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.

How Functional Medicine Can Heal Your Eczema

Eczema care from a functional medicine perspective is all about finding the cause. At Dr. Autoimmune, Dr. Ian Hollaman doesn’t only address his patients’ eczema symptoms; he looks for the root cause of the eczema and fixes it! 

In this article we will go over the common problems Dr. Autoimmune finds that cause eczema.

Eczema And Intestinal Problems

The first place we look for the cause of eczema is the intestinal tract. Whenever there is a skin problem (acne, psoriasis, rashes, boils, etc) the most common cause is something wrong with the gut. 

It’s rare to find someone with unhealthy intestines but healthy skin. That’s because the skin and the gut have some things in common. They both get rid of toxins. When the gut is damaged and not able to eliminate toxins effectively, or worse is ADDING toxins to the body, the skin becomes the place these toxins end up, resulting in a “skin illness” like eczema. 

Both the skin and the intestines are affected by bacteria. They each can be made sick by a lack of healthy bacteria or the presence of pathogens. So eczema care here would be to fix what may be wrong in the gut. Some of the common intestinal conditions that are found to result in eczema are:


This is a fancy word for the bacteria in the intestines being messed up. Our bodies need lots of healthy bacteria, probiotics, in the right proportions. If the probiotics are lacking or imbalanced, the result will be problems in the gut.

Intestinal pathogens

Intestinal pathogens are harmful bacteria, parasites or fungi (yeast or mold). These bad guys damage the intestines and can cause a condition called leaky gut syndrome.


A variety of digestive problems can hurt the gut. Hypochloridia is a condition where the stomach doesn’t make enough acid. When the digestion in the stomach is weak, food is not broken down. 

Along the same lines, if either the pancreas or gallbladder under-perform, there will be undigested fat, protein and carbohydrates. Poorly digested food irritates the gut and can result in skin problems.

With proper testing, all of these issues are easily diagnosed. Eczema care from a functional medicine approach will always address any problems in the intestinal tract.

Eczema And Food Sensitivities 

Food sensitivities can cause many skin conditions, including eczema. Sensitivities can be developed to any kind of food or food ingredient including chemicals like food coloring and artificial sweeteners, seasonings, and even things like baker’s yeast. 

Sensitivities are different from food allergies, which cause an immediate reaction. Instead, a delayed onset reaction occurs and can last for up to three weeks once triggered. Because of this delay and long duration it can be very frustrating to figure it out by trial and error. 

Thankfully there is excellent testing that can uncover what these sensitivities are. At Dr. Autoimmune, we’ve seen many health issues resolved in patients, even some unexpected ones, once their food sensitivities were discovered and their diets adjusted.

Eczema And Imbalanced Fatty Acids

Low or imbalanced fatty acids or high levels of pro-inflammatory fatty acids can lead to eczema. 

Fatty acids are very important in regulating inflammation in the body, and in eczema the skin is very inflamed. Fatty acid levels are affected by diet and absorption. 

If a person is eating foods high in pro-inflammatory fatty acids (soy, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and mixed vegetable oils, or fatty meats like burgers, hot dogs, bacon, bologna, ribs, etc) or not eating enough foods high in anti-inflammatory fats (olive oil, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fatty fish like salmon) their biochemistry will become pro-inflammatory. That’s why testing fatty acid levels is an important part of healing eczema.

Eczema And Histamine Intolerance 

Most people are familiar with antihistamine drugs. Histamine is released in response to allergies and causes the runny nose and sneezing associated with allergies. 

The allergy component is just one of the jobs histamine is involved in. Histamine is also released in response to injury, inflammation and infection. 

In fact, histamine has 23 different functions in the body. When a person’s body can’t eliminate histamine and has elevated levels all the time, they develop an intolerance to histamine. Eczema is one of the possible problems histamine intolerance can cause.

Histamine intolerance can also cause leaky gut, which again can lead to eczema. This is a good example of how a problem like eczema can be complicated and multi-layered. 

A functional medicine approach looks for these various factors to uncover the root cause(s) of eczema.

Eczema And Toxins

Air pollutants from cigarette smoke, automobiles, industrial factories, and heating systems in buildings can all cause eczema. 

Also, heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium can cause eczema. And people with poor detoxification ability are at greater risk. 

Testing not only for the presence of these toxins in the body, but for how well a person is able to get rid of toxins, is very important.

Eczema And Mold

Mold can cause eczema. Testing here is critical because mold can cause so many other health problems. 

It’s very common that patients who have eczema that was caused by mold, had no idea that their home had mold.

Eczema And Allergies 

There are many allergens that can cause eczema like: 

  • certain foods 
  • food additives
  • ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products
  • environmental chemicals and pollutants
  • seasonal pollen
  • dust mites 
  • pet dander

A Functional Medicine Approach To Eczema 

Healing eczema from a functional medicine approach is all about finding the cause and fixing it. 

Generally patients with eczema have more going on than just their eczema. Often these patients have one or more of these conditions as well: 

  • an autoimmune disorder
  • chronic fatigue
  • weakness
  • body pain
  • joint pain
  • headaches
  • sinus problems
  • brain fog
  • IBS &
  • depression and anxiety.

The components of the human body are so interwoven that when something is not working right a whole host of problems can occur. 

Functional medicine is all about recognizing this. 

Once the root causes are resolved, people get healthy and their symptoms go away.

Dr. Ian Hollaman aka Dr. Autoimmune

Functional medicine is one promising aspect of America’s healthcare future, in that it resolves medical issues at their source, before they become chronic challenges in your future.

If you or a loved one has eczema, Dr. Autoimmune and his team can help! Just click here or just click the Start Your Journey button below.

We’re the autoimmune wellness specialists that Boulder, CO. residents trust! 

Don’t forget to Follow Us On Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for daily natural health tips.

Healing Crohn’s Disease With Functional Medicine

Digestive issues are becoming more and more common! From bloating to IBS to SIBO and Candida overgrowth, there’s no shortage of people walking into my office hoping for a solution to their GI issues

Today, I’m going to dive into one of the more serious GI issues I see among my patients — Crohn’s disease

Many people with Crohn’s feel hopeless and like there’s no more that can be done. But I’m here to tell you that no matter what you’ve heard, there are steps you can take to improve your digestion and see improvements in your symptoms. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. As of 2015, about 1.3% of the United States population had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBD is different from IBS in that it is characterized as an autoimmune disease, meaning the underlying cause of Crohn’s is an immune system malfunction that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues. 

In the case of Crohn’s, the body attacks the intestinal lining, leading to localized inflammation. 

What Are the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease? 

The inflammation caused by Crohn’s can lead to a host of symptoms, including: 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Bloating 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding and pain
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Nutrient deficiencies 
  • Fatigue
  • Low mood or depression 
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting

To be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, these symptoms would have to be moderate to severe, and chronic. 

In order to officially make a Crohn’s disease diagnosis, a doctor will also do laboratory tests to check your inflammation levels, signs of nutrient deficiencies such as anemia, and infections as well as X-rays, CT scans, a colonoscopy, and an endoscopy.

What Does a Functional Medicine Crohn’s Diet Plan Look Like? 

If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you may have already noticed that certain foods seem to trigger your symptoms and other foods seem to be “safe.” And while every person’s trigger foods are slightly different, almost all Crohn’s patients can benefit from reducing their intake of: 

  • Lectin-containing foods like beans and legumes 
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Gluten-containing grains
  • Dairy
  • Processed foods
  • Raw vegetables
  • Caffeine 
  • Sorbitol, xylitol, or other sugar alcohols
  • Alcohol 
  • Spicy foods 
  • Raw fruits

You may be reading the list above and feel a little bummed out. Does this mean you can’t enjoy your morning cappuccino or popcorn at the movies? Dr. Ian Hollaman, aka Dr. Autoimmune recommends reducing these foods as much as possible, especially in the first few months, but you may be able to be more flexible once your symptoms have improved.

The good news is that there are a ton of delicious foods that can actually benefit your gut health, such as: 

  • Organic meats
  • Fatty fish 
  • Cooked vegetables 
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fruits and vegetables 

As a general rule, it’s been noticed that people with Crohn’s seem to benefit from eating cooked foods, which means soups, stews, and stir fry are your new best friends. 

Crohn’s can have serious consequences and should not be ignored. That being said, if your doctor does not seem open to dietary or lifestyle changes, or tells you they won’t make a difference, that is a red flag that you may want to find another physician to manage your care. Why? Because study after study has shown that lifestyle factors DO matter when it comes to Crohn’s and all inflammatory bowel diseases for that matter. 

Non-Food Lifestyle Choices That Can Improve Symptoms.

Even though Crohn’s is a gut-centric disease, there are other non-food lifestyle choices that seem to be able to improve symptoms. If you have Crohn’s, I recommend exploring the following:

1. Avoid smoking-

Tobacco products have been linked to the development of Crohn’s and an increased number of flare-ups. 

2. Manage stress-

Stress is not necessarily a cause of Crohn’s but it can definitely trigger flare-ups and worsen symptoms. I recommend yoga, meditation, or gratitude practices as a way to manage daily stress. 

3. Take fish oil-

Fish oil may help reduce the underlying inflammation present in Crohn’s disease. In fact, one study showed that patients taking fish oil were twice as likely to remain in remission compared to patients not taking fish oil. 

4. Try acupuncture-

Another great option is the traditional Chinese medicine modality acupuncture. While the research isn’t conclusive, several clinical trials have shown promising results that acupuncture could be helpful for inflammatory bowel disease. 

How Functional Medicine Can Help Heal Crohn’s Disease

Many patients with Crohn’s disease report feeling frustrated with conventional medical protocols. Patients overwhelmed with drug risks and side effects want an alternative approach. Functional medicine practitioners like Dr. Ian Hollaman (aka Dr. Autoimmune) is an expert in alternative therapies- He has found that when he helps clients with Crohn’s disease change their lifestyle, he can help them change the severity of their disease. 

He then customizes a program that utilizes diagnostic tests, protocols, and procedures to help identify autoimmune triggers caused by Crohn’s disease which may be contributing to the client’s symptoms. 

He then uses additional protocols to help the body deal with the identified stressors. 

How Is Crohn’s Disease Diagnosed?

Diagnosing Crohn’s disease may often prove to be a complicated task, given the complexity of symptoms, the varying degree of their severity, and the fact that the signs may not manifest the same way for all patients. It is likely that several different types of tests are needed, after considering your symptoms, their frequency, and seriousness. 

Functional Medicine Labs to Test for Crohn’s Disease

Functional medicine testing can assess the extent of inflammation in the intestines and the rest of the body along with nutrient deficiencies, anemia, and infections and help identify underlying contributing factors.


The Celiac, IBS, and Crohn’s Assay (CICA) measure genetic risk markers and antibodies directed against yeast in the gut (Anti-Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Antibody (ASCA), which is an indicator for the presence and severity of Crohn’s.


Fecal calprotectin is a marker of mucosal inflammation in IBD and can be used to monitor disease activity.

Comprehensive Stool Test

The GI-MAP assesses relative amounts of healthy and unbalanced gut bacteria, inflammation and leaky gut markers, parasites, and yeast overgrowth. Individuals with Crohn’s frequently have an overgrowth of Candida and Malassezia yeasts that join harmful bacteria to create biofilms that are difficult for the immune system to get rid of. This can trigger autoimmunity and perpetuate the cycle of inflammation, so detecting and healing gut infections and imbalances is important.

Micronutrient Testing

Crohn’s causes nutrient deficiencies that result in further immune system dysregulation and impaired healing. The damaged intestines cannot effectively absorb nutrients, leading to deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients. 

The functional status of nutrients within the cell can be assessed with a micronutrient panel to target any deficiencies.

Other Labs

Other basic labs to assess contributing factors and complications include

  • complete blood count (CBC) to detect infection and anemia
  • inflammation markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) to assess inflammation throughout the body, and
  • liver function tests to screen for liver and bile duct problems.

After careful consideration, a highly trained integrative functional medicine practitioner can determine the presence of Crohn’s disease, its location in the digestive tract, and its state of progression. 

If you’re an individual suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease, it is imperative to develop a close, trusting, and reliable relationship with your integrative functional medicine practitioner to avoid the worsening of your condition and even to restore the standard functions of the digestive system.

Why is it Important to Work With an Integrative Functional Medicine Practitioner?

An integrative functional medicine practitioner will examine all areas of your life when creating a plan for managing your Crohn’s disease symptoms.

With the help of various scientifically proven allopathic and complementary medicinal methods this disorder may become entirely manageable, remaining in remission for extended periods of time. The goal of care therefore, will always be:

  • to control the inflammatory processes, most often with the help of anti-inflammatories
  • to balance the immune system- by aiding its health with proper nutrition
  • to correct any nutritional deficiencies developed by creating a proper diet protocol and adding appropriate supplementation
  • to relieve all bothersome symptoms, usually with the help of natural therapies, herbal remedies, stress relief, and other alternative approaches

Functional Medicine Care for Crohn’s Disease

A functional medicine approach to Crohn’s disease addresses underlying factors to balance the immune system, calm inflammation, and avoid the progression of the disease to avoid complications.

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make


Diet strongly influences the gut microenvironment, impacting microbial composition, function, gut barrier, and immunity. 

The composition of the gut microbiota can change in response to diet. So like we mentioned above, an individualized nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet can help balance inflammation to avoid flares and further irritation to the gastrointestinal tract while optimizing nutrients.

Support the Microbiome

A properly balanced gut microbiome is crucial for balanced immune function. A diet rich in unprocessed whole foods that incorporates probiotic-rich foods like miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut combined with prebiotic-rich foods like leeks, artichokes, garlic, and beans that nourish healthy bacteria is critical for repairing the intestinal lining and reducing symptoms. 

In addition to diet, probiotic supplements like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have been shown to improve Crohn’s.

Manage Stress

Stress increases cortisol and inflammation in the gut via the “brain-gut axis,” triggering flare-ups. Therefore, stress management practices like yoga, meditation, breathwork, or gratitude practices and addressing emotions and trauma are helpful.


Exercise decreases the expression of inflammatory substances and encourages repair of the damaged intestines.

Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT)

FMT is an emerging experimental treatment strategy for Crohn’s.

Dr. Ian Hollaman aka Dr. Autoimmune 

Dr. Ian Hollaman, aka Dr. Autoimmune, along with his team, is one of the top functional medicine telehealth providers in the world! We offer webcam health consultations for people suffering from autoimmune diseases. 

At Dr. Autoimmune, we use a functional medicine approach to identify the root cause of your condition and develop a custom plan using diet, supplementation, and lifestyle change to help you reach your health goals. 

With an 85% success rate, we are confident that we can get you the results you are looking for. 

If you’re ready for your life to change click here or just click the “Start Your Journey” button below.

We are the autoimmune wellness specialists that Boulder, CO. residents trust!

What is Leaky Gut?

95% of the good microbes in your body are in your gut. When in balance, these tiny organisms work together with your body to support many important systems, such as your immune system. In fact, 70-80% of your immune cells are in your gut! The tiny ecosystem of microbes in your stomach and intestines is known as your “gut microbiome”.

A problem occurs when the good microbes are overpowered by bad microbes. This creates a state of imbalance known as “gut dysbiosis”. Since your gut microbiome is so essential to the proper functioning of many of your body’s systems, gut dysbiosis is linked to various diseases- even brain diseases- such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

What affects your gut microbiota? Stress, alcohol, certain foods, the use of antibiotics can all harm the good microbes in your gut, leading to gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis can also cause inflammation, which can lead to what we call “leaky gut”.

The lining of your intestines is important for keeping most material inside your gut, while also letting things like water and nutrients be absorbed through it. In order to let certain things through the barrier, your intestine lining has to be somewhat permeable by having gaps between cells. However, when the gaps become too big due to inflammation, bigger particles can seep through. This is how leaky gut starts.

Food particles that escape your intestinal lining cause more inflammation. This is why leaky gut can is linked to inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The backbone of our immune system lies in our gut. When we have gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, and inflammation, our immune system can become dysregulated. This leads to a loss of tolerance for certain foods, environmental substances such as chemicals, and eventually our own cells.

3 Red Flags for Leaky Gut

Food sensitivities

Environmental sensitivities

Autoimmune disease

Healing Leaky Gut With Functional Medicine

As a functional medicine office, our focus is to dig deeper and address chronic health concerns by getting to the root cause. Because leaky gut is often the root cause of most inflammatory disorders and autoimmune diseases, our care is very gut-focused.

One of the most common questions asked in the natural health community is, “How do I fix my gut?” The problem is that this is not exactly a one-size-fits-all situation! Our personalized plans are designed to find and remove your specific triggers, which are not the same for everyone.


Since gut dysbiosis is a factor contributing to leaky gut, it is beneficial to add healthy bacteria back into the gut to “take up parking spots” and out-compete bad bacteria. Dr. Ian Hollaman uses advanced GI testing to identify exactly which strains of probiotics will be most beneficial for each patient. 

Sometimes, before adding in good bacteria, the gut needs to be cleared of an infection, or overgrowth, of bad bacteria. Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a difficult monster to tackle, but we have successfully helped many of our patients get it under control.


Eating a fiber-rich diet gives the good bacteria in your gut plenty of good food! This is another way to help their populations grow.


Polyphenols are antioxidants that help reduce stress on your body’s cells, therefore reducing inflammation. A recent study found that eating a polyphenol-rich diet for 8 weeks helped change the gut microbiota and therefore reduced intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). This study used polyphenols from cocoa and green tea. 

Dr. Ian’s proprietary supplement ImmunoXym contains caffeine-free green tea extract for its polyphenol content along with a specially formulated blend of probiotics and a slew of other vitamins essential for your immune system to regulate itself. 


Glutamine supplementation has been shown to dramatically and safely reduce symptoms in IBS patients that have leaky gut.

The Dr. Autoimmune Difference

At Dr. Autoimmune, we use a functional medicine approach to address the root cause of leaky gut and all other gut issues. Our solutions are always natural, always personalized, and always backed by science. If you are ready to change your life, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page!

Could Your PCOS Medications “B” the Problem?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common conditions in reproductive-aged women. It is estimated that 8-13% of all reproductive-aged women have this condition and up to 70% of those women are undiagnosed. People with PCOS have cysts on their ovaries that cause hormonal symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Infertility
  • Weight gain and weight loss resistance
  • Scalp hair loss/thinning
  • Oily skin/acne


Often we find that PCOS patients also have insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes. According to some studies, nearly 70% of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance. High levels of blood insulin increase androgen levels (male hormones such as testosterone). Excess androgens in females are mostly to blame for the undesirable effects of PCOS, including acne, weight gain, facial hair, and weight loss resistance. 

Inflammation increases the risk for PCOS. Insulin resistance is just one cause of systemic inflammation. Gut health, stress levels, and weight gain can all contribute to inflammation as well.

Current Treatments

Currently, health care providers recommend weight loss as a primary approach to PCOS relief. Fat cells cause inflammation, so this makes sense. However, as many people may already know, weight loss is not always as easy as it sounds! Insulin resistance can make losing weight through exercise feel impossible.

As far as medications, health care providers often prescribe combination birth control pills to adjust hormone levels, or metformin for insulin resistance. Neither of these approaches truly address the root cause of the insulin resistance and systemic inflammation.

The B Vitamin Cycle of Doom

Just like with most medications, the common prescriptions for PCOS have side effects. Both birth control pills and metformin are known to deplete B vitamins. Metformin specifically makes it more difficult for your body to absorb B12. Birth control pills, on the other hand, are known to cause nutritional deficiencies in folate, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc.

Why are B vitamin deficiencies so concerning? B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin that is essential for brain health and nervous system function. It is needed for the creation of red blood cells, which help distribute oxygen to the rest of our bodies (including our brains). It is no wonder, then, that low B12 levels have been linked to dementia.


In addition to taking medications that deplete them, many people with PCOS have a specific gene mutation that makes it even more difficult to create active B vitamins. MTHFR is a gene that helps our bodies convert folate to an activated version that we need in order to use B12 (5-MTHF). Birth control pills deplete folate, B6 and B12 levels, so if you also have the MTHFR mutation then your body will really struggle to activate and utilize B12.

Some studies have suggested that women with PCOS are more likely to have a mutation on the MTHFR gene. So, due to medication side effects and/or gene mutations, people with PCOS often suffer from B vitamin deficiency (hence their association with Major depression). 

What’s interesting is how much overlap there is between B vitamin deficiency symptoms and PCOS symptoms. It begs the question: Are PCOS symptoms made worse by B vitamin deficiency, caused by the very medications meant to bring the patient relief?

The Dr. Autoimmune Difference

Our office uses a functional medicine approach to identify and address the root cause of chronic conditions such as PCOS. Rather than using medications, we know how to help you provide your body with the tools it needs to correct imbalances naturally.

For example, our office uses continuous glucose monitoring technology to help our patients identify how certain foods affect their blood sugar. Our nutritionist works one on one with patients to develop plans that help their bodies regulate blood sugar levels more effectively. Once insulin resistance is under control, weight loss becomes much easier. Loss of excess fat= less inflammation= less PCOS symptoms.

The bottom line is that PCOS is not a life sentence- lifestyle changes such as exercise, supplementation, and diet change designed to address the root cause will provide relief. If you are ready to tackle your chronic condition and change your life naturally, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Her Microbes

Have you heard of the “microbiome”? This is the word for a small ecosystem made up of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Everyone has ecosystems like these in their body, such as the gut microbiome, the skin microbiome, and pregnant people even have a placental microbiome inside their uterus. These tiny ecosystems are responsible for generating and absorbing essential nutrients, helping with digestion, and even providing a backbone for your immune system. In fact, 70-80% of your immune cells are in your gut!

We all know that the mother’s health affects the health of the baby. This is why pregnant women are advised against taking certain medications and drinking alcohol. Research shows that the microbiomes involved in birth- the placental and vaginal microbiomes- also have an important impact on the long-term health of the baby, including their risk of autoimmunity.

Importance of Infant Microbiome

The gut microbiome plays a key role in disease development, especially during early life. The foundation of a child’s gut microbiome is built during the first 3 years of life. This is a critical window because any disturbances to the microbiome during this time can have life-long consequences such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurological conditions. Studies have also shown that the microbiome in the first 3 years of life can influence a child’s chance of developing an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease.

During infancy, the gut is dominated by a type of bacteria called “bifidobacteria”. Having higher levels of bifidobacteria have been associated with lower risk for obesity, allergies, and autoimmunity. These specific organisms also make nutrients that are vital to early development, such as sialic acid, which is essential for brain development!

So, we know that an infant’s gut microbiome is incredibly important to their future physical and mental health. We have to make sure to build a proper foundation. What are some factors that affect an infant’s microbiome?

The Maternal Gut Microbiome

Studies have proven that the microbes found in the placenta match those in the mother’s mouth. The first microbes that a fetus learns come directly from mom! This means that an expecting mother’s gut health directly affects their baby’s future gut health.

Gestational Age

Infants born before 33 weeks have less gut biodiversity than infants born full-term. Biodiversity= having many different types of microbes. Having more biodiversity in the baby’s gut helps their immune system develop properly.

Mode of Delivery

Infants born via C-section show overall lower biodiversity in their gut during the first 2 years of life. The low levels of healthy microbes in C-section babies allowed harmful bacteria to take over. Lower gut biodiversity in infants= higher risk of infection! The bacteria that the mother passes to the baby during vaginal births helps protect them against infection and immune system issues such as allergies. One study of 6,000 babies in New York found that those born via C-section were twice as likely to develop food allergies or asthma by age 3.

Mode of Feeding

Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. A mother’s milk is specific for the needs of their baby. The probiotics in the milk depend on the mode of delivery, gestational age, and environmental exposures. 

One interesting environmental factor that seems to be important for healthy breast milk microbiota is actually the stress involved with birth! Who knew that stress could ever be a good thing? But it’s true- mothers who had an emergency C-section or a vaginal delivery had healthier breast milk microbes than mothers who chose to have an elective C-section. The only difference between an elective C-section and an emergency C-section is the amount of stress that the mother experiences during the birth. (Sorry, moms!)

Check Out Your Gut!

Having a healthy gut is vital to having a healthy immune system, no matter your age. The root cause of autoimmune conditions almost always includes gut dysbiosis. Many of our clients get a “GI Map”, which is a very comprehensive stool test that detects bacterial overgrowths and undergrowths, viral and parasitic infections, bacterial pathogens, fungi, and more. We have found no other stool test that is more comprehensive.

Maybe you are an expecting mom, trying to get pregnant, or curious about your child’s gut health. In any case, if you are interested in finding the root cause of your condition or checking out the health of your or your child’s gut, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page!

Junior Joint Pain

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is joint inflammation in children 16 years of age or younger, lasting for at least 6 weeks. Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that is chronic and can last a lifetime without proper diagnosis or intervention, children usually outgrow JIA. But do they really?

JIA is…drum roll please…an autoimmune disease. Children with predisposed genes, such as a part of a gene called HLA antigen DR4, could be at a higher risk for developing JIA. Even if the symptoms of JIA subside, the risk of developing an autoimmune condition later in life is probable. All autoimmune conditions can be connected to “leaky gut”, a problem where the gut barrier breaks down and inflammation begins to trigger an autoimmune response. Even if your child does not have gut-related symptoms, it is quite common that those with JIA have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, undergrowth, or other infectious bugs that must be brought under control with proper evaluation and support.

There is evidence that early exposure to antibiotics and compromised gut health could be contributing factors. Additional studies support the connection between JIA, type 1 diabetes, food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Infants who were born vaginally vs. by c-section tend to have more Bifidobacterium in their gut, which is associated with a strong immune response. Nursed infants also have higher levels of this same beneficial bacteria in addition to Lactobacilli and Streptococci. Bottle-fed infants could be lacking these healthy bacteria, and may be at increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

There are several types of JIA:

  • Systemic onset JIA affects one or more joints, combined with high fever and a skin rash. It may also cause inflammation of internal organs, including the heart, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. It is the least common type. It affects 1 in 10 to about 1 in 7 children with JIA.
  • Oligoarticular JIA affects 1 to 4 joints in the first 6 months of disease. If no more joints are affected after 6 months, this type is called persistent. If more joints are affected after 6 months, it is called extended.
  • Polyarticular JIA affects 5 or more joints in the first 6 months of disease. Blood tests for rheumatoid factor (RF) will show if this type is RF-positive or RF-negative.
  • Enthesitis-related JIA is arthritis and swelling of the tissue where bone meets a tendon or ligament. It often affects the hips, knees, and feet.
  • Psoriatic arthritis may have both arthritis and a red, scaly skin disease called psoriasis. 2 or more of the following symptoms may be present:
    • Inflammation of a finger or toe
    • Pits or ridges in fingernails
    • A first-degree relative with psoriasis
  • Undifferentiated arthritis is arthritis that has symptoms of 2 or more JIA types above. Or the symptoms might not match any type of JIA.

Symptoms of JIA may include:

  • Pain, swelling and tenderness in the joints. The joints may also feel warm.
  • Morning joint stiffness
  • Limping gait (younger children may not be able to perform motor activities that they recently learned)
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue or irritability
  • Eye redness, eye pain, and blurred vision

Diagnosing JIA

How do you know if your child may have JIA? A physical exam may not be enough to determine a clear diagnosis. A MRI or X-ray could show the degree of inflammation, and a comprehensive blood panel may show the presence of the substance’s antinuclear antibody (ANA) and rheumatoid factor. These tests can help rule out other diseases. As well, the most significant and accurate marker for rheumatoid arthritis, cyclic citrullinated peptides (CCP) should be run.

Functional medicine excels at this aspect of determining the root cause and how to rehab the immune system. If you suspect your child may have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Dr. Autoimmune can help. Click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page or call today to schedule a new patient evaluation with Dr. Ian Hollaman: 303-882-8447, press 0 to speak with Felice.

Diabetes and Dementia and B12 Deficiency, Oh My!

Diabetes affects 11.3% of people in the US, and 90-95% of those people have type 2 diabetes. What many people may not know, however, is that all forms of diabetes will increase your risk of dementia. Glucose (sugar) is an essential source of energy for your brain, so when your insulin is not metabolizing it in a way that makes it useful, your brain misses out on important fuel. A pre-diabetic state is marked by insulin resistance, which is when your insulin cells can’t use glucose effectively.

Some early signs of insulin resistance include:

The catch is, even if you try to get your diabetes under control with medications such as metformin, you will still be increasing your chances of getting dementia.

The Misfortune of Metformin 

Metformin may be prescribed as generic, or by brand names such as Fortamet or Glumetza. It is a commonly used drug for type 2 diabetes and has been prescribed to over 120 million people worldwide.

Numerous studies have shown a correlation between use of metformin and chronic vitamin B12 deficiency. Typically within one year of consistent usage of metformin, your ability to absorb B12 becomes compromised and you may experience symptoms of B12 deficiency including:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness especially coming from seated to standing
  • Feeling cold
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Loss of reflexes, which may progress to depression, confusion, and memory loss

B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin that is essential for brain health and nervous system function. It is needed for the creation of red blood cells, which help distribute oxygen to the rest of our bodies (including our brains). It is no wonder, then, that low B12 levels have been linked to dementia. Researchers Norbert Goebels, M.D. and Michael Soyka, M.D wrote:

“Cobalamin deficiency has been shown to be the most frequent associated physical disease in patients with dementia.”

So, diabetes can lead to dementia, and the medication for diabetes can also lead to dementia. Not to mention the recent national recall for metformin based on a batch containing a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical. Is there no way to win here? Well, our office has a different approach.

What Else Can Cause B12 Deficiency?


Besides medications like metformin, there are other risk factors that can lead to a B12 deficiency. Age is one of these factors. Ten to thirty percent of people over the age of 50 produce too little stomach acid to release B12 from the foods they eat. A certain amount of stomach acid is required to break down the carrier foods and release the B12 vitamin. This could mean that even though you are eating foods that technically contain B12, you may not be breaking the food down enough to actually absorb the B12. The older you get, the less stomach acid you produce, so this risk only increases.


MTHFR is a gene that helps our bodies convert folate, A.K.A. vitamin B9, to an activated version that our bodies can use. All B vitamins need to be converted to their methylated forms in order for our bodies to use them. What does this have to do with B12?

Our bodies need activated (methylated) folate in order to use B12. So, when there is a mutation on our MTHFR gene, it affects our body’s ability to make activated folate, and therefore our ability to use B12. This creates an interesting dynamic where someone can have completely normal levels of B12 in their blood, but are actually deficient in the vitamin and have the corresponding symptoms.

At Dr. Autoimmune, we are able to order specialized blood tests to detect mutations on the MTHFR gene when Dr. Ian suspects this may be a concern.

Managing Diabetes Naturally

Instead of prescribing medications that increase your risk of dementia, our office seeks to address the underlying cause of your condition and develop a management plan using lifestyle changes and proper supplementation.

One tool we frequently use is a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to help our clients learn exactly how different foods affect their blood sugar. While we use this tool to manage and make decisions about diet changes, we also dive deeper.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes. Insulin resistance is caused by systemic inflammation in the body. This can be caused by gut dysbiosis, food sensitivities (particularly to gluten), toxin exposure (such as mold), stress, and hormone imbalances, just to name a few.

By identifying and addressing these root causes, rather than managing symptoms with a band-aid medication, our patients find that their bodies have exceptional healing abilities when given the right tools! If you are ready to change your life, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

Dr. Ian recently went viral with a video about MTHFR and B12 deficiency related to metformin use. Make sure to subscribe to him on TikTok to get daily health tips and kernels of knowledge!