Top 5 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases That Affect Women

As if women don’t already go through enough between having a monthly menstrual cycle, experiencing childbirth and going through menopause later in life, now recent studies estimate that about 80% of all patients diagnosed with autoimmune diseases are women. That means it’s important for women to be aware and know what to look out for. That’s why in this article we go over the top 5 most common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms that affect women. Our goal in doing this is to better educate women everywhere so they can seek the care they need and get to the root cause of their symptoms earlier rather than later.

Autoimmune Diseases are often misdiagnosed, so it’s important that if you or someone you know is experiencing an autoimmune disease and/or the symptoms we’re mentioning, that they get the care they need from a functional medicine professional like Dr. Autoimmune

The Explanation.

There are a multitude of autoimmune diseases (over 100 in fact) that are known to exist that range from mild to severe to intermittent to chronic. 

There are many explanations as to why women are more susceptible over men which include: genetics, sex hormones, the X chromosome, microchimerism, environmental factors, diet, viruses and microbiome. Even stress can be a contributing factor. 

Top 5 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases That Affect Women

1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (lupus or SLE)

Nine out of 10 people affected with systemic lupus are women, commonly between ages 15 and 44. 

Lupus attacks and damages any part of the body including the joints, skin and/or organs (brain, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels). 

Some women experience mild symptoms, while others face serious health risks like kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Experts acknowledge the role of genes, but say that other possible causes include factors like hormones such as estrogen, the environment, certain medicines and viruses. 

Some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • red rashes (most often on the face)
  • sun sensitivity
  • muscle and joint pain 
  • fever 
  • hair loss

2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is considered an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system. The disease affects women more often than men with women being up to three times more likely than men to get MS. 

The disease can also cause symptoms specific to women that seem to relate to hormone levels.

The main symptoms that affect women more than men include menstrual problems, pregnancy-related symptoms, and menopause issues.

Some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Most women first notice the symptoms of MS with blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion and even blindness in one eye. 
  • MS can also lead to cognitive problems like difficulties with memory and concentration and can trigger muscle weakness so severe that it can be difficult to walk or stand. 
  • At its worst, MS can cause partial or total paralysis.

3. Thyroid Diseases

Women are more prone than men to Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Graves’ disease causes the thyroid to produce an excess of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism). It usually occurs between ages 30 and 50 (but can appear at any age) and appears seven to eight times more frequently in women than in men. 

About 30% of people with Graves’ disease will have a condition known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which causes bulging, puffy or inflamed eyes and light sensitivity, double vision and eye pain. If left untreated, Graves’ disease can cause serious problems, including thinning bones, osteoporosis, and heart-related problems.

In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system attacks the thyroid, which often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). It affects about 10 times as many women as men. 

It typically occurs in middle-aged women and progresses slowly over time, gradually damaging the thyroid and reducing thyroid hormone levels. 

Thyroid symptoms include: 

  • being tired for no apparent reason
  • dry skin
  • a pale, puffy face
  • constipation

4. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of various joints throughout the body, resulting in painful, stiff, swollen and deformed joints and muscle weakness.  

Female hormones may also play a role in the onset of the disease, which commonly waxes and wanes with periods of flare-ups along with periods of remission. 

As many as 75% of those with RA are women who typically develop the condition between ages 30 and 50, younger than when men typically get the disease.

Common symptoms of RA can include: 

  • Pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the joints, back, or muscles.
  • Whole body fatigue, anemia, or malaise (general feeling of discomfort)
  • Lumps or redness on the skin
  • Swelling and/or bump(s) on the fingers
  • A sensation of pins and needles

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common condition that causes skin cells to build up more rapidly than they normally would. In turn, these excess cells form red, silvery, patchy and sometimes painful scales. 

Symptoms can be mild (like a few spots of dandruff-like scales) to severe (major outbreaks covering large areas of skin) and it can also cause thickened, ridged or pitted nails and sore joints. 

Although psoriasis is more prevalent in women than in men, research finds that men’s symptoms are typically more severe.

Some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • A patchy rash that varies widely in how it looks from person to person, ranging from spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions over much of the body.
  • Rashes that vary in color. These tend to be shades of purple with gray scales on darker skin and pink or red with silver scales on light skin.
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed.
  • Itching, burning or soreness.
  • Cyclic rashes that flare for a few weeks or months and then subside.

Common Symptoms Across Autoimmune Diseases

Despite the varying types of autoimmune diseases, many of them share similar symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Skin problems
  • Abdominal pain or digestive issues
  • Recurring fever
  • Swollen glands

Women should seek treatment when they notice new symptoms so they can identify or rule out an autoimmune disease early on.

Dr. Autoimmune

If you or any women in your life suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above without an identified underlying cause, then you should seek the care and medical testing from a functional medicine practitioner like Dr. Ian Hollaman and the Dr. Autoimmune team.

As an experienced functional medicine expert, Dr. Ian Hollaman uses testing and natural methods to assess the numerous factors that can affect your immune system. He looks for potential environmental toxins, lifestyle, stress, diet, medication, allergies, and sleep habits – all to uncover the root cause of your autoimmune disease. 

Click here to schedule your appointment with Dr. Autoimmune today! We offer 100% remote care so anyone can heal from anywhere!

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5 Common Autoimmune Diseases in Men

It seems discussing aAutoimmune diseases in men is not a topic that is discussed very often. That’s because 80% of all patients diagnosed with autoimmune diseases are women, but the gap is getting smaller. This is why we think it’s important that we take a look at the five most common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms in men.

Addison’s Disease

Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the adrenal glands. The primary role of your adrenal glands is to produce and regulate the stress hormone cortisol. 

To receive an Addison’s disease diagnosis, you must have lost 90% of your adrenal glands’ function. However, you can still have adrenal insufficiency without theis diagnosis of Addison’s disease. Anything between optimal health and Addison’s disease is referred to as adrenal fatigue. It’s found that most men fall somewhere on this spectrum. 

Symptoms of Addison’s disease develop slowly over several months. Symptoms are often subtle or mirror symptoms of other conditions, which unfortunately makes symptoms easy to ignore as signs as Addison’s disease unless visiting a functional medicine practitioner like Dr. Autoimmune.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Hyperpigmentation (dark spots on the skin)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Salt cravings
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint and muscle pains
  • Depression
  • Hair loss

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks the small intestine. It’s also an autoimmune response to gluten. Gluten (from Latin, “glue”) is a protein in wheat made up of the peptides, gliadin and glutenin. It is found in other grains such as semolina, spelt, kamut, rye, and barley. Gluten is what makes bread airy and fluffy—but it’s also highly inflammatory for most people. 

Consuming gluten when you have celiac disease causes damage to your villi, or the tiny hair-like projections that run along the surface of your gut that help you to digest food properly. This leads to nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, and increases your odds of developing another autoimmune condition.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

  • Frequent bloating
  • Excessive gas
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Women are twice as likely to have multiple sclerosis, yet it’s still one of the more common autoimmune diseases in men. 

This autoimmune disease can develop at any age, but the most common age of onset for men is between 20 and 50. It happens when inflammation causes damage to the nervous system. 

Each person with MS will also develop a unique set of symptoms, based on the specific pattern of inflammatory nervous system damage in that individual, and the affected part(s) of the body. 

There are no MS symptoms that are exclusively found in men and not women, but some signs of MS are generally more common for men or women.

Men with MS are more likely to experience:

  • motor problems
  • loss of coordination and imbalance
  • cognitive difficulties

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary in severity and duration from person to person; and they can also change over time.

Other Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Double vision or inflammation of the eye (optic neuritis)
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle weakness
  • “Pins and needles” sensations, numbness, and other bodily sensations (dysesthesia)
  • Muscle stiffness, jerks, exaggerated reflexes (muscle spasticity)
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Cognitive problems
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control


Unlike most autoimmune conditions that attack one bodily system, lupus erythematosus (lupus) is an autoimmune disease that impacts multiple systems in the body. Because of this, lupus can be life-threatening and can affect the skin, joints, internal organs and the nervous system.

Men account for 1 in 10 of individuals diagnosed with lupus. Research also indicates that the disease typically presents more severe symptoms in men than women. That’s likely because the disease is underdiagnosed in men. Symptoms of this autoimmune disease vary widely and can range from mild to severe. 

Lupus isIt’s also nicknamed “The Great Imitator ”. It got this nickname because it mimics other diseases and it impacts multiple bodily systems. Symptoms from lupus often come and go or change entirely;, that’s why it’s so important that you visit a functional medicine practitioner like Dr. Autoimmune

Without proper testing you may be completely unaware that you even have lupus or another autoimmune disease if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned below. 

Signs of Lupus

  • Anemia
  • A butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks
  • Heart problems
  • Anemia or low blood count
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained fever
  • Increased risk for blood clots
  • Kidney disease
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pain/ swelling of the joints, hands, feet, or eye

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) refers to a group of inflammatory conditions affecting the intestines and colon.

IBD shares many symptoms with two other autoimmune diseases called Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Though they share similar symptoms they’re actually quite different. For instance, inflammation occurs anywhere along the digestive tract in people with Crohn’s disease, whereas it’s limited to the large intestine in those with ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

People with Crohn’s disease have patchy inflammation, thickened colon walls and ulcers that extend deep into tissues in the walls. 

Common symptoms include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent diarrhea 
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Malabsorption
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Mouth sores
  • Rashes, skin ulcers, and other skin disorders
  • Dry, inflamed eyes

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

As I mentioned above, inflammation is limited to the colon in patients with ulcerative colitis. 

Here are common symptoms: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia that is caused by severe bleeding
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Malabsorption
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Inability to defecate
  • Weight loss

By the time symptoms have begun, conventional medicine treats both diseases the same way: with a slew of immunosuppressive medications and invasive surgeries. By ignoring the upstream factors that led to the condition, these methods don’t address the thing that caused the inflammation in the first place. Over time, IBD symptoms can reach beyond the gastrointestinal tract, including the eyes, joints, and skin.

These are the most common autoimmune diseases in men, yet that doesn’t mean men cannot get other autoimmune diseases as well. The great news is that regardless of which autoimmune disease is affecting you, you can eliminate your symptoms and reverse your condition with a functional medicine approach like what Dr. Autoimmune uses. It starts by getting to the root cause of your symptoms.

A Functional Medicine Approach to Autoimmune Disease in Men

Conventional medicine does not recognize autoimmune diseases as diseases of the immune system as a whole. Instead, they are treated as diseases of particular organs. Unfortunately, that means that there isn’t a unified branch in conventional medicine to manage autoimmune conditions. This is where Dr. Ian Hollaman and the Dr. Autoimmune team come in.

Functional medicine sees the body as a whole unit and views autoimmunity as a disease of the immune system. Instead of focusing on disease symptom management, functional medicine focuses on supporting and strengthening the immune system by getting to the root of what causes autoimmune diseases in men in the first place. 

If you or any men in your life suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above without an identified, underlying cause, then you should seek care right away! 

Dr. Ian Hollaman, and the Dr. Autoimmune team located in Boulder, Colorado takes into account many factors, such as environment, symptoms, nutrition, genes, and lab values, in order to determine the root cause of your medical issues so your health and well-being can be restored. 

Ready to Get Started with Dr. Autoimmune?

If you’re ready to take the next step in balancing your health, Dr. Autoimmune offers multiple ways to reach out for your convenience, and encourages you to connect with us so we can answer any questions you may have. Our specialized staff is standing by ready to help! 

Click here to schedule your appointment with the Dr. Autoimmune team today! We offer 100% remote care so anyone can heal from anywhere! And we’ve set up ‘The Dr. Autoimmune Solution’ which is a comprehensive new patient special that includes everything necessary to determine the root cause of your condition and start you on the journey to getting your life back.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube for more information and tips regarding autoimmune diseases and the functional medicine approach.

Breathe Your Troubles Away

Breathing techniques are not just for yogis and tree huggers, and have been used for thousands of years in many cultures and practices. Almost everyone who has ever been guided through a meditation practice knows how important the rhythm of breath is. Although encouraged to breathe through our nose, for many, that is easier said than done.

You may or may not know if you are a mouth or nose breather, and, you may be saying, so what! But guess what? How you breathe and how much oxygen you take in can make life-altering changes for someone who suffers from sinus issues, snoring, sleep apnea, or emphysema. When the quality of breathing goes down, the stress on the body goes up. How you breathe can also contribute to inflammation that could trigger autoimmune disease.

Nose vs. Mouth

Mouth breathing can not only cause sleep disorders, but it can actually distort the structure of your face. As our brains grew bigger and our faces narrowed, we developed crowded teeth and the roofs of our mouths arched higher. For some, this created a series of sinus and breathing problems including snoring and sleep apnea. 

When you breathe through your nose, the hairs in your nose filters out airborne particles including allergens, pollution, and even insects (ew!). Where do you think those critters go when you breathe through your mouth? Your mouth does not have this filtering system and bacteria could be more prevalent, creating a whirlwind of health issues that can also be linked to behavioral problems and autoimmunity. Breathing through your nose also warms the oxygen which creates a moist environment for your mouth and lungs. 

So what can you do to change this lifelong, potentially life-altering habit? You can practice putting your tongue to the roof of your mouth and closing your lips, and breathing out of your nose. Bring awareness to your breath and practice nasal breathing frequently. Some tape their mouths when sleeping. There are many techniques and tapes on the market, so do your research and find one that may work best for you.

Balance is Key

Since breathing is controlled by your autonomic (automatic) nervous system, which controls unconscious bodily functions, some believe that it cannot be controlled consciously. Studies show that breathing can tap into your autonomic nervous system and you can activate your relaxing nerve responses with oxygen control. Many people with high levels of stress or chronic illness live largely in a sympathetic state of “fight or flight”. This in turn, wreaks havoc on many bodily systems including your hormones, brain health, and your immune system. 

Chinese medicine’s philosophy is to balance your yin and yang (everyone has seen the black and white logo with two tear drops hugging), which is comparable to our western terms of parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. Finding balance is paramount for our health and keeping chronic and autoimmune disorders at bay.

Immune to Inflammation

Inflammation is the root cause of all disease. This is a bold statement, but it is the one common link we find in all of our clients. Our innate immune system is what keeps us alive and well, but persistent inflammation and improper working cells can trigger tissue and organ damage, leading to autoimmune disorders. Stress is a nasty beast! When our sympathetic functions are flared, increased levels of hormones like cortisol, are not in balance and can cause a landslide of symptoms. 

Techniques to Reduce Stress

By practicing breath techniques including nostril breathing (Nadi Shadhana), breathing coordination, Buteyko, conscious breathing, carbon dioxide training, tummo, and modified techniques by acclaimed immune biohacker Wim Hof, you can reset your autonomic functions through stretch-induced signals which can synchronize the heart, lungs, limbic system and cortex. The book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor follows the author’s challenges with chronic health issues and his quest to uncover the mysteries and healing stories of breath. 

Cold plunging and exposure to uncomfortable chilly temperatures can also trigger a reset, and with proper training and practice, individuals have been able to control their breathing and voluntarily influence their sympathetic nervous systems. Wim Hof himself has been injected with E. coli and after a few breaths, got up with no symptoms or effect and fetched himself a cup of coffee. Practice makes perfect, or at least can create a more balanced outcome for many chronic illnesses. 

In today’s electronic age, there are multiple biohacking devices available that track your blood sugar, tell you if you will burn more fat or carbohydrates that day, monitor your steps and calories and heart rate variability. These tools are costly and sought after by the most extreme athletes and dieters that track every detail of their consumption. Why not tap into something that costs nothing but time, with proven results dating back for thousands of years? 

When someone is hyperventilating, advice is given to breath in a bag, slowly and rhythmically. It works by putting some of the lost carbon dioxide back into your lungs and body. Next time you are feeling stressed, frustrated, or anxious, try taking slow breaths in and out of your nose for 5 counts. With practice and patience, you can tap into your parasympathetic nervous system at a time of need, and reduce or reverse those emotions. You can be the master of your own body, mind and health.

If you suspect you may be running in a state of stress, have symptoms, suspect or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page. We can help you get to the root cause of your imbalance.