicating it. You have given me some things to think about and try. Thank you.

  23. Kim Esler says:

    I was diagnosed with GAVE or watermelon stomach in 2006. Last year I was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis. No stage was given. Prior to PBC diagnosis I went to an alternative Dr who did a blood allergy test. I came back positive to bananas and she said that I had candida. I actually did not believe her, as the itch that I was suffering from came literally from the inside out and nothing I did … changing my diet, drinking lots of water, exercise etc. changed anything. The specialist that diagnosed me with GAVE ordered blood panels for my liver and thus the PBC diagnosis. It was later that summer that I also tested positive for Limited Scleroderma, or CREST. The only medication I am taking at the moment is Ursodiol and Cholesyramine for the itchiness when it gets too bad.

  24. Keith Crosby says:

    Diagnosed with UCTD 9 years ago. Severe pain throughout body. Took prednisone for 4 yrs. Began methotrexate injection .6 ml weekly 6 yrs. ago. Weaned myself from pred. Still have pain wherever pressure is applied for over a few minutes. Sitting, tail hurts, standing, feet hurt, seat belt painful if tight. Still use methotrexate, still hurt. Many Doctors, no help, just drugs. I do try to eat healthy and take all vitamins recommended above. No cure known to man.

  25. Tracy says:

    I was diagnosed with lupus, Sjogren's, Raynauds, and MGUS in 2012 after years of seeking help, and being passed from one doctor to the next. I tale Plaquenil, Nephidipine (whcih usually passes through me undigested), and meloxicam. I am still in constant pain, and deal with debilitating fatigue and dizziness, plus constant gas and bloating. I did not test positive for any food allergies. I have eliminated gluten, nuts, and nightshades as well as drastically reducing my intake of dairy. I take vitamin D3, tumeric, probiotics, hypericum, the list is endless. I avoid toxic chemicals as much as I can, in both my home and the products I use. I just want to feel human again.

  26. Alison Postle-Owen says:

    Found this article fascinating and confirms what I’ve thought for many years. Sadly my rheumatologist consultants do not agree. However, they have been excellent in treating my symptoms ie the swelling, pain and fatigue that goes with RA.
    My history is jeuvanie rheumatoid arthritis. Onset was at about 9yrs old and manifested itself with painful feet, swollen knees and sore thumbs! It wasn’t diagnosed as RA until I was 19! Then treatment was to remove fluid and inject with steroids – which for many years was successful. I was very fit and healthy.
    Problems started following births of my children. Within a few months of each birth I would have a huge flare resulting in being unable to walk. Durring this period following excruciating pain in my jaw and being unable to open my mouth properly the diagnosis of jeuvanile RA was made as the jaw had been eaten away by the disease ( apparently the first joint to be affected in children – last in adults!).
    Then followed the methotrexate along with other drugs alongside. The only drug tolerated was methotrexate but not without it’s side affects and not working ( has to be used for 2yrs and shown not to work before other drugs prescribed) .
    Before moving into anti TNF drugs I did try to ‘sort myself out’ looking at exercise, diet and minimising stress levels – unfortunately I suffered a flare.
    Am now on Enbrol ( 2nd anti TNF tried). It’s early days and does seem to manage the symptoms. The drug is ‘new’ in terms of long term side affects but the heightened risk of diseases such as cancer is not ideal.
    It would be so much better if more research and training was put into looking at the cause of these autoimmune illnesses.
    I have asked for help re diet etc but was told there was no research indicating a consistent link – so ‘no’.
    From my own personal research the Mediterranean diet seems to be the most beneficial for RA sufferers.
    I’m sure sufferers like myself would be more than happy to try the more holistic and logical means to minimise if not eliminate the disease.
    In the meantime like many who have replied, I remain thankful I am not suffering with a terminal illness and that currently medication does manage some of the symptoms.

  27. Sonia says:

    I began having sever headaches on one side of my brain in 2005 that Mysteriously went away after several months; then began having really bad neck, shoulder, arm and hand pains; then my hands began to burn really bad and became so weak that I can no longer write; then my right leg began to hurt so bad to the point where I can barely stand or walk for any extended period… After seeing a dozen doctors I was finally diagnosed with MS, but am not able to take the MS drugs because I have low white blood cells. MS drugs further destroy white blood cells. I welcome any suggestions that could help me get better and reverse this terrible disease.
    Thank you, Sonia

  28. L tomlinson says:

    I was diagnosed with me/cfs 13 years ago, my sister and mother both have SLE. I received no help in the uk from doctors in the uk and spent many months in despair. I was housebound and some days unable to work, i got sick of doctors just prescribing pills to me that often made things worse so i decided to try researching the symptoms and trying to cure myself 4 years ago. I started with a diet to treat my candida symptoms which is actually also an autoimmune disease and it improved my symptoms by 50%, i kept going and tested myself for lymes which came back negative on a uk test but positive on a usa test so i treated myself with a substance advised by an autism writer, this improved my condition by 70%. I then followed a wormer protocol for six months whilst still on the diet and treating the lymes, i also added hyperbaric treatment into the mix anf now i am 95% better. I run, bike and have horses again, i still suffer from multiple allergies and still stick to a lesser version of the diet but i have my life back, my doctor stated its remission but its actually 5 years of hard work and determination on my part to get well. My sister and mother have followed the pill route and are both still seriously ill even though i have tried to talk them into diets and moderation. I applaud the chap who wrote this article if only more doctors would start looking for the cause instead of treating the symptoms we would all be in a better place.

  29. Gloria says:

    I am a 40 yr old female. I was diagnosed with alopecia areata 3 yrs ago. I was getting cortisone shots for a while but stopped about 7 months ago because i didn’t think it was helping. My hair grows in and then falls out, i am missing a lot of hair on the back of my head above my neck. I’m able to cover it up, but am afraid I’ll need a wig someday because it’s only getting worse. At the same time i stopped the cortisone shots i eliminated gluten from my diet as well as most dairy. I started chiropractic treatment for chronic headaches and migraines which are now gone. I’ve noticed that my anxiety is not as bad as it used to be. I take iron pills because my ferritin level is low. I try to make all my meals organic and have just now eliminated corn from my diet. I would like to know if alopecia areata is something that can be cured, have you successfully treated patients with this condition? Is there anything you recommend me doing? I appreciate your time. Thank you and God bless!

  30. Lupie says:

    I agree that eating healthy is important part of self care if you have any chronic illness. However, to imply or suggest that by changing your diet or environment that it can lead to remission or a cure is so incredibly irresponsible, I find it appalling. Before the advent of current autoimmune medications and treatments many of these diseases were considered TERMINAL, as in you would die, often within a few years time. Sadly, the problem with tracking these statistics, even in the modern age, is that these diseases often cause health complications that are deadly. Things like, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, increased rates of certain cancers, ischemia and infections are just a few and these are the causes listed on death certificates. So if you have, lets say Lupus and you die from a heart attacked, guess what it says on your death certificate… It won't say, the patient died from a complication of said autoimmune disease, it will say Myocardial Infarct. So not only are people being lead to believe that their disease can be controlled, but that the complications from the disease can also be… but if you happen to die from an infection it's okay, because you ate organic lettuce so it had nothing to do with your underlying disease… (please note sarcasm) It is incredibly misleading, irresponsible and dangerous, to lead people to believe that if you 'remove the tac', you'll have better health. WRONG, you will still have a disease that needs to be treated with science based medicine. Are the side effects horrible? Sometimes yes, they are. Do you know what the side effects of an untreated autoimmune disease are… well those are even worse and one of them, in serious cases, can be death. I do have an autoimmune disease, I eat healthy, I've done elimination diets, tried acupuncture and some other holistic treatments, I exercise, I use organic as much as possible, I use things like turmeric tea, massage, I even moved away from the large urban center I lived in to have better air quality and quality of life… and wouldn't you know it, I AM STILL SICK. If I stop taking my immunosuppressants and other medications that control my disease, I get really, really sick. I can't get out of bed for 14 – 18 hours a day, my hair falls out, I develop confusion and memory loss, rashes, extreme pain, fevers & infections, just to name a few. I do take an active part in my care and to suggest that I could 'heal' by adding supplementation or whatever other snake oil treatment that is the current trend is frankly shaming to people who suffer from a chronic illness. It's like saying it's your fault you're sick. Having this type of disease is demoralizing, painful and it steals your life from you. So please don't insult me or my doctors who try their best to help me lead a better quality of life by treating me with… wait for it… science based medicine. This idea that food is medicine may have some merit for better over all health, but what it CAN NOT do is cure a disease that you already have. If I were to relay on healthy living to treat my disease, I'd be dead. Please, please stop telling people that local honey, blueberries and yoga is a cure, it's simply not true.

    • Allyson says:

      I have to agree with you. I always wonder why there is no scientific data to back up their findings. Where is the real research? If you have these findings then show us where you came up with reliable and valid results from your testing. It is that simple. Show me the real data that backs up your claim.

  31. Vonda says:

    Do you know a good dr in south Alabama
    Or within maybe 3 or 4 hours from Troy, alabama? I have hashimotos and can’t find any one to help.
    Thanks!

  32. Patti says:

    I was diagnosed with Hashimotos 6 years ago. I was lucky to find a family doctor who found it right away. But the only advice for treating it was ‘take this pill every day for the rest of your life’.
    I wasn’t feeling any better so I was reading and reading and reading about it from other fellow sufferers who had success stories. It took me years to finally follow the AIP Paleao diet and eliminate all those foods like grains, sugar (most of it), dairy, corn, nightshades, legumes etc plus I started doing coffee enemas for liver cleansing support plus juicing. Get toxins out, nutrients in. I just have completed 2 years. I also supplement with fish oil, vit D, probiotics, methyl B12 (I also have pernicious anemia) etc. I can say I feel mostly better, still having Hashimotos days :-(
    Mostly tired and muscle/joint pain issues. I have no health insurance, so I never know any blood results. I am thinking maybe I have still an infection going on because I am still feeling sick. I am also not sure if I got rid of all heavy metal yet or parasites/candida/dysbiosis… It’s a challenge! Everyday! Making juices smoothie, having fresh local organic food in the house, make enough money ,being alone (after a long stressful toxic marriage which was probably the trigger for my disease). I am very hopeful that I will heal now as my husband finally left and I can have peace now.
    I want to encourage everyone who is struggling! There is hope! And changing lifestyle is challenging but it’s possible!!!
    Good luck everybody! And get your green juice on!

  33. judyg says:

    Rheumatoid arthritis cured by diet. Aged 38 I developed R A and after many years of pain, stiffness and disability was officially assessed as 30% disabled and heading for a wheelchair and offered the usual round of NSAIDs, gold, methotrexate etc. Tried many different complementary treatments – Chinese herbs, acupuncture, homeopathy, allergen desensitisation. After chance eavesdropping on someone elses conversation I gave up dairy foods and this cleared up the rhinitis / nasal congestion Id had since childhood and I suspected the RA might also be due to diet so saw a nutritionist who took me off gluten, peanuts, tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar and citrus and put me on megadoses of vitamins. Within a month I was completely cured of all symptoms, including brain fog, and what’s more would wake up with the joyous energy of a child. Now I can tolerate small amounts of those foods but know when to stop. No recurrence of RA and I enjoy dancing, walking and am pain free. I also have an avid interest in how food affects not only our long term health but our moods and feelings – chocolate or coffee anyone? I would encourage anyone who is suffering from chronic AI disease to let food be your doctor and wish you all success in your journey to full health.

  34. Sue says:

    i was diagnosed with RA after several months of testing and trying to figure out what was wrong. I was placed on a series of meds for the next 3 years ending with enbrel. I am now med free because I started taking a supplement from It Works called Greens. Its equivalent to eating 8 servings of fruits and veggies. I drink two servings a day and properly alkalized my body. I feel better than ever! However I find it sad that I had to figure it out on my own!

  35. Jackie says:

    I was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis last week. I’ve had asthma for 17 of my 43 years which developed after some very bad eating habits during my first pregnancy. Smack my head. And, in the last 2 years, developed a gluten intolerance from hell. Never got diagnosed as Celiac since other siblings have it…just assumed I do too.

    My siblings all have various inflammatory conditions that require diet changes. No one is medicated at this point, since It doesn’t fix, it masks.

    About to embark on a vegan diet with supplements, probiotics and chiropractic care to attempt to remedy my own circumstances. Doctor will undoubtedly prescribe Prednisone and I’m not willing.

    Wish me luck!

  36. Elizabeth says:

    Great article! I am dying to onownone thing – how did you heal the patient’s food allergies? All the other things you mention I’m familiar with. I have food allergies so I’d love to know how you healed his! Thanks!

  37. Nancy Andrews says:

    I have celiac disease, hypothyroidism, cervical dystonia, bulging discs in my neck and on a lot of medications. I have a lot of allergies, the one they can’t figure out is my face gets hot, red and I get swelling of the face. It lasts for about 5 days where I take Prednisone and Benadryl and ice packs. I was told it could be environmental ? Any ideas???

  38. sanguinelocks says:

    Yep! You nailed it , Doc! I was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis about 6-7 years ago. The standard treatment was swallowing (rather than inhaling) flovent and upper endoscopy treatments whenever my dysphagia got out of control. When I was first diagnosed, I asked for allergy testing, citing info I had found on the net. The doc said "That doesn't really work in adults for this, only children," So I suffered for years. This last winter I went in for another endoscopy because my symptoms were out of control–the dysphagia was so bad that at times I was so inflamed, I literally could not swallow the spit that we swallow all day without realizing it. I would have to stand and spit into a sink or toilet until the inflammation subsided. My symptoms were so bad and my esophagus so tight that he I was scheduled for another endoscopy two months later. however, this time the the doc told me: cut out dairy, wheat, eggs and soy. These are the most allergenic foods. I was desperate and I did. Guess what? After two month, I was able to CANCEL the second procedure. Gas and bloating gone, constipation gone–these were just added bonuses. It's been hard of course, I miss crusty bread and butter. And I REALLY miss cheese. But to be symptom free? Priceless.

  39. Lynn says:

    I am full of osteo arthritis throughout my body and fibromyalgia. i am fatigued all the time. I have to work to support myself and am in retail. I am on my feet 8 hrs a day, 5 days a week. Sitting at a different type of job, in my opinion, would be just as bad. I have tried many medications to treat the pain I'm in. The only thing that works for me is taking 4 20 mg ibuprofen tablets, twice a day, 12 hrs apart. I take them on a full stomach. I am now iron deficient at the age of 65 and my doctor ordered a colonoscopy to rule out bleeding. Results showed no bleeding. I am now experiencing stomach pain and believe it is due to the ibuprofen. Without it, I cannot function. The arthritis is in my spine, feet, hands, and neck.
    I don't know where to begin to get well. I can't take time off from work because I lose too much income. Your ideas are great but overwhelming to me.

  40. Renee says:

    one question —where is your practice and how would we contact you for treatment ?? Please post info! Thank you!

  41. mandie says:

    I have been diagnosed with 3 autoimmune diseases's amd I'm only 25. The first was autoimmune kidney disease at age 15. The next was transverse myelitus at age 22, and the 3rd was rhumatoid arthritis at age 25. I feel sick all the time and fatigued beyond belief. I'm only 25 but I want my life back. I'm now confined to a wheelchair and always in pain. I loved reading this blog post. I hope this will help.

  42. shannon Moffett says:

    I have been fighting for a long time. My last diagnosis is Fibormialgha. I am at a loss….. I hurt every moment of every day with no REAL relief. Thank you for your blog.. Sincerely S.Moffett.

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