Why You May Not Be Fully Healing and How You CAN

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    Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

    – James Baldwin, Author & Activist

    If you have been trying for any length of time to heal from an autoimmune disorder (or more than one!) you may reach a point where your healing has stalled or you feel like you’ve plateaued. Or, in some cases you may feel like you fully reversed the autoimmune condition(s); and then, much to your shock, frustration, and major disappointment, symptoms return, sometimes with a vengeance. What in the world is going on?! That’s a great question and there may be a number of reasons.

    Why Am I Not Healing Fully?

    First, I empathize with your frustration. It literally took me 26 years to beat MS, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying hard. I just didn’t have a guide or a roadmap, or even the internet for much of that time. I was left to my own intuition and experimentation: lots of trial and mostly error. Finally, when I discovered Functional Medicine (aka “root cause medicine”) in 2010, I began teasing apart the big question, WHY did I have the MS in the first place?

    The answer wasn’t (and is rarely) one thing. Functional Medicine uncovered a multitude of reasons, including food sensitivities to gluten and cow dairy, candida overgrowth from a lifetime of sugar, parasites from international travel (possibly sushi bars too), high levels of mercury from silver fillings (probably tuna too), mycotoxins from mold exposure growing up, plus chronic Lyme and co-infections, likely acquired while hiking in Vermont. I didn’t need Functional Medicine to confirm that I had an overload of chronic stress or early childhood trauma.

    One by one, I tackled the list. Well, the stress and trauma I had already been successfully addressing for two decades, bringing MS symptoms down as I calmed my nervous system. The gluten removal was the lynchpin that reset my gut and unburdened my immune system, shutting off the MS expression. But I didn’t stop there. On a mission to lower my toxic load, I kept chipping away at the other root causes, knowing full well that any one of them has the potential to damage the gut lining and flip on the MS switch again. Today I remain symptom-free and keep my toxin bucket as empty as practical.

    Here’s one of the biggest gems I’ve learned in the past thirteen years since reversing the MS:

    You don’t have to eradicate every last thing on your list and I’m not sure you could if you tried. You just need to unburden your immune system enough to have it function properly and stop fighting YOU. In other words, you need to create enough margin in your toxin bucket.

    Now I want to shine a light on all the reasons why you may not be fully healing. In my Functional Natural Medicine practice I collaborate with Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) who specialize in resolving the big root causes of autoimmunity, like gut imbalances, chronic infections, and toxic burdens. These are the biggest reasons we see time and again why people still have symptoms.

    Top Reasons Why You May Not Be Healing Fully – And How You CAN

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      Haven't Discovered Your Root Causes

      If you’re new to root cause healing, it makes sense that you haven’t uncovered your root cause(s) — yet. If you’ve already changed your food and you’ve reduced stress, but you STILL have symptoms, please know that there is almost always a hidden, chronic infection that needs to be addressed. Don’t stop with food and stress. If you’ve been seeing a Functional Medicine or root cause practitioner for a while, and you’ve done plenty of labs and protocols it can be confounding. It’s possible that your doctor doesn’t realize that, for example, yeast and/or parasites rarely come out on stool tests, so you may be dealing with false negatives. Or, your doctor doesn’t believe that chronic Lyme and co-infections are real. Or, many people don’t believe they’ve been exposed to water damaged buildings, and so mold is never considered. Other huge root causes that often get overlooked are oral health and unresolved emotional pain. What can you do? Consider all the top autoimmune root causes and use my F.I.G.H.T.S. framework as a handy checklist.

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      Don't Have a Comprehensive Treatment Protocol

      This category reminds me of the adage, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” In conventional medicine, where toolkits are mostly confined to medication, it makes sense that you will be prescribed medication for symptom management. But I found this to be surprisingly true even in the natural healing realm. I saw an integrative doctor who believes everyone suffers from mold exposure, so his focus is predominantly on mold. I saw another integrative MD who is expert in healing Lyme, so that’s her main focus. Another integrative doctor doesn’t believe parasites are a problem, so parasites got overlooked. What can you do? Job one is to educate yourself and carefully consider ALL the potential autoimmune root causes. A comprehensive treatment protocol should include all the F.I.G.H.T.S.™ factors: Food, Infections, Gut health, Hormone balance, Toxins, and Stress. Full healing requires a mind, body, spirit approach, not a one-hammer-one-nail approach.

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      Have Not Stayed on a Good Protocol Long Enough

      Some people in their eagerness to be well believe that healing should be both straightforward and speedy. The reality is, it usually takes longer than you would prefer, and maybe up to a third of the time that you’ve been unwell. So if you’ve had symptoms for three years it might take a year. One of my clients who is 30 years old started having IBS symptoms (alternating constipation and diarrhea) since her dad left when she was twelve, but the MS didn’t emerge until her twenties. Her gut issues, which include a combination of parasites, yeast overgrowth, and mycotoxins are entrenched, meaning she may require gut healing for several years. The great news is, she’s making good and steady progress on her healing journey. What can you do? Start by checking your expectations. How long have you felt symptoms? I don’t mean the most obvious current symptoms or the diagnosis date, I mean the earliest inkling of symptoms, which you may not even consider to be linked with an autoimmune disorder. For example, the migraines that started in high school, or the gut issues you’ve had since you were a kid, or the terrible PMS symptoms or skin issues since you were a teenager. Do what you can on your own to address the F.I.G.H.T.S.™ factors, like removing SAD foods and food sensitivities, and addressing stress. If you can, work with a skilled root cause practitioner(s) to assess and treat gut imbalances, chronic infections, and other toxins like mycotoxins and metals. If you’re in the continental U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, book a complimentary discovery call with me. I also include a number of resources to find all types of practitioners (e.g., functional, naturopathic, integrative, environmental, and destination, etc.) in the appendix of my book, Beat Autoimmune

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      Have Not Taken Therapeutic Doses

      Maybe you have clarity about your root causes. Let’s say a practitioner has found you have gut imbalances including candida and parasites, so you’re guided to do gut healing with herbs or supplements. We have clients who come to us after doing a parasite “cleanse” or a short-term Candida (yeast) diet, but they are still not better. They may have felt better for a while, but in time, symptoms crept back, sometimes louder. Current lab work reveals likely parasites and candida; meaning, they either didn’t stay on a good protocol for long enough, or frequently they were just given a single herb for parasites and/or yeast. What can you do? Know that good treatment protocols take time, therapeutic (high) doses, and a combination of herbs, supplements, and sometimes beneficial medications to eradicate imbalances like Candida, parasites, or mycotoxins. Parasites, for example, may require a rotation of beneficial medications to treat their various life stages and cycles. As one of my mentors, Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D, CNS, and author of Guess What Came to Dinner: Parasites and Your Health, has shared, parasite treatment might be needed quarterly to keep things in check.

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      Mindset Takes a Dive

      It’s understandable that you might be disappointed if you’ve been at this a while and you’re still not better. Even the most optimistic people can get down and worry that their condition is progressing. Since Covid, we have seen increased levels of anxiety among all genders and ages. Health anxiety is real and it causes added layers of psychological stress and physiological symptoms. What can you do? Take heart in knowing that symptoms are always messages from your body, letting you know that there are still root cause(s) to address. Do what you can to release symptom anxiety and worry about your health. Tapping (also called EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique) is a fast way to tame anxiety. Find videos online by Julie Schiffman or Brad Yates and follow along. You might even thank the symptoms for letting you know that there are still imbalances present and you just have not addressed them all — YET. Sometimes the best antidote for worry and anxiety is action. What’s one thing you can do right now to take positive, proactive action?

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      Don't Believe You are Worthy

      The root cause of feelings of unworthiness is usually early childhood trauma(s). The massive and important Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) studies proved that the more adverse events before age 18, the greater the risk of chronic disease even decades later. Negative core beliefs can cause us to stay stuck in fight-flight mode, stay inflamed, rely on poor coping skills, and neglect our own self-care. What can you do? Become aware and journal about any childhood trauma, and resulting negative core beliefs, behaviors, and biology. Explore trauma healing and consciously choose empowering words, mantras, and core beliefs. No matter what happened in childhood, you now have the opportunity to give yourself the love and compassion you deserve. You ARE worthy. It’s time YOU believe it. 

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      Have Not Removed Toxic Inputs

      This category is insidious because it’s impossible to live perfectly in a toxin-free bubble, nor would we want to. We are humans living in an increasingly toxic world. The biggest autoimmune triggers I see people resistant to remove include: medication, being 100% gluten-free, conventionally grown/raised produce and animals (think: glyphosate), and mold (think: mycotoxins). Each one of these culprits has been shown to harm the gut, keeping it inflamed and leaky. And, in combination, can be more toxic. What can you do? Minimize medication(s) and work with a root cause doctor to taper safely; be vigilant about being 100% gluten-free; chose organic produce or wild meats and fish; and deal with mold. A good starting point with mold is to find a good, qualified mold inspector who understands the health risks of mycotoxins and who will do a thorough inspection.

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      Don't Have a Daily Nervous System Calming Practice

      You can eat as cleanly as possible, take nourishing supplements, take saunas, exercise as able, and go to bed at 8 pm, but if you are NOT also tending to your mental/emotional wellbeing, healing may be incomplete or elusive. I know this category well from both personal and professional experience. While I intuitively knew my biggest root cause was stress and a resulting hyperactive nervous and immune system, I didn’t always prioritize calming practices for my nervous system. The feedback was clear: always-on stress reaction mode led to ongoing MS symptoms. And the converse was true too: consistent, daily, calming practices led to fewer symptoms and better health. Today to stay calm and grounded, I meditate daily, practice mindfulness and gratitude, get out in nature, and do conscious breathing exercises. What can you do? Find and stick with a foundational practice to calm and rewire your nervous system. Good options for nervous system rewiring include DNRS (Dynamic Neural Retraining System), The Gupta Program, and Joe Dispenza’s online or live programs. At the very least, do something to calm yourself each and every day, whether that’s a 10-minute meditation, conscious deep belly breathing, or a journaling practice.

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      Still Have Unresolved Trauma

      Trauma is a wound that persists. Did you experience childhood mental, emotional or physical abuse or neglect? Or do you believe you have PTSD or unresolved emotional pain? The issues stay in the tissues until you allow them to come up and out. What can you do? Start by educating yourself about the ongoing effects of trauma and how you can heal. Two good and easily accessible books are Oprah and Dr. Bruce Perry’s What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing and Dr. James Gordon’s Transforming Trauma: The Path to Hope and Healing. There are many things you on your own: soft belly breathing, journal and draw, shake and dance, try tapping, and/or use guided imagery & hypnosis. There are many trauma healing modalities you can pursue with a skilled trauma therapist: EMDR, trauma therapy, somatic experiencing (SE), trauma release exercises (TRE), breathwork (holotropic, etc.), and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (e.g., MDMA, psilocybin, and ketamine under the supervision of a well-trained guide).

    As you can see, there are many reasons why healing may be stalled. Did you resonate with any? Or several? Take heart in knowing that symptoms are just messages inviting you to find and address your root causes. Have the courage to continue and channel any discomfort or anxiety to propel you to action. As you take action to unburden your immune system you will be gaining more margin in your toxin bucket, and that’s the healing and prevention path.

    Above all, I want you to know that complete healing is possible.

    Keep going and never ever EVER give up!

    P.S. These are the top ways I can help you reclaim your health and life:

    1. Beat Autoimmune Academy-Healing Circle, a 4-month Group Coaching program that combines my signature online course with group Healing Circle Sessions over Zoom. Join the waitlist HERE for early access and get ready for a healthy, happy, and energetic 2024 together!
    2. One-on-one Functional Natural Medicine Health Transformation Programs. I collaborate with skilled naturopaths who are expert in resolving root causes like gut imbalances, chronic infections, and toxic burdens which are almost always part of the autoimmune puzzle. Together we provide comprehensive, customized treatment plans, and collaborative, caring support. If you are ready to reclaim your best health and life please book a 30–minute consultation with me to gain clarity, confidence, and explore the possibility of working together. Note that the discovery calls and programs are limited to people who live in the continental U.S. (except NY due to state laws).

     

     

    Photo by Tom Blackout