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A Ticking Lyme Bomb

Learn about the link between ticks, Lyme disease and autoimmune disease and how to protect yourself from this dangerous trio.

These itty bitty bugs climb out as cold weather fades. Particularly in woody, adventure-seeking communities like Colorado, people take to the outdoors (and so do the ticks!).

Ticks are No Treat

Ticks are tiny insects that attach themselves to the skin of animals and humans. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary, but they often include”:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • A distinctive rash known as erythema migrans

If Lyme disease is not treated, it can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. In some cases, Lyme disease can lead to an autoimmune condition. Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. This can occur in people with Lyme disease if the bacteria spreads to the liver and triggers an autoimmune response. In severe cases, autoimmunity can cause organ damage and even death. Lyme disease is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment. Ticks can also carry other diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis (Lyme co-infection), but Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in North America.

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, and they affect people of all ages. Lyme disease is a serious health problem and can lead to autoimmunity, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself from ticks and other insects that carry the disease. You should wear long pants and sleeves when you are outdoors in areas where ticks live. You should also use natural insect repellent (made with essential oils) on your skin and clothing. Be sure to check yourself and your pets for ticks after spending time outdoors, and remove any that are found promptly. 

How to Remove a Tick 

The CDC suggests:

It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry

It’s often very difficult to diagnose a Lyme infection. Many people live with undiagnosed symptoms for years before getting to the root cause. Lyme disease is best detected by a blood test, which looks for antibodies to the Lyme bacteria. The test can be performed using either a whole blood sample or a serum sample. Antibodies to Lyme disease are typically produced within 3-6 weeks of infection, so it is best to wait at least 6 weeks after possible exposure before getting tested. It’s important to get proper testing as not all tests are created equal. Lyme disease can also be detected using a urine test, but this is not as accurate as the blood test. Lyme disease is a serious infection that can cause a wide range of symptoms, so it is important to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to the bacteria.

All Testing is Not Created Equal

It is important to use the proper type of testing for Lyme. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing can detect the DNA of the Lyme disease bacteria and if you have an active case of Lyme disease or if you had Lyme in the past. Use of IgM testing is recommended during the first 30 days of infection, after which only IgG tests should be used. Research shows that current western blot testing has shortcomings, and PCR testing is more valid in determining an active infection.

Supporting Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a serious illness that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. While there is no cure for Lyme disease, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. By seeking out natural treatments and support, Lyme disease sufferers can take an active role in managing their illness and improving their wellbeing.

If you think you may have Lyme disease, it is important to see your practitioner as soon as possible. Call Dr. Autoimmune 303-882-8447 or click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page to find out more about how we can help.

Lupus and DHEA: A New Approach

Lupus is an autoimmune condition that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of the body. As with all autoimmune conditions, there is no “cure” necessarily, but it stems from imbalances in the body that can be adjusted, so remission from this condition is possible.

Autoimmunity is when the body attacks its own tissue and organs. In lupus, any bodily system can be attacked, so there are a wide range of possible symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fever
  • Rashes (malar “butterfly” type)
  • Chest pain  
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Sun or light sensitivity
  • Kidney problems
  • Mouth sores 
  • Prolonged or extreme fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Brain fog
  • Memory problems
  • Blood clotting
  • Eye disease
  • Anxiety

One natural method for relieving lupus symptoms that has been showing a lot of positive results is DHEA. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a mild male hormone. It can be helpful for reducing lupus symptoms such as hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog.

In blood tests, DHEA levels tend to be lower in people who have inflammatory diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and inflammatory bowel disease. The more severe a person’s symptoms are, the lower their DHEA levels are. So, the hypothesis is that the higher we can get the DHEA levels, the less symptoms that person will experience! Experiments with mice and clinical trials with humans have both shown that DHEA supplementation can, in fact, reduce symptoms of lupus.

How Does it Work?

While it theoretically makes sense that if low DHEA = more symptoms, then high DHEA = less symptoms, we need to know how this works in order to be sure that it isn’t just a random connection. 

You may have heard of a “cytokine storm” in relation to the recent pandemic. It is basically a state of systemic inflammation. Cytokines are proteins that are important for communication between cells. Some cytokines are actually anti-inflammatory, but many are pro-inflammatory, meaning that they cause inflammation, as they do in a cytokine storm.

Studies have shown that DHEA may help regulate cytokine production and reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are created, therefore reducing overall inflammation. The relationship between cytokines and DHEA may also explain why DHEA levels are lower in people that have chronic inflammatory conditions, such as lupus and RA. Pro-inflammatory cytokines actually suppress the enzymes that are needed to make DHEA. So there is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” situation here, since it is not exactly clear which comes first. But we know that there is a vicious cycle:

DHEA can reduce autoimmunity, but it also increases resistance to infection. How can it both amp up and calm down your immune system? The answer is in its ability to regulate. The key to resolving autoimmunity is not to suppress the entire immune system, which leaves your body vulnerable to infection, but to regulate the immune system so that it works properly. DHEA seems to be an important factor for immune system regulation. The biggest factor though, of course, is T-regulatory cell function- literally named for their job of ‘policing’ the immune system.

Side effects of DHEA can include acne, facial hair growth, oily skin, and excessive sweating. In one study, even though every patient who continued to take the DHEA for 12 months showed significant improvement, 16% of the participants dropped out of the study early due to side effects. This goes to show that this medication may not be the best option for everyone (doses tended to be high so this may have led to side effects).

DHEA can also lower good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in women and raise estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. (Learn more about the importance of healthy cholesterol levels here and the issues with estrogen dominance here.) There have been concerns raised about the long-term effects due to lowered HDL cholesterol, so it is important to talk with a doctor about DHEA rather than attempting to use it by yourself.

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. We are unique because we also address the brain through functional neurology, which is especially helpful for lupus patients struggling with brain fog and memory loss. With an 85% success rate, we are confident that we can get you the results you are looking for. If you’re ready to be brave to change, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

Meet the Master Manipulator: Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is a gland located behind your Adam’s apple. Its job is to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which are the hormones that control your metabolism. This process of transforming the food you eat into energy can result in (T)erminator-like symptoms where you begin to feel inhuman. 

Think of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is under-producing these hormones and can lead to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurs when too many hormones are being produced and can lead to Graves’ disease. Balance is the key to keeping your body running well.

If you are a woman, you know how much our hormones can take over and drive us either straight and narrow, or straight into a truck depending on stress, menstruation, food or environmental triggers. Men are not immune from thyroid disorders. Women tend to have higher instances with thyroid disorders, generally after menopause. Regardless of gender, autoimmune-related thyroid conditions are on the rise. 

10 most common symptoms that your thyroid is under attack or needs support:

  1. Weight gain or loss

An early sign of thyroid irregularity is weight gain or loss. Since your thyroid can control your energy, it’s no wonder your weight can be affected. Rapid weight gain can be an indicator of low thyroid hormone function, while weight loss can be triggered by an overactive thyroid gland. 

  1. Fatigue

Just like weight gain, fatigue or excessive tiredness can be a sign of hypothyroidism or low thyroid function.

  1. Brain fog

Thyroid hormones are directly related to the health of your brain neurons. There are only two things that every single cell in the body has a receptor for: thyroid hormones and vitamin D. It’s no wonder that vitamin D status influences thyroid function and your immune system.

  1. Intolerance to heat or cold

Your circulation is affected if your thyroid is not functioning properly. This could present as feeling chilled or cold. If you notice that your hands and feet are particularly cold, this could be a symptom or sign of hypothyroidism. Alternatively, you might always run warm or experience hot flashes.

  1. Poor quality hair skin nail

A slow thyroid can cause dry skin, hair loss,and  brittle or ridged nails caused by follicle cycling. Sometimes slow and steady does not always win the race.

  1. Digestive problems

Leaky gut and gastrointestinal discomfort are most often connected to thyroid dysfunction. Constipation is caused by a sluggish metabolism (lower thyroid hormone), while loose stools could be a symptom or a hyperactive thyroid.

  1. Insomnia

When your hormones are out of whack, everything seems to follow suit. Whether your thyroid is over- or under-producing, you can have disrupted sleep from nervousness, be up with frequent urination, or experience night sweats.

  1. Anxiety/depression

Hormones are the major players in mood regulation. They influence the neurotransmitters which cause imbalances in serotonin and dopamine. Thyroid imbalances cause inflammation, and when the hormone production is interrupted, it can affect proper blood flow to the brain.

  1. Changes in your voice

An underactive thyroid can cause thickening of the vocal cords or swelling from the inflammatory changes.

  1. Hormonal fluctuations

Your thyroid can directly affect your sexual function. From irregular periods to difficulty with sexual performance or enjoyment, your thyroid dysfunction may be a contributor.

The Thyroid-Autoimmune Connection

Are you aware that more than 90% of thyroid conditions are autoimmune? Unfortunately, most conventional doctors do not have the education or information about this connection. This can be incredibly frustrating!  

What if you are taking thyroid medication but still experiencing these symptoms? Commonly, providers are not taught how to look at chemistry and physiology, but do prescribe medication for your symptoms. We at Dr. Autoimmune addresses the systems that run the symptoms, diagnose your particular imbalances with comprehensive blood chemistry, and create a customized care plan for you! 

If you suspect your thyroid is the culprit of any of these symptoms, Dr. Autoimmune can help. We test specifically for all 8 thyroid markers. We have worked with close to 3,000 thyroid clients and have an 85% success rate! Call us at 303-882-8447 or fill out the form below today to see if your thyroid needs support.

What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

April is Sjögren’s awareness month, so we thought it would be a great time to shed some light on it. Sjögren’s (pronounced show-grens) syndrome is a common autoimmune condition where moisture-secreting glands are attacked. This usually happens first in the eyes and mouth, so dry eyes and mouth are the most common symptoms.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry nose, recurrent sinusitis, nosebleeds
  • Dry or peeling lips
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Inability to focus or ‘brain fog’
  • Respiratory issues like shortness of breath, dry cough, or recurrent bronchitis
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory loss
  • Dysautonomia 
  • Headaches (most commonly tension-type or migraines)
  • Mouth sores and dental problems
  • Swollen or painful salivary glands
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Acid reflux
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • IBS

Sjögren’s syndrome can develop at any age and in any sex, but it is most common in women (9 out of 10 patients are women) and people over 40. It is considered a widely underdiagnosed condition, with the Sjögren’s Foundation estimating that over 2.5 million patients are currently undiagnosed.

Sjögren’s can occur on its own, but it often shows up alongside other autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon, fibromyalgia, pernicious anemia, and thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’. This useful graphic below (by the Sjögren’s Foundation) uses percentages to show the overlap of each of these conditions with Sjögren’s.

How Does Sjögren’s Start?

Like all autoimmune conditions, Sjögren’s requires 3 things to develop:

  1. A genetic predisposition
  2. Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
  3. Environmental trigger

The genes associated with Sjögren’s aren’t known yet, but we can’t control those anyway. What we can have some control over, though, is whether those genes are expressed. Our genes basically can be turned on and off with the right environmental factors. This is why gut health and removing triggers are more important than our genes.

In functional medicine, we use diet change and supplementation to heal the gut while working with you to find out possible triggers in your life. Common triggers include stress, viral or bacterial infections, and mold or toxin exposure.

Dry Eyes

One of the first things to occur in Sjögren’s is the glands that produce tears, the lacrimal glands, are attacked by the immune system. You might think that we only produce tears when we cry, but our lacrimal glands are actually always working to keep our eyes moistened.

Have you ever wondered why we blink? Our eyelids keep moisture trapped beneath, so when the part of our eye that is exposed to air starts to dry out, blinking spreads a new film of moisture over them. This method only works, however, when our lacrimal glands are producing moisture.

Dry eyes can lead to burning, itching, a feeling like sand is in the eyes, blurred vision, and difficulty tolerating bright lights. Think back to the last time you were challenged to a “blinking contest”. After some time of forcing your eyes to remain open, your vision starts to become affected and you start to feel a burning sensation. This is what chronic dry eyes associated with Sjögren’s syndrome can feel like.

Dry Mouth

One of the 2 most prominent symptoms, dry mouth is uncomfortable and can lead to dental problems. Along with the lacrimal glands, the salivary glands are the first to be affected. Salivary glands produce saliva, which keeps our mouths and gums moist and also helps with digesting food.

People with Sjögren’s are more likely to develop cavities and gum disease due to lack of moisture, so recommendations include stimulating saliva production with sugar-free (xylitol or maltitol if sugar alcohols are tolerated) lozenges and brushing teeth after every meal. These types of recommendations are only good for managing symptoms without actually addressing the root cause.

What Can You Do?

At Dr. Autoimmune, we are experts at getting to the root cause of your condition and working with you to develop a personalized plan to reach your health goals. Most of our clients notice huge changes within only 30 days. Fill out the form below to get started on your health journey!

Long COVID Doesn’t Need to be Exhausting

Are you ready to overhaul your COVID symptoms? Finding relief at the end of a very long, arduous fight can be resolved with proper diagnostics and support. Getting to the root cause of your aches and pains is just what Dr. Autoimmune ordered. 

What is long COVID?  

Current research is conflicting, but it appears continuing symptoms could persist 1-3 months after infection, or even longer. The virus can trigger inflammation in various systems in your body, creating one or more symptoms.

If you have tested positive, or know you were exposed and have new or persisting symptoms from the the list below, your inflammation could be getting the better of you. Unfortunately these symptoms are so common that one research article indicated 52% of 16-30 year olds had symptoms at 6 months post-infection. These are some of the symptoms associated with long COVID:

Neurological:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • ‘Brain fog’
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Memory impairments
  • Pain syndromes

Lung / Pulmonary:

  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Wheezing / gasping / unable to get full breath
  • Chest pain / tightness

Cardiac:

  • Palpitations
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Clotting abnormalities

Gastrointestinal:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • IBS

Endocrine:

  • Elevated insulin
  • Fatigue after meals
  • Shaky, lightheaded or ‘hangry’

Why me?

Long COVID thrives on immune system weaknesses! There are multiple reasons why some experience long symptoms, while others are unscathed. Contributing factors may include age, obesity, inflammatory markers, and insulin resistance (IR). IR is when your cells resist insulin and can no longer use glucose for energy. This can cause sugar cravings after meals, weight loss resistance, and fatigue. 

One of the common symptoms of long COVID, loss of smell and taste, may indicate that the brain is resistant to insulin and therefore not getting enough fuel. Insulin resistance can lead to neurodegeneration (conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers). Correcting insulin imbalances often lessen or eradicate symptoms.

How do we control insulin resistance?  

Functional medicine might be the answer to your blood sugar handling issues. Assessing inflammation in the body is the first step for determining if your problem is systemic and what the root cause may be. Commonly, the culprit is in your gut. Imbalances in your microbiome have a profound effect on all of your bodily systems. Hormone imbalances can have a similar impact. Could cortisol and stress dysregulation be causing sleep disturbances, leading to insulin resistance? A resounding yes!  

Dr. Autoimmune can help!

We have seen a dramatic increase of long COVID cases hauling their way through our practice. For many, autoimmunity was triggered or exasperated by the virus. Our proprietary process of diet, supplementation, lifestyle strategies and therapies can change your life. We have even seen cases that are now two years old improve or remiss!  

Call us today and find out how our New Patient Exam process can help your health soar.

Why You Still Have Thyroid Symptoms

Are you on the medical not-so-merry-go-round? Many people with thyroid problems aren’t even aware they are connected to the thyroid. Most medical doctors only test for 1-3 out of the 10 markers required to get a complete picture of the thyroid. They may be sending you away with a “clean bill of health” even though you know there is something wrong. Or maybe you have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but you are still experiencing symptoms despite your medication.

Do these symptoms seem familiar to you?

  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Fatigue
  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss

Find out from Dr. Ian himself why you are still experiencing these symptoms, even if you are on a thyroid medication:

Caffeine Percolates Cortisol

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant drug on the planet. It is addictive, so the body and brain begin to rely on the feeling that caffeine can provide. Although there are some benefits to drinking caffeine (most actually come from the polyphenols found in coffee beans or tea leaves), there are also negative side effects. When dealing with autoimmune disease, it’s likely the brain is already in a state of fight or flight and the effect caffeine has on the body will make that stress worse. Caffeine is known to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, “the stress hormone,” which can lead to other health consequences like anxiety, weight gain, depressed mood, lowered beneficial bacteria in the gut, and even diabetes.

Why do we want to avoid excess stress hormones?

In order to decrease inflammation in the body and reduce autoimmune symptoms, it’s vital to avoid stress as much as possible. Excess stress hormones can keep our body on high alert and our immune system active. High levels of cortisol can also affect our blood sugar. “Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels,” (Today’s Dietician).  If you are consuming caffeine throughout the day, you may be elevating those stress hormones and impacting your immune system. 

The Role of Cortisol & Sleep

Cortisol is an essential hormone we need in order to live, have energy, stay alert, and stay motivated in our lives. Although we describe it as the “stress hormone,” it does have an important role in our body. When testing our hormones, cortisol levels should be at our highest in the morning and slowly lower throughout the day. When our body is stressed, those levels of cortisol are consistently high, which can cause a number of health issues. The gradual decrease in cortisol each day is what helps us feel relaxed in the evening in order to get proper sleep. Caffeine at any time of the day, for someone already dealing with chronic stress, can contribute to those high levels of cortisol in the evening making it very difficult to sleep.

It’s important to get seven to nine hours of sleep in order for our body to properly detoxify and heal. High levels of cortisol can contribute to insomnia throughout the evening that keeps you from getting into deep levels of restorative sleep.  You need to ask yourself a few questions before buying that quad shot in the dark:

1) Do you feel anxious, jittery or “jacked up” from consumption of caffeine? 

2) Do you get lightheaded, especially coming from seated to standing after caffeine consumption?

3) Do you notice fluctuations in blood sugar symptoms such as irritability, fatigue or craving of sugar with caffeine consumption? 

These symptoms may be byproducts of caffeine consumption, or at the very least they may be from excessive consumption or consuming this chemical later in the day.   

Products to help you transition to caffeine-free:

  • Rasa: Here at Dr. Autoimmune, we have an herbal adaptogenic beverage called Rasa that supplies that boost of energy you may need to get you going in the AM or PM without the stressful side effects. Adaptogens are herbs that protect you from stress rather than create more of it. Right now we are offering 15% off all Rasa products, so stop by our office to grab a bag before the promotion ends!
  • Headache Soother Tincture: Withdrawals are possible when quitting caffeine without slowly reducing it over time. If it’s important to quit quickly, there are tinctures we can provide to aid in symptoms like headaches or fatigue.
    • If you don’t have a Fullscript account, click here to create one.