I recently got a question from one of my Facebook followers that said:
“Hi Tana, I’ve been suffering with extreme fatigue and achy joints for several years and have been living on caffeine and pain relievers to get through my days. After seeing half a dozen doctors, I finally got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called lupus. Why did it take so long to get diagnosed and is there anything I can do in addition to the medications my doctor prescribed? Brain Warrior Wendy”
These are great questions, Brain Warrior Wendy! While I can’t answer for your situation specifically, as I don’t know the details, I can give you some information that may help shed some light. I went straight to the source, the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), to find some answers to your questions. The results are surprising.
Why is it so hard to get an autoimmune diagnosis?
- Did you know that it takes an average of almost five years to get an accurate diagnosis for a serious autoimmune disease?
- Did you know that the typical patient with an autoimmune disease sees an average of nearly five doctors before getting diagnosed?
- Did you know that almost half of all people eventually diagnosed with an autoimmune disease were initially told they were “chronic complainers”?
These statistics are bad news for the 23.5 million Americans suffering from an autoimmune disease. And there are probably millions more people who haven’t gotten diagnosed yet with one of the over 100 autoimmune diseases, including:
- Crohn’s disease
- Hashimoto’s throiditis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
Attention female Warriors, women are far more likely to have an autoimmune disease compared with men. Check out these startling numbers:
- Women account for 75 percent of all people diagnosed with autoimmune diseases.
- Women are twice as likely as men to have chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Women account for up to 90 percent of all people with fibromyalgia.
- Women account for 85 percent of chronic migraine sufferers.
If you suspect you might have an autoimmune disease, the AARDA offers the following tips to speed the process to get an accurate diagnosis:
- Keep a list of symptoms.
- Know your family medical history (autoimmune diseases run in families).
- Get a referral to a reputable physician who specializes in treating autoimmune issues.
- Get a thorough checkup.
- Get a second (or third or fourth) opinion.
This is a great start, but I would add several things to this list. If you’re experiencing symptoms of an autoimmune disease:
- Keep a food diary because foods can have a big impact on your symptoms.
- Eliminate gluten, corn, dairy, and lectins from your diet.
- Eliminate sugar and processed foods that increase inflammation and pain.
- Eat an abundance of nutrient-dense foods.
- Take key supplements to shore up your autoimmune system.
- Get adequate sleep (at least 7 hours).
- Reduce your stress levels.
For additional tips check out my “Ask Tana” video below on improving your autoimmune system and see a complete list of foods to lose, foods to choose, and supplements that support the autoimmune system in my book The Omni Diet.