Unexplained Symptoms and Autoimmune Prodrome
I have recovered from profound disability and it is now my mission to help others recover their health from autoimmune-related suffering.
Even if you don’t have an autoimmune diagnosis, if you have unexplained symptoms, my approach may ease your suffering.
Unexplained Symptoms Are Often A Prodrome for Autoimmunity
Autoimmune diseases have a long prodromal period–years, sometimes decades, of pain, fatigue, brain fog, mental health issues, and other symptoms, where the body is accumulating damage but not enough to make a specific diagnosis. Patients often see 8 different physicians over two decades before the autoimmune diagnosis is made. The patient sees their physician because of worsening fatigue, pain, and or brain fog. The physician finds nothing on the physical exam and orders a few lab tests. At first, the tests are negative, then after a few years, the patient may develop a low level of autoantibodies in the blood, but it is not high enough to make a specific diagnosis. The physician tells the person to come back next year. Unfortunately, the cellular damage continues because the patient does not know what is triggering the overactivation of their immune system. Eventually, there is sufficient damage to the skin, to the lung, to the bowels, to the brain, or some other organ system to make a diagnosis.
I know—I had twenty years of symptoms, including low-level positive auto-antibodies, before I eventually got the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. During my twenty years in a prodrome state, I could have made changes that would have stopped the autoimmune processes completely, reversed them entirely. If I had known then what I know now, I could have prevented twenty years of worsening pain due to trigeminal neuralgia, seven years of worsening multiple sclerosis, multiple autoimmune problems, and four years of worsening disability confined to a tilt recline wheelchair.
Unfortunately, my story is not unique. If you have auto-antibodies, you are on your way to developing a serious autoimmune problem — science has shown that the development of auto-antibodies precedes the development of autoimmune disease by several years.
Those with autoimmune diagnoses often need very expensive medication for the rest of their lives. They also carry a higher risk of disability and loss of employment.
There are 100 million Americans who have autoantibodies and symptoms but no specific diagnosis. They are mostly told, as I was, to wait and see, to come back next year for more tests.
They aren’t given any advice about interventions to take in the meantime, aren’t told this prodrome period is the best time to prevent damage. Rather than wait and see, patients with autoantibodies should take action.
The prodrome period is the time to get to the root cause of what is causing the body to attack itself—to address the diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that caused immune cells to become confused and start attacking the body.
Are you struggling with unexplained symptoms that your medical team can’t figure out?
Likely part of the problem is due to overly activated immune cells that are creating collateral damage to your organs and your cells.
So, what is the science is saying about the root causes of this over activation?
Addressing The Big Four Root Causes of Autoimmune Processes
Physicians, both primary care and specialists, are well trained on making diagnoses and treating symptoms and diseases with the latest, newest pharmaceuticals. It is very challenging for the practicing physician to keep up with the latest basic science about the root causes of why our immune cells become overactive, leading to the development of autoantibodies and autoimmunity.
As our science unravels the mechanisms that contribute to the development of healthy immune and abnormal autoimmune responses, more researchers in the autoimmune space are acknowledging the roles of vitamin D, diet quality, the mix of microbes in our bowels, and toxin body burden in the development of autoimmunity. The good news is that more clinicians are seeking training in utilizing these diet and lifestyle factors in the management of their patient’s autoimmune diseases. It also means that more clinicians recognize that patients who have chronic, unexplained symptoms are often experiencing excessive immune system activation and autoantibodies. This is the prodrome for systemic autoimmune issues. It is the perfect time to use diet, lifestyle, and toxin exposure reduction to treat the root causes of the immune over activation. If you are in the prodrome period it is easier to reduce your fatigue, your pain, and your brain fog. Often you can reverse the autoantibodies entirely. If you already have an autoimmune diagnosis, addressing diet, lifestyle, and toxin exposure can still stabilize symptoms and begin to restore more normal function.
Your physician may not have told you that diet and lifestyle changes are often much more powerful than drugs at stopping disease progression and can even lead to regression of symptoms. Within weeks of making changes to their diet and lifestyle, our patients report less pain, better memory, and more energy.
I know this from my personal transformation. I have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and spent four years dependent upon a tilt-recline wheelchair, unable to sit up, struggling to walk 10 feet using two walking sticks, suffering from worsening trigeminal neuralgia, despite taking the newest drugs from the best MS clinicians in the country. Within a year of starting the diet and lifestyle program, I created specifically for my brain, I was out of my wheelchair, walking, and biking again, and my pain was gone.
In the next blog, I’ll discuss how this changed my clinical practice and my clinical research.
The Changes in My Clinical Practice and Clinical Research
How I understood disease and health was transformed. How I practiced medicine was transformed. I used these principles in my traumatic brain injury and primary care clinics at the veteran affairs hospital in Iowa City. I saw blood pressure and blood sugars normalize and no longer need their blood pressure or diabetes medication. People who had been suffering for years after their concussions finally had their pain resolve, moods stabilize, and return to work. I started a new clinic, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Clinic, where we used these principles to treat more people with multiple complex chronic diseases, including autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis. We also saw people with anxiety, depression, neuropathies of many types, and chronic pain due to previous war injuries. I used the same principles and helped people reduce pain, reduce fatigue, and improve their mood and quality of life. People needed fewer drugs, including less pain medication.
It also changed focus of my research. I now study diet and lifestyle interventions to treat MS-related symptoms, with remarkably positive results. If you want to read the papers and see videos of patients from our clinical trials whose gait improved, check out this link. You can get to the root cause of why your immune cells are launching an attack. You can help immune cells become less reactive and stop the damage, reduce your symptoms, and improve your quality of life. Begin your journey towards more wellness and vitality. Your health is within your control.
The Next Steps For Getting Your Life Back
In addition to seeing patients, I do clinical research testing the effect of a therapeutic diet and lifestyle to treat autoimmunity. The results are consistently positive. Eating the standard American diet, smoking, and/or sitting all day accelerates the rate of damage. Our therapeutic diet and lifestyle protocol slows autoimmune damage and often reverses it.
My new book, The Revised and Expanded Wahls Protocol – A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles guides people through the approach we use to address complex chronic autoimmune conditions. Even if you have the original book, pick up the revised edition, which includes 30% new material, more details on the prodrome state, more specific guidance on how to personalize the Wahls™ diet to your specific issues, more on ketogenic eating, fasting, anti-aging and longevity, behavior change, food addictions, and neuro-rehabilitation.
I also have an online course, the Autoimmune Intervention Mastery course, where I teach patients how to be more successful using diet and lifestyle to transform their lives. IT is online so that you are able to complete this at your pace, in short, bite-sized lessons.
I will teach you the same principles that I used for over a decade in my clinical practice at the VA and have taught around the world, helping millions of people just like you get their lives back. You will be inspired by what is possible and empowered with a specific step by step action plan to jump-start your healing journey.
Begin taking charge of your life today. Sign up today for the Autoimmune Intervention Mastery course.
About Dr. Terry Wahls
Dr. Terry Wahls is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. In addition, she has secondary appointments in the departments of neurology and epidemiology. In 2018 she was awarded the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Linus Pauling Award for her contributions in research, clinical care and patient advocacy. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles (paperback), and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions.
She conducts clinical trials that test the effect of nutrition and lifestyle interventions to treat MS and other progressive health problems. She also teaches the public and medical community about the healing power of the Paleo diet and therapeutic lifestyle changes that restore health and vitality to our citizens. She hosts a Wahls Protocol Seminar every summer where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success. Follow her on Instagram drterrywahls, and on Facebook/Twitter at @TerryWahls. Learn more about her MS clinical trials by reaching out to her team: MSDietStudy@healthcare.uiowa.edu. Pick up a copies of her research papers at https://terrywahls.com/researchpapers/.