I’ve been searching for alternatives (alternatives to prescribed drugs, to foods, to attitude) for a very long time. A couple of decades are a long time to feel generally awful; without vibrancy, without satisfactory energy, without a clear head. People who don’t know me very well or haven’t known me very long are surprised to hear this. To them, I appear high energy; I move quickly, speak fast, and can be very reactive. I accomplish a great deal.

I know I could accomplish so much more if given the energy, stamina, and vitality to combine with the enthusiasm for life that I have.

In my search for more, I learned some incredible facts about autoimmunity. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, (NIAID) there are more than 80 diseases or disorders attributed to an autoimmune condition. The NIAID maintains the study of autoimmunity is a priority for their organization.

At the turn of the 20th Century – it is estimated that about 1 in 10,000 individuals had an autoimmune disorder. Today, that number is 1 in 250! That’s an extraordinary increase in 116 years. In addition to Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) and Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) here are some other familiar names of diseases I didn’t realize were considered “autoimmune:”

• Parkinson’s Disease

• Dementia

• Colitis

• Arthritis

• Irritable bowel syndrome

• Addison’s Disease

• Autoimmune hepatitis

• Celiac Disease

• Chronic Lyme’s disease

• Restless Legs

• Rheumatoid Arthritis

The list goes on and on.

From what I’ve learned, inflammation is at the heart of autoimmunity. Inflammation is said to begin in the gut. The gut has a semi-permeable lining whose degree of permeability fluctuates in response to an enormous number of conditions. The result of repeated stretching of this lining is what’s known as “leaky gut syndrome.”

Leaky gut means partially undigested foods, viruses, bacteria and toxins flow freely into our bloodstream, ultimately leading to inflammation and a severe lack of nutrient absorption. During one of my numerous searches for ways to feel better, I began taking a large number and variety of vitamins. After a while (and a whole lot of money) I learned I probably had a leaky gut. Translation: all the vitamins I was consuming resulted in “expensive urine” and little else.

As of this writing, I’m awaiting lab results. Last week I asked my doctor to order the following 6 labs (vs. the standard 3 typically ordered) so I could find out more about my autoimmune condition:

• TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)

• Thyroid Peroxidase Thyroid Antibodies (TPO)

• Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TG Antibodies)

• Free T3

• Free T4

• Reverse T3

Some experts also suggest a thyroid ultrasound and I might also request this if I don’t obtain sufficient information and direction. There is a ton of information and a huge number of authorities on autoimmune diseases and disorders. The main takeaway I can share from all of my studies is this:

Each of us is responsible for our own health. It is your responsibility to ask the doctors to explain, ask the pharmacist to help you understand your medications, and most of all, gauge your progress. I should have acted long before now to be proactive about my own health. I encourage everyone to do the same.

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