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Could your chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms be autoimmune?

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Do you have chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other mysterious symptoms that make you miserable? But does your doctor say your lab tests are fine and you're perfectly healthy? It could be you have an autoimmune reaction and don't know it.

People can develop an autoimmune reaction to virtually any tissue, enzyme, or protein in their body. Autoimmunity means the immune system has failed to distinguish between foreign invaders, which it was designed to attack, and body tissue, which it was designed to protect. As a result, the immune system attacks and destroys specific parts of the body.

Symptoms of autoimmunity vary depending on which part of the body is being attacked, but they often include chronic pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, poor neurological function, chronic inflammation, digestive problems, or poor mood.

A primary characteristic of undiagnosed autoimmunity is chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms that seem irresolvable, despite "normal" lab tests and scans. Perhaps you even have been told your health symptoms are due to depression and you need to take antidepressants—this is not uncommon.

Autoimmunity may not be diagnosed as disease

What may be happening is that you have an autoimmune reaction to one or more parts of your body that is causing chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms, but the condition is not advanced enough to be diagnosed through conventional testing and qualified as a "disease." As Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci, author of  Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?  and  Why Isn't My Brain Working?  explains, people can have symptoms years or even decades before being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

For instance, a person may have trouble controlling blood sugar despite a good diet because of an autoimmune reaction in the pancreas. However, not enough tissue has been destroyed for a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Or a person can have symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but not enough tissue has been destroyed for it to show up on an MRI. Or persistent and severe adrenal fatigue could be the result of autoimmunity in the adrenal glands that is not advanced enough to be diagnosed as Addison's disease.

This is not to say you should assume a health problem is autoimmune in nature, but when it is persistent and stubborn, it is a possibility to consider.

You can test for autoimmunity before it progresses to disease

Fortunately, we have autoimmunity testing today that can screen for antibodies against multiple tissues to determine whether an autoimmune reaction is causing chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other symptoms. Antibodies are proteins that tag a foreign compound for the immune system to destroy and remove. When you produce higher than normal levels of antibodies to certain parts of the body (it's normal for old and dying cells to be tagged for removal), this means you are having an autoimmune reaction against that tissue or enzyme.

When a person presents with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, or other persistent symptoms, screening for an autoimmune reaction can help us determine whether that plays a role in symptoms. If so, we then know we can work on balancing an overzealous and improperly functioning immune system. Also, if your test shows an autoimmune reaction but you have no symptoms, you now know that proper diet and lifestyle choices will help prevent the progression of autoimmunity.

Today we have many scientifically proven strategies to tame autoimmunity, improve function, and increase your well being. These include an autoimmune diet and nutritional compounds to balance the immune system and quench inflammation.

Ask my office how we can help you get to the bottom of mysterious conditions, such as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and other symptoms. Despite what your doctor may have told you, you are not making up your chronic symptoms or simply in need of antidepressants.

Meet the Author

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM.

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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