Tag Archives: autoimmunity

Breast implants linked to autoimmunity and cancer

827 breast implants linked to autoimmunity

After assurance from breast implant makers that concerns about silicone leaks were a thing of the past, more than 10 million women worldwide have received silicone breast implants in the past decade. However, a growing body of research — supported by increased symptom reporting by women —links silicone breast implants to autoimmune disorders and a rare form of immune system cancer.

Silicone breast implants linked to autoimmune disease

Doctors commonly advise potential breast implant candidates that the risks are minimal, yet multiple recent studies indicate otherwise.

A recent study at the University of Alberta comparing nearly 25,000 women with breast implants to nearly 100,000 without them confirmed that nearly one in four implant recipients is at risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.

The risk for women with breast implants developing an autoimmune disease is 45 percent higher than for those without implants.

While former studies on the topic have been criticized because they were based on self-reporting by subjects, this study used doctor-based diagnoses to confirm results.

Previous research has also found surgical mesh implants used for gynecological or hernia repair may be linked to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Additionally, patients with allergies prior to the procedure were significantly worse afterward.

In the Alberta study, the strongest links were shown between silicone implants and these autoimmune conditions:

  • Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder of the salivary and tear glands.
  • Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder of the lung, skin and lymph nodes.
  • Systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder of the connective tissue affecting the skin, arteries, and visceral organs such as lungs and kidneys.

The theory behind these findings is that foreign material of the mesh and silicone implants causes an activation of the immune system. The body continues to fight the “invader” and over time autoimmunity develops.

In the largest-ever long-term safety study of breast implants, a similar study this year at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center linked silicone implants with higher rates of Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, dermatomyositis, and melanoma compared to the general population.

Emerging form of breast implant-related cancer on the rise

Individuals with breast implants are also at risk of developing breast implant large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer but a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

In most cases BIA-ALCL is found in fluid and scar tissue near the implant, however there are cases where it spreads throughout the body.

The FDA states, “At this time, most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently following implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces.”

Plastic surgeons have identified 615 cases of BIA-ALCL worldwide with the disease occurring at higher rates among women with textured implants. French authorities have recommended against the use of textured implants due to the cancer risk.

At present, however, the risks are difficult to determine due to significant limitations in world-wide reporting and lack of data.

Lax reporting rules at fault for lack of patient awareness

Prior to 2017 the FDA allowed breast implant companies to report breast implant injuries as routine events that did not require public disclosure. This effectively kept the information from the public and may have skewed opinions on the safety of using them.

In 2017 reporting rules were changed and reports of injuries soared. At the current rate, they are slated to increase more than 20-fold in the last two years from the previous two-year period.

According to an ICIJ analysis of FDA data, after the rule change the number of suspected breast implant injuries skyrocketed from 200 a year to more than 4,500 in 2017 alone.

In just the first half of 2018, that number almost doubled to more than 8,000 filed reports.

The increase in reports doesn’t mean implants are suddenly going bad but that they may never have been as safe as patients were told in the first place.

The FDA has acknowledged a “transparency issue” regarding the undisclosed injury reports and that the increase in numbers reflected the change in reporting rules.

Changing the system to better protect breast implant recipients

The FDA warns that as many as one in five women who receive breast implants will get them removed within a decade due to complications such as rupture, deflation, and painful contraction of scar tissue around the implant, but currently there is no warning about autoimmunity.

The good news is that in response to the new information, the FDA and agencies around the world acknowledge that more research needs to be done to determine the autoimmune and cancer risks of implants.

While current studies do not prove breast implants cause these diseases, they do show that women with the implants suffer them at significantly higher rates than women without implants.

It’s proposed that bacterial infection of a biofilm that surrounds the implants is the likely cause of implant-related illness, including BIA-ALCL.

Patient advocates propose rules requiring breast implants to be sold with “black box” label warnings, which are reserved for life-threatening and other serious risks.

Undoubtedly, it will take much larger and longer studies to root out the details and bring about protective actions, and in the meantime doctors and patients need to have deeper conversations about the benefits and risks of silicone breast implants.

Chronic viruses linked to inflammatory diseases

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The Epstein-Barr virus infects more than 90 percent of people in the United States by the age of 20. At least one in four of those infected will develop the commonly-known disease mononucleosis, or “mono,” experiencing a rash, enlarged liver or spleen, head- and body aches, and extreme fatigue.

However, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is not only related to mono. Recent studies indicate it may be a catalyst for at least six more diseases, most of which are autoimmune in nature. These include multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

EBV isn’t the only virus associated with autoimmunity. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) has been linked to Sjögren’s syndrome, upper respiratory viral infections and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) have been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS), and EBV has previously been linked to lupus.

Chronic viral infections can contribute to chronic inflammatory diseases

It has long been thought that viruses play a part in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, especially autoimmunity. Many healthcare practitioners report there is frequently a hidden infection that either precedes or seems to trigger an initial autoimmune attack, or subsequently appears when the immune system is weakened once autoimmunity is activated.

This creates a vicious cycle of infection and illness. Infections are opportunistic and often travel together — many autoimmune patients find they host multiple infections that are bacterial, viral, parasitic and/or fungal, driving the inflammation that leads to symptoms.

The relationship between viral infection and autoimmune disease is multifaceted, involving numerous complex processes in the body. Scientists believe that a variety of factors must usually be present for an infection to result in an autoimmune condition. This includes not only a genetic predisposition but also lifestyle and environmental factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Leaky gut
  • Environmental toxins
  • Dietary inflammatory triggers

In a nutshell, chronic disease develops as a result of an improper immune response to a viral infection due to other predisposing factors. The virus acts as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Chronic viruses can prevent autoimmune remission

Remission from autoimmune symptoms is possible with proper diet and lifestyle management. However, if you already have an autoimmune condition, a chronic viral infection can prevent you from alleviating your symptoms and halting progression of the autoimmunity. In fact, a chronic virus is a deal-breaker in recovery for many patients.

If you have an autoimmune condition and suffer from symptoms that don’t get better after addressing inflammatory triggers through diet and lifestyle, you should consider testing for viruses associated with your condition.

Viral infections can occur years before developing autoimmunity

Viral infections usually occur well before any symptoms associated with autoimmunity develop (sometimes years), so it can be difficult to make a definitive link between a particular infection and a yet-to-be autoimmune disorder. However, if you have not been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition but have had any of these viruses in the past and have unexplained symptoms now, it’s worth getting tested for autoimmunity and a chronic virus.

For more information, please contact me.

Mystery symptoms autoimmune? How to find out

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Do you have mysterious health symptoms — such as fatigue, pain, brain fog, unexplained weight gain — that rob you of your quality of life, but lab tests and doctors keep saying nothing is wrong? Or maybe doctors tell you your chronic symptoms are depression and you need an antidepressant. Maybe you’ve even been accused of complaining too much.

Most people know when something is wrong with them, even if lab tests come back normal and doctors say you’re fine. This is because the standard health care model does not screen for autoimmunity — a disorder than occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys your own tissue. You can suffer from symptoms of undiagnosed autoimmunity for years and even decades before it is severe enough to be diagnosed and treated in the conventional medical model.

Fortunately, in functional medicine we can screen for autoimmunity against multiple tissues in the body at once. Knowing an autoimmune reaction is causing your symptoms can remove the mystery and bring significant peace of mind. It is confirmation your health symptoms are real and proof you are not a whiner or hypochondriac.

We identify autoimmunity by testing for antibodies in the blood against a particular tissue. For instance, we can screen for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease that causes hypothyroidism, by testing for immune antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (TGB). Positive results mean autoimmunity is causing your hypothyroid symptoms of weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and hair loss.

Cyrex Labs tests for 24 different types of autoimmunity at once. The panel is called Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen. It is more cost effective than testing for each autoimmunity individually, and Cyrex Labs tests are highly sensitive. To do the test, simply ask me for the kit, take it to an approved blood draw center, and I will let you know when the results are in.

If your test results are “positive” or “equivocal,” it means your immune system is attacking that tissue. You may not even have symptoms yet. This is a best-case scenario because managing your health with functional nutrition can prevent the autoimmunity from progressing.

Array 5 screens for the following autoimmunities:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: Stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: Intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: Thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): Adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: Cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: Phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: Reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: Joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: Bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): Liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): Pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: Neurological autoimmunity

If you have no symptoms but a positive result, then you may be able to prevent the autoimmunity from expressing itself. If you have symptoms that correspond with a positive test result, other testing may help you track your condition. For instance, if you test positive for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, follow up with thyroid testing will track the severity.

Knowing you have an autoimmune reaction means you can halt its progression and prevent it from worsening. This can mean preventing or even reversing devastating and debilitating symptoms.

Ask me for more advice.

Could you be developing an autoimmune disease?

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You could be developing an autoimmune disease, one of the most common conditions today, and not be aware of it. This is because autoimmune diseases sometimes start off as “silent” autoimmunity. This means your immune system is attacking tissue in your body but the damage isn’t bad enough to cause symptoms yet.

Autoimmune disease is more common than cancer and heart disease combined, and that’s just the diagnosed cases. Many, if not most, cases of autoimmunity are happening without a diagnosis.

This is because medicine does not screen for autoimmunity until symptoms are advanced and severe enough for a diagnosis and subsequent treatment with steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery.

Autoimmunity: The disease of the modern era

Autoimmunity can affect any tissue in the body or brain. It occurs when the immune system attacks and damages tissue as if it were a foreign invader.

Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and psoriasis. More than 80 different autoimmune diseases have been identified so far.

Autoimmune disease affects 1 in 5 people, the majority of them women. It is believed women are more commonly affected because of their hormonal complexity. Although autoimmune disease is very common, the statistics do not tell the whole story.

Autoimmunity can happen long before diagnosis

Autoimmunity can begin long before damage is bad enough for a disease to be diagnosed. Many people can go years, decades, or even an entire lifetime with symptoms but never have damage bad enough to be labeled disease.

As an example, autoimmunity against the pancreas can cause blood sugar issues for years before the development of type 1 diabetes. Additionally, about 10 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is caused by diet and lifestyle, also have pancreatic autoimmunity. This is called type 1.5 diabetes.

One of the most common autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Patients often need to gradually increase their thyroid hormone because although they were diagnosed with low thyroid, the autoimmunity was overlooked and left unmanaged.

Also, a patient may have an autoimmune reaction that is not recognized as a disease. For instance, autoimmunity to nerve cells may produce symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an autoimmune reaction to nerve sheathes. However, because the autoimmunity is not attacking nerve sheathes specifically, the patient cannot be diagnosed despite MS-like symptoms.

Autoimmunity can attack anything in the body

People can also have symptoms that suggest multiple types of autoimmunity. Although symptoms vary depending on which tissues are being attacked, many autoimmune sufferers experience chronic fatigue, chronic pain, declining brain function, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, brain fog, and more.

Fortunately, functional medicine offers lab testing that can screen for autoimmunity against a number of different tissues. We also use strategies to minimize these attacks such as an anti-inflammatory diet, stabilizing blood sugar, gut healing, addressing toxins, and teaching habits that minimize stress and inflammation.

Ask me for guidance if you think autoimmunity may be causing your unexplained and chronic symptoms.

Gluten is the first thing to go with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism diagnosis

gluten and thyroid copy

Hypothyroidism has received a lot of attention online since the publication of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian in 2009. While many facets should be addressed in managing hypothyroidism, one of the most important continues to be a gluten-free diet.

Research shows ninety percent of hypothyroidism cases are due to an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. This disease is called Hashimoto’s.

Most doctors do not test for Hashimoto’s because it does not change treatment, which is thyroid medication. Also, many cases of hypothyroidism go undiagnosed because Hashimoto’s can cause the lab marker TSH to fluctuate.

Where does gluten fit in with this? Numerous studies have linked an immune reaction to gluten with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Whether it’s a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, gluten triggers an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland in many people. Most of these people do not even know they are sensitive to gluten.

Going off gluten is the first step with Hashimoto’s

Studies, clinical observation, and patient stories make a very strong case for the benefits of going gluten-free to better manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism symptoms.

A number of studies from several countries show a link between Hashimoto’s and gluten. This is because the protein structure of gluten closely resembles that of thyroid tissue. When your immune system reacts to gluten, it may start erroneously reacting to thyroid tissue as well. This will cause the immune system to attack and destroy thyroid tissue in a case of mistaken identity.

Studies also show patients improve on a strict gluten-free diet. One study showed as many as 71 percent of subjects resolved their hypothyroid symptoms after following a strict gluten-free diet for one year.

Why you may need to stop eating other foods too

Sorry to say, going gluten-free alone doesn’t always work. Many people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism also need to go dairy-free. Dairy, whether it’s cow, goat, or sheep, is the second biggest problem food for people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Many people simply have an immune intolerance to dairy and aren’t aware of it until they stop consuming it. However, in an immune sensitive individual, the body may also mistake dairy for gluten and trigger an immune reaction that ultimately ends up targeting the thyroid.

For those serious about managing their Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a gluten-free and dairy-free diet frequently results in profound alleviation of symptoms, if not total remission.

Many find they may need to eliminate additional foods, such as certain grains, eggs, or soy. An elimination/provocation diet, such as Balanced and Clear, can help you figure out what your immune system reacts to, or a comprehensive food sensitivity test from Cyrex Labs.

What is there left to eat?

If you’re used to eating without restrictions, eliminating gluten, dairy, and possibly other foods to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroid symptoms may seem overwhelming and too restrictive. Many people are left wondering, what is left to eat?

Rest assured there is more than enough to eat. Most people fare well on a Paleo-style diet that is primarily vegetables (a diverse array of plenty of vegetables helps create the healthy gut bacteria that improve immunity).

More importantly, symptoms and general health improves so dramatically that people come to love their new diet and despise the way they feel after they cheat.

Contact me for more information about implementing a gluten- and dairy-free diet.

What is leaky gut and why should you care?

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Does stuff really leak out of your intestines when you have leaky gut? The truth is, contents of the small intestine escape through the wall into the bloodstream. This can trigger many different inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disease, a disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue.

Leaky gut is associated with symptoms including:

  • Skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, etc.)
  • Chronic pain
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Puffiness
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Poor memory
  • Asthma
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Fungal infections
  • Migraines
  • Arthritis
  • PMS and other hormonal issues

Leaky gut, referred to as intestinal permeability in the research, means the lining of the small intestine has become inflamed, damaged, and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, molds, and other pathogens to enter into the sterile environment of the bloodstream. The immune system attacks these compounds, triggering inflammation that, when constant, turns into chronic health disorders.

Leaky gut now on the research radar

Conventional medicine once believed leaky gut wasn’t a valid concept, but researchers now validate it as linked with many chronic disorders, including inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, and more.

How to repair leaky gut

If you have a chronic health condition — even if it’s not digestive — addressing leaky gut is vital to improving your health. The bulk of this work is done through diet. The most common causes of leaky gut are processed foods, excess sugars, lack of plant fibers, and foods that trigger an immune reaction (as in gluten sensitivity).

Excess alcohol, NSAID use, and antibiotics are other common culprits.

An allergy elimination diet such as Balanced and Clear will help to repair leaky gut. Sometimes the more stringent autoimmune diet is in order. Stabilizing blood sugar is also key.

If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism you are not managing correctly, or if your liver is not detoxifying properly, you will likely have problems with leaky gut. Nutrients that can help support liver detoxification include milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra.

In addition to diet, many nutrients can help support gut healing. Some of these include probiotics, enzymes, l-glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root, collagen, hydrochloric acid, and anti-fungal herbs.

Targeted nutrients can help stabilize blood sugar, manage stress, tame inflammation, and support a healthy balance of gut bacteria. All these factors help repair leaky gut. If you have an autoimmune condition, managing leaky gut can be a lifelong process as autoimmune flares can inflame the gut.

Ask me for advice about a leaky gut diet and protocol.

BPA may trigger autoimmune damage to nerves

620-bpa-linked-to-msIf you handle store receipts or use plastics (who doesn’t?), brace yourself for some disturbing new findings about BPA (bisphenol-A), the toxin in plastics and store receipts.

A new study shows BPA is linked with an autoimmune reaction that destroys the lining of nerves. Autoimmune nerve sheath degeneration is connected to autism spectrum disorders, multiple sclerosis (MS), neuropathy, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Previous research has shown blood levels of BPA spike after handling store receipts for just five seconds, and that the toxin long lingers in the body.

BPA and neurological autoimmunity

A 2016 study found a significant link between an immune reaction to BPA and an autoimmune attack against nerve sheaths.

The important part about this study is that it’s based on immune sensitivity to BPA, not the amount of BPA in the blood.

A person can react to BPA the way people react to gluten, dairy, or other foods, developing inflammatory symptoms.

This means a person may have low levels of BPA in their blood yet still have an immune reaction to it that can trigger autoimmunity. Conversely, a person may have high blood levels of BPA but no immune reaction and thus a lower risk of it triggering autoimmunity (although BPA is associated with other health disorders, too.)

Animal studies also show a high degree of correlation between BPA and autoimmunity.

BPA sensitivity in mothers raises autism risk in children

Autoimmunity to nerve sheaths is commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. In fact, some research has found autoimmunity to nerve sheaths in almost 80 percent of subjects with autism compared to a control group.

Other studies show subjects with autism have significantly higher levels of BPA in their blood than controls.

Most disturbing are the findings that immune reactions to BPA in mothers can be passed on to offspring, thus considerably raising the risk of autism in their children.

Receipts major source of BPA contamination

BPA is ubiquitous in our environment. The toxin is found in large amounts on thermal receipts used by stores, restaurants, gas stations, airlines, ATM machines, and so on. Holding one of these receipts for as little as five seconds is enough to absorb it into your bloodstream.

BPA in plastics and other products

BPA is found in many other common products as well, such as plastic food and beverage containers, toys, tin can linings, and medical products.

BPA is leached from products through heat or exposure to acidic foods or beverages.

BPA also harms hormone health

BPA’s estrogen-like qualities have been shown to cause reproductive defects, cancer, and immune problems in animal studies. In the developing fetus, BPA can cause chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage.

BPA is also linked to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, ovarian and reproductive dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and obesity.

BPA-free is no guarantee

BPA-free products are available but many unfortunately still have synthetic estrogens and pose a health risk.

How to protect your body from BPA exposure

In addition to reducing exposure to BPA as much as possible, functional nutrition strategies can help protect you from the negative effects of BPA.

The goal is to keep the immune system balanced and not prone to over reacting, which can trigger chemical sensitivities and autoimmunity. Ways to do this include an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, shoring up your glutathione reserves to protect your cells, and making use of natural compounds to support neurological and immune health. For more information, schedule a visit with me.

Is your diabetes diet worsening your diabetes?

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If you have diabetes, whether it’s type 1 or type 2, your doctor likely recommended a diet endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. But did you know the diabetic diet recommends foods that could be slowly worsening your diabetes condition?

Turns out there is more to a diabetic diet than grams of carbs and sugar, although those are vitally important.

For people with type 1 diabetes and for an estimated 20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, diabetes is an autoimmune disease.

This means the immune system is attacking and destroying the parts of the pancreas involved in insulin production and regulation. Over time destruction is severe enough the body can no longer adequately regulate blood sugar.

Certain foods on the diabetic diet, such as gluten and dairy, have been shown to both trigger autoimmunity and make it worse.

Many type 2 diabetics have autoimmune diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes, which begins in childhood, understand diabetes is an autoimmune condition.

However, many people with type 2 diabetes can go for years without knowing there is an autoimmune component to their diabetes, which generally sets in during adulthood.

This type of diabetes is called type 1.5 diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA), or even double diabetes.

Type 1.5 diabetes involves the lifestyle components of being overweight or obese and eating a diet that promotes high blood sugar, along with the autoimmune component that slowly destroys the insulin-producing abilities of the pancreas.

Where the diabetic diet fails

Although grams of carbs and sugars are vital considerations for people with all types of diabetes, what is overlooked is the immune reactivity of foods.

Research shows a link between certain foods and the triggering or exacerbating of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 and type 1.5 diabetes.

If you have an immune reaction to certain foods and consume them daily, they are going to keep the immune system in a constant state of inflammation and attacking body tissue. This makes blood sugar continually difficult to manage, despite careful consumptions of carbs and sugars.

Foods to avoid with autoimmune diabetes

The two top foods to avoid if you have autoimmunity are gluten and dairy. Both have been linked to a number of autoimmune diseases, including diabetes.

Gluten has been shown to trigger an autoimmune attack against the GAD enzyme  which plays a role in insulin regulation and brain function. Casein, the protein in dairy products, has also been linked with autoimmune diabetes.

If you have a sensitivity to these foods or other common immune reactive foods, it is worth getting tested or doing an elimination diet.  Knowing which foods are provoking an autoimmune attack can help you better manage your type 1 or type 1.5 diabetes.

Ask me for more advice on ways to tame inflammation and manage your autoimmune diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to rule out autoimmunity as a factor.