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How Autoimmune Diseases Can Affect Your Skin

The skin is the largest organ of your body and will sometimes hint at what’s going on beneath the surface when an individual is suffering from certain autoimmune conditions.

Did You Know?

The skin is made up of five distinct layers of skin, and the two top ones are most often affected by autoimmune skin diseases. 

 

The top layer is called the epidermis, and it is the outermost layer. The underlying layer is the dermis, and it contains vital cells, tissues, and structures. 

 

When either of these layers become compromised by an autoimmune disease it can cause certain symptoms. 

Symptoms Of Autoimmune Skin Diseases Can Include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Skin inflammation (swelling)
  • Small patches of red, scaly skin
  • Skin scarring
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch
  • Thickened, pitted, and ridged nails
  • Stiff and swollen joints

Causes

Autoimmune skin diseases occur because the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. 

 

When these antibodies attack healthy tissues, they are called autoantibodies. 

 

With autoimmune skin conditions, autoantibodies attack skin cells or collagen tissues. 

Triggers & Other Factors

Researchers link a variety of triggers for the development of these conditions, including ultraviolet radiation (from the sun), hormones, infections, and certain foods. 

 

Even some prescription drugs may play a part in the development of certain autoimmune disorders. 

 

Other factors can also play a role in autoimmune skin diseases- like stress! Stress can also trigger autoimmune skin conditions. 

 

Some researchers even think that some people have a genetic predisposition for certain autoimmune skin diseases. 

 

And people with specific genes also have an increased risk for developing particular skin conditions- but only if other trigger factors exist. 

What You’ve Learned So Far

So far you’ve learned about your skin and the different symptoms of an autoimmune condition. 

 

You’ve also learned the causes & triggers of what could cause a flare up on your skin. 

 

So now let’s go over a few of the most common autoimmune diseases that will show up on your skin.

Common Autoimmune Diseases That Will Show Up On Your Skin

LUPUS

  • Also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body. The most common symptom is inflammation and it usually targets the joints, brain, kidneys, and the skin. It’s also been known to cause joint pain and even arthritis.

 

Common symptoms are generally a butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. 

 

Sometimes individuals will have rashes elsewhere on the body, and will also cause the patient’s skin to be hypersensitive to the sun. Even small amounts of sunlight can create scaly patches across the skin that can scar over. It is these scarred sections of skin that have an increased risk of developing carcinoma and melanoma, the two common forms of skin cancer. 

SCLERODERMA

Localized Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease that causes extreme hardening of the skin, caused by vast overproduction of collagen. 

 

This autoimmune skin condition is seen in only a few places on the skin and it seldom spreads. 

 

In fact, it progresses relatively slow and affects the skin of the hands, feet, and face. It sometimes can also damage the lungs, esophagus or intestines.

 

Diffuse Scleroderma is another form of this autoimmune disease and it can progress very quickly, affecting the skin across the entire body. 

DERMATOMYOSITIS

Dermatomyositis is a chronic disease that causes muscle inflammation, which often leads to muscle weakness. It is one of a group of diseases known as inflammatory myopathies.

 

The first symptom of dermatomyositis is a skin rash that will appear on the eyelids, nail cuticle areas, and/or on muscles that are used to straighten or extend joints including heels, elbows, and knuckles. The rash is bluish-purple or red and is usually patchy.

PEMPHIGOID

This autoimmune disease results in skin rashes and fluid-filled blisters along the legs, arms, stomach, or on the mucous membrane (this includes the mouth, eyes, nose, throat, and genitals). 

 

There are different types of pemphigoid, and they are characterized by where the blistering occurs on the body.

 

Bullous Pemphigoid: Blistering happens on the arms and legs, mostly around the joints

 

Cicatricial Pemphigoid: Blistering occurs on the mucous membrane, typically affecting the eyes and mouth.

 

Pemphigoid Gestationis: This is when the blistering occurs shortly after or during pregnancy, usually on the arms, legs, and abdomen.

PEMPHIGUS

Pemphigus looks very similar to pemphigoid, as they are both characterized by blisters on the skin and/or the mucous membrane. 

 

The difference lies in the fact that the immune system attacks a different part of the skin in each disease. The affected part of the skin in pemphigus is more fragile because it is closer to the surface, so any blisters than form burst very easily. Patients that have this autoimmune disease usually have visual signs of more ruptured blisters, and the individual is usually covered with scabs.

 

Pemphigus is considered a more serious disease since burst blisters present a higher chance of infection, which is dangerous for someone with an already compromised immune system. 

 

There are two main types of pemphigus:

 

Pemphigus Vulgaris: Blisters begin in the mouth and spread to the skin or genitals. Generally, these blisters are painful but not itchy.

 

Pemphigus Foliaceus: Blisters that appear on the chest, back, and shoulders. These are usually more itchy than painful.

PSORIASIS

One of the more well-known autoimmune skin diseases is psoriasis

 

This autoimmune condition speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, causing excess skin cells to collect on the surface of the skin. This buildup forms itchy and painful scales and red patches. 

 

There are many different types of psoriasis, but some common symptoms include: 

  • red patches of skin with silvery scales
  •  itchy scaling spots
  • extremely dry skin that may bleed if it cracks
  • swollen and stiff joints 

 

Patches can range in size from a few smaller spots that can look like dandruff, to much larger affected patches of skin.

 

Psoriasis typically goes through cycles, and patients will experience flare-ups for a short period of time, and then go into remission. 

See A Specialist

For Boulder, Colorado residents that are experiencing any of the symptoms or conditions mentioned above seek the help of the best autoimmune doctor and team in the state- Dr. Ian Hollaman and the Dr. Autoimmune team. 

Click Here to learn more about the conditions we treat, and to view our New Patient Special!

6 Early Signs Of An Autoimmune Disease

With autoimmune diseases on the rise in the past few decades, we’ve learned to detect early signs of an autoimmune disease to help fill in the gap about what causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues and organs.

 

With many variables and unknowns, there are a few things we do know about autoimmune diseases. For starters, autoimmune conditions can be managed, and some of the damage can even be reversed if diagnosed early enough.

 

The trouble is, most people get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when significant damage has been done to major organs and so the symptoms are clear and prominent enough to make the diagnosis relatively easy to arrive at. 

 

In fact, research shows that signs of autoimmunity can show up on tests months and even years before the patient has symptoms of a fully developed autoimmune disease. So, why is it so hard for an autoimmunity to be diagnosed early on before the damage is irreparable?

 

There are as many as about 80 different autoimmune diseases. The earliest symptoms of autoimmunity, however, are very, very similar. So this was the good news. The bad news is, they’re also vague, non-specific and sometimes, hard to identify as a reason for concern until the disease becomes acute which is why going to an autoimmune specialist like Dr. Autoimmune is so important. 

 

Dr. Autoimmune and his team are dedicated to the fight against autoimmune diseases, and want to equip you with the knowledge you need to seek a medical opinion and receive an early diagnosis. So, here are some early signs to look for and some suggestions for how to track and address them with your doctor.

 

Your skin is a telltale sign

The skin is often the first indicator of inflammation. Any unusual rashes, redness, itchiness, blotchy and sensitive areas that show up without an obvious reason can point to an underlying inflammation going on in your body. Even acne can be a sign that something is not quite right internally.

 

While none of the symptoms we mentioned above can be directly linked to an autoimmune disease, noticing more than two of these symptoms should be reason enough to track anything unusual or suspicious; especially if you have a family history of autoimmune diseases. 

 

So, if the condition of your skin inexplicably changes, be aware that among the many possible causes, there is a chance that it can be due to an overactive immune system. 

 

Some autoimmune diseases especially, like lupus, are directly linked to changes in the texture and the color of the skin, so also be mindful of any swollen, scaly areas. 

 

Sun Sensitivity 

Sun sensitivity can be another thing to look out for and keep in mind when assessing any changes in how your skin ‘behaves’. While we all need to be aware of burning in the sun, for some people with autoimmune diseases, the sun can trigger flares and make symptoms worse.

 

“I’ve had patients come back from vacations in Hawaii and all of a sudden they have lupus,” says Dr. Autoimmune. “And others where it’s taken months to get their disease back in check after a severe sunburn.”

 

Researchers know that the sun can trigger lupus in some people who were already on track to get the disease. Sun can also cause lupus flare-ups in people who already have the disease. 

 

There is also some evidence of a connection between sunlight and flares of a disease called dermatomyositis. Research suggests that severe sunburn might also trigger flares of psoriasis and scleroderma. Scientists are still working to learn more about this.

 

Extreme exhaustion, fatigue and ‘brain fog’

If you’ve worked a long 8 hour day and you feel mentally and physically exhausted, this isn’t a reason to get checked for an autoimmune disease. But, feeling mentally and physically exhausted even after some solid 8 or even 9 hours of sleep everyday should not go unexamined. 

 

For many people with an autoim­mune disease, fatigue is the most debilitating symptom. The fatigue from an autoim­mune disease differs from the tiredness most people feel after long periods of work or exer­cise, or when they haven’t slept well. It’s a feeling of exhaustion all the time that interferes with the ability to function.

 

These common symptoms of fatigue and ‘brain fog’ can be among the earliest signs of autoimmunity and inflam­mation may be the reason for some of it, and should be taken very seriously!

 

Fatigue is sometimes the physical manifestation of anemia of chronic inflammation – a type of anemia that can be present in cases of underlying inflammatory disease. 

 

Weight fluctuation

Again, losing or gaining a couple pounds isn’t something to be alarmed about. But, weight fluctuation without any specific reason for it, especially if other symptoms are present, can also point to issues with the immune system. While some autoimmune diseases are associated with weight loss, others, on the contrary, can cause weight gain.

 

If your diet and physical activity haven’t changed but your weight has and it can’t be attributed to changes in metabolism that happen gradually with age. It’s also possible that it’s your immune system that needs medical attention. 

 

Hypothyroidism, for example, is linked to slower metabolism which can translate into rapidly gaining weight even if your diet has stayed the same. And while it’s a myth that you can’t maintain a healthy weight with hypothyroidism (especially when you’re on the right treatment), you should be suspicious of changes in your body’s response to food.

 

Muscle or Joint Pain

Muscle or joint pain can be an unsurprising indication that something’s going on with your immune system. If you’re not an athlete or an avid gym enthusiast that recently overdid their work-out, your muscles and joints shouldn’t just randomly hurt.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis is not the only autoimmune disease linked to this type of pain. Aches all over your body can also be an early sign of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a condition of hypofunction of the thyroid, the result of the immune system attacking the gland. 

 

A lot of autoimmune conditions have very similar early symptoms, so don’t jump to conclusions. Muscle and joint pain can also be a symptom of lupus but if it’s really early on, general autoimmunity is what you should look out for and then if confirmed, look into specific conditions.

 

Abdominal Pain

Any discomfort of the digestive tract should be examined if other symptoms are also present. A lot of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) cause mild symptoms at first that come and go and can easily be attributed to ‘bad eating’ or stress. But you shouldn’t wait for blood in your stool to take diarrhea seriously.

 

Abdominal pain, cramps, bloating can all be caused by different things that have nothing to do with your immune system. However, if such symptoms appear ‘out of nowhere’ and you notice other signs of inflammation too, seek a medical opinion. 

 

The lining of your digestive tract shouldn’t be severely compromised before you’re eligible to fight the inflammation. In fact, the sooner you do, the more of your beneficial microflora can be preserved.

 

Autoimmune diseases are not easy to diagnose unless specific prominent symptoms are present. Autoimmunity, however, can be diagnosed with a blood test that looks for auto-antibodies or tests looking for inflammation and dysfunction of certain organs most likely to be damaged by an immune system gone rogue. 

 

When in doubt, always get checked out! 

When in doubt, always get checked out! If you have noticed some of these early signs of autoimmunity, schedule an appointment as soon as possible and ask for a blood test. 

 

If you’ve already been seen by an autoimmune doctor, always seek a second opinion if your doctor refuses to take your concerns seriously. The earlier an autoimmune disease is detected, the easier it is to manage it and limit the damage done to the organs. 

 

If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms, keep track of them and team up with medical professionals like Dr. Autoimmune and his team that focus on screening, treatment and prevention.

 

Dr. Ian Hollaman, aka Dr. Autoimmune, is a IFM certified practitioner located in Boulder, Colorado. He and his team focus on functional medicine that addresses what is above and below the surface. 

 

Their mission is to empower patients with chronic and complex autoimmune conditions by identifying the root cause of autoimmune disease and by providing natural, customized care that offers solutions that promote optimal health.

Let Dr. Ian Hollaman, and the Dr. Autoimmune care team do what they do best! Click Here to schedule your appointment today or call us directly at (303)882-8447.

Achieve A Healthier Gut By Eating These Foods!

We’ve all experienced these symptoms more than we can count! Bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and the general feeling of blah. 

That’s a common feeling after eating a large greasy meal. Or indulging in a rich dessert. Or grabbing a bunch of convenience food when you’re running late. 

It’s easy to brush off short-term discomforts from these foods, but daily consumption can lead to long-term gut health problems. 

So how can we achieve a healthier gut?

Well, what if I told you that food is the answer to achieving a healthier  gut! It’s true, but there’s good food and bad food for your gut! 

Healthy food is nature’s medicine as it can ease digestive symptoms and prevent certain conditions. 

By adding gut-healthy foods to your diet it’s a lot easier and delicious to achieve a healthier gut than you may realize!

Let’s face it – we sometimes feel too busy to go searching for healthy food on the go. So we settle on what’s around us. 

The problem is, a lot of those ‘quick’ foods contain high sugar, fats, and cholesterol – with limited nutritional values. This leads to inflammation and unbalanced digestive enzymes. 

Good & Bad Bacteria

Your gut health depends on the functioning of trillions of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses that occupy your small and large intestines and the rest of your body. 

These organisms make up what’s called your microbiome. The microbiome is a delicate system that plays a crucial role in your digestive system, immune system, and production of serotonin. 

The microbiome can be aided or weakened by many factors. One of these factors is the food you eat.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll review foods that can restore healthy gut flora. But first, let’s go over why it’s so important that you make adjustments to your eating habits for your gut.

Why we should change what we eat.

In a perfect world, we would eat whatever satisfied us. Our body would easily process the food as it passed through our gut, and then absorb the necessary nutrients while eliminating what we didn’t need through our bowel movements. 

However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and some foods can make us feel really lousy over time. Which is why many of us should adjust our diet in order to improve our gut health. 

The first step is to eliminate or reduce any processed foods, refined sugars and fats as they’re linked with a higher risk of chronic diseases that can shorten your lifespan.

Some of these chronic diseases include:

Other Issues that can be caused by poor gut health include:

Making a positive change in your diet not only benefits your gut health, it can also help lower your chances of getting any of the chronic diseases mentioned above. 

On top of that, eating with your gut in mind will also help lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Now that we went over the “why” we should change our eating habits, let’s dig in and go over which foods will help you achieve a much happier and healthier gut! 

Sauerkraut

A food often associated with sausage and hearty meals, sauerkraut is actually healthier than one may think. 

Due to the fermentation process and the nutritionally dense values of cabbage, sauerkraut is an awesome food for a healthy gut!

In fact, regular consumption of fermented sauerkraut helps to balance good gut bacteria and is also a beneficial treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases and other conditions.

But be careful– not all sauerkraut is the same. Some sauerkraut found in traditional supermarkets can be loaded with sodium. So make sure to check the label when purchasing.

Leafy Greens

Spinach, kale, arugula, and chard are a few examples of leafy greens that are great to achieve a healthy gut lifestyle. The variety of their use is endless, too! 

Leafy greens can be added to smoothies, soups, salads, and side dishes to satisfy cravings and appetite.

They’re low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals – it’s no wonder leafy greens are the superstars of all healthy food! 

The benefits of adding leafy greens to your diet are endless too! 

Here are a few reasons why they are amazing for gut health- 

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Loaded with fiber for a healthy microbiota
  • Maintains healthy blood sugar
  • Promotes a healthy immune system
  • Encourages healthy digestive enzymes
  • Eliminates bloating

Dairy Free Yogurt

Yogurt is great for gut health, but not just any ol’ yogurt! For optimal health benefits, plant-based, dairy-free yogurt is best. 

There are many tasty dairy-free yogurt options available that provide a ton of probiotic gut health benefits – without the lactose issues of dairy.

When choosing a dairy-free yogurt, make sure the label contains at least one of these options:

  • almond milk
  • cashew milk
  • soy milk
  • coconut milk

Plant-based yogurt provides delicious and nutritional options for a healthy gut. Be sure the yogurt you choose isn’t loaded with sugar. 

Don’t worry, you can always sweeten it up with some fruit!

How is Yogurt a Probiotic?

Yogurt is a fermented food that increases lactobacilli (good probiotic) and decreases Enterobacteriaceae (inflammation-causing bacteria). 

In fact, studies show those who consume yogurt regularly have a healthier gut microbiota (gut habitat) than those who do not eat yogurt. 

Further studies also suggest that regular consumption of yogurt is beneficial to those with IBS and other digestive disorders.

It’s easy to see how dairy-free yogurt promotes the gut-healthy lifestyle! So make sure to add some to your next grocery list. 

Garlic

Gut health isn’t only about probiotics – a healthy gut microbiome requires prebiotics, too.

While there are many prebiotic foods, the health benefits of garlic make it a star performer due to its high inulin (a type of dietary fiber) and non-digestive carbohydrate properties. 

These prebiotic properties promote the growth of good bacteria which helps to prevent intestinal diseases.

Garlic is also beneficial for a healthy gut microbiota (gut habitat) due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and cancer prevention properties. 

Prebiotic foods, like garlic, also contain short-chain fatty acids, which promote gut-health and decrease inflammation in the colon.

You may now wonder, do I need to eat a bowl full of garlic? No, please don’t! All you need to do is add 1 – 2 cloves of raw garlic into a meal per day. In fact, many healthy recipes include garlic cloves already. 

It’s a matter of mindfulness.

Nuts

Packed with protein, fiber, and polyphenols, moderate consumption of nuts is fantastic for a healthy-gut life. 

Fiber is a key player here, and adding a quarter cup of nuts per day is all that’s needed.

This goes to show a gut-healthy diet includes tasty foods, even ones you’ll go “nuts” over!

Bananas

This is another one that you’ll go “bananas” for! And we mean literally, because bananas are very gut-healthy! 

The health benefits of eating bananas really stack up because they provide everything from fiber, to prebiotics, to pectin, to resistant starch- all of which promote a healthy gut! 

Not to mention there’s so many different ways to enjoy eating them! They can be used in smoothie recipes, desserts, salads and bread! Or just peel and eat it straight up! 

Bonus tip: add a banana to your dairy free yogurt for an extra dose of gut-healthiness!

Lentils

Lentils are a plant-based source of protein and fiber, and are an easy way to add prebiotics and antioxidants to your daily nutrition.

Lentils also have resistant starch which slows the digestion of carbohydrates and reduces the risk for gastrointestinal disorders. 

Meals that contain lentils are also filling which helps to reduce overeating and indigestion.

Gut Health is Important!

Roughly three million Americans today have been diagnosed with intestinal disorders, including Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis

While factors like family history and environment can play a part in health issues, one’s lifestyle and diet play a big role too!

The key takeaway is to eat healthy fermented foods, as well as foods containing fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics. 

Remember, healthy eating doesn’t have to be confusing, complicated, or disgusting. All it takes is some education and mindful planning.

Could your gut be affecting your current health problems?

If after reading this you feel like your gut may be playing a role in your current health problems, then it’s time to make an appointment with Dr. Ian Hollaman, aka Dr. Autoimmune! 

Dr. Hollaman treats a plethora of conditions including many that we mentioned above. He addresses the root causes of your condition(s) using the most modern forms of healthcare including Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutrition, and Neurofeedback.

After working with Dr. Autoimmune and our team, you will walk away with the knowledge and tips to keep your health on track for years to come.

It’s time to start your journey to better health with the right tools, therapies, and diet changes.

Contact us today to get started! We’re happy to set up a complimentary 15-minute introductory consultation with Dr. Ian Hollaman himself.