This is Part 4 of My Big Fat Autoimmune Mess! series. The other posts in this series include:
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. The information in this post cannot be used to treat or diagnose any disease.
Fair warning – this is a long post.
In June of 2019, I was in the heat (it was summer after all), of my newest autoimmune symptoms – all sorts of rashes and chronic pain . If you haven’t already, you can read about them in more detail here. I developed these within a year of giving birth to my son in March of 2018.
The delivery was rough. I hemorrhaged and required two blood transfusions and a bunch of drugs in a short, intense span to recover.
While I don’t have any proof, I believe these events, along with post-partum hormonal swings and stress, acted as a trigger for the development of autoimmune antibodies associated with multiple autoimmune diseases: scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.
I still don’t have an official name for this unspecified autoimmune condition (it is likely in the mixed connective tissue disease family), and don’t plan on seeking one because…
I don’t have the symptoms anymore, and feel really awesome. This post is about how I got started on that path. I’m going to share what I tried, what worked, and what didn’t.
*I should note that this post is about how I reversed my symptoms, not necessarily my antibodies. While some of my antibodies have gone down, I still test positive for ANA, Anti-dSDNA, and a few others. My levels are very low, but still positive (for example, 1:80 ANA), indicating I have more healing to do.
**I also should note, in bold letters, that I am not a doctor. I am sharing my experience, some of which include mistakes and assumptions I made while searching for answers. This is not medical advice in any way, shape, or form. Please investigate your own health struggles with the help of a qualified doctor or practitioner.
First, the weird part.
While experiencing these new autoimmune symptoms and increasing number of antibodies, my Hashimoto’s (and thyroid antibodies) continued to improve. This puzzled me. Wouldn’t the same root cause(s) behind my newest autoimmune issues also drive my Hashimoto’s to get worse, not better?
Apparently not. It stumped me. It stumped my doctors. All I could think was that something in my body shifted, maybe a T1 vs. T2 imbalance (which you can learn more about here). And I knew, that regardless of the cause, my mission was to modulate and balance my immune system again.
So, I went back to the basics.
One of the most complete books I’ve read on reversing autoimmune disease is The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Myers. I revisited this book and combed through it in great detail to compile my plan for healing, or as I like to call it: my healing protocol.
I was reminded of Dr. Alessio Fassano’s research regarding the three things required to develop autoimmunity:
- Genetic predisposition (which I obviously have)
- Leaky gut
- Environmental trigger of some sort (nutrient deficiencies, viruses, physical trauma, emotional trauma, toxins, etc.)
Given that I can’t control #1, I shifted my focus to #2 and #3, and got to work.
Healing My Leaky Gut
I didn’t actually test for leaky gut. I assumed I had it, based on my symptoms (particularly my rashes), and knowing a leaky gut is a major cause behind autoimmune issues in general. I also had one round of antibiotics during my labor and delivery fiasco, which I’m sure didn’t help my gut microbiome.
Many doctors turn to a protocol that usually involves “R” words. Dr. Amy Myers, for example, has a “4R Approach” which includes:
- Remove inflammatory factors that negatively affect the gut – this includes specific foods, pathogens, parasites, etc.
- Restore what’s missing from the gut by feeding it what it needs! A nutrient dense diet, and possibly some digestive supplements such as digestive enzymes, HCl, bile acids, etc.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria/probiotics
- Repair the gut lining using gut-healing foods and supplements
I decided to follow a similar path, perhaps a little out of order.
I started simple (at first) and turned to two tools: the Autoimmune Protocol Diet and a gut-repair supplement protocol. Here are my experiences with both.
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet
I’ve written two posts on this diet already, so if you aren’t familiar with it, you can read more about what the diet is here and more about my personal experience using it here. But I chose this diet specifically to remove inflammatory foods from my diet and allow my gut to heal/repair itself.
In summary, the autoimmune protocol proved to be the workhorse behind my recovery. Within a month or two of following it, my skin rashes improved by about 80%, and my chronic daily pain went from an 8 to a 3 (on a 10-point scale). Any lingering pain was easily taken care of by a daily dose of CBD oil (I’ve tried many brands and Endoca has far surpassed all my expectations) and turmeric capsules.
I felt nearly symptom-free in about 2 months, just from these minor tweaks. But I wanted to ensure my gut was reinoculated with diverse and beneficial bacteria, and also sealed up. So, I added 3 products to my protocol.
Microbiome Labs Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Gut Rebuilding Supplements
I was introduced to this trifecta of gut-health products by another blog/company: Rebel Health Tribe. I signed up for their free autoimmune masterclass and was so impressed with the interviews, that I purchased lifetime access.
(By the way, I highly recommend this autoimmune masterclass BUT only if you are not overwhelmed with autoimmune information at the moment. If you are overwhelmed, wait until you are firmly planted before taking on the depth of information that this masterclass offers. Once you are ready, then I recommend this as a reliable resource to expand your knowledge and healing toolkit.)
One of the interviews focused solely on the Microbiome Lab Products – specifically the Megaspore Probiotic and the MegaPrebiotic. Both products have clinically shown to improve leaky gut in just 30 days. I added in the MegaMucosa to “seal” the deal (ha) and reinforce a healthy mucosal barrier in my gut.
I could go on for days, but that’s not what this post is about, so I’ll just sum things up by saying: my experience with these products was fantastic (remember that I paired it with the AIP diet, which removed many of the foods I’m sensitive to – this was key for my healing). Once I started taking them, ALL of my skin rashes cleared up, except for one teeny tiny patch of psoriasis on my big toe that I still can’t seem to kick.
The prebiotic did make me feel a little bloated, so I only used one round (bottle). I still take the probiotic because I feel a difference when I stop.
If you want to learn more, here are a few helpful links (I am not affiliated in any way):
But, even with the success from the diet change and 3 supplements, I was still left with a major problem: I could not introduce any foods that did not follow the AIP diet, except for chocolate and cashews. Every time I tried a new food, my pain roared back with a vengeance… eggs, walnuts, beans of any kind, nightshades, seeds. This was after 6 months of flawlessly sticking to the diet.
I realized that something was keeping me from moving forward, so I set on a path to find out what it was. It was time to troubleshoot.
(If you are ever stuck in the same situation I was and find yourself unable to move forward after following the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, then here is a useful article on areas to troubleshoot.)
All the Testing
I decided to test for a few things that stood out to me during my research – beginning with nutrient deficiencies, then mold and mycotoxins (due to some questionable areas in our home), and finally gut infections.
Now, there are multiple ways to go about this.
One of my doctors is against testing unless it is for nutritional deficiencies. His theory is that if you address and correct nutritional deficiencies through diet and supplementation, then your body will (usually) address other issues/infections on its own.
I worked with this doctor to test for and treat my nutritional deficiencies: zinc, magnesium (this was a big one, and caused tremors when I didn’t get enough), vitamin D, and iron, but still experienced no improvement when it came to reintroducing foods. When I didn’t improve, he recommended ozone therapy (something I’ll talk about later), but I wasn’t ready to take the plunge.
So… I added another doctor to my team, and she really likes testing. We decided gut testing was the next best step. I ordered a GI-Map test, which tests stool samples for:
- Bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens.
- Bacterial diversity
- Fungi and yeasts
- Viruses (Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr)
- Other intestinal health markers
- Antibiotic resistant genes
I also ordered a mycotoxin test after learning about it in a Rebel Health Tribe autoimmune masterclass interview with Dr. Alex Carrasco. She referenced an article from 2017 that showed how mold metabolites (mycotoxins) drive rheumatoid arthritis in mice.
Given that I tested positive for antibodies associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), experienced RA symptoms, and have questionable mold areas in my home, I wanted to ensure this wasn’t a problem for me.
My results for the mycotoxin test were pretty much negative. I think I had one or two “red” areas, but they were barely (I mean BARELY) in the red, and were the mycotoxins commonly found in foods… so I made a few changes to the types of food I consumed.
But, because the results weren’t too severe, I shelved them, and focused my attention to the GI-Map results which, for the most part, were also pretty good.
The only thing astray was bacterial overgrowth, specifically: staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus spp. According to the GI-Map interpretative guide:
- Staphylococcus aureus is a gram-positive bacterium in the Firmicutes phylum. High levels may result from reduced digestive capacity, and intestinal inflammatory activity. Some strains may produce toxins and contribute to loose stools or diarrhea.
- Streptococcus spp. is gram-positive bacteria in the Firmicutes phylum. Streptococcus spp. colonize skin and mucous membranes throughout the body; High levels in the intestine may result from low stomach acid, PPI use, reduced digestive capacity, SIBO or constipation; Elevated levels may also be indicative of intestinal inflammatory activity, and may cause loose stools.
But even these levels weren’t all that high. Still, my doctor and I decided to do one round of her gut clean-up protocol using herbal supplements just to see if we could balance everything out.
Gut Cleaning Protocol
This protocol included:
- Cystistatin: 2 capsules, 3 times a day (until bottle runs out)
- Oil of Oregano: 2 soft gels, 3 times a day (pair with the Cystistatin)
- High Dose Probiotic – 1 capsule per day (until bottle runs out)
Okay, so let’s break these down.
Cystistatin and Oil of Oregano
I considered these two as the broad “cleaners” – Cystistatin contains Berberine (among a few other herbal ingredients for gastrointestinal and urinary tract health) and Oil of Oregano contains…. oil of oregano. Both have antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antifungal effects.
If I was going to kill off the bad, I wanted to reinforce with the good by adding in two different probiotics. My doctor recommended Ortho-Biotic Capsules, which I took 2 of each day until the bottle ran out.
But, my focus was really on the MegaSporeBiotic after listening to a webinar regarding its ability to fight chronic and acute gut infections and restore the gut microbiome, even after being totally obliterated by antibiotic use. You can listen to the webinar, or read the transcript here. I worked my way up to 2 capsules a day, taken with breakfast.
This supplement contains concentrated dairy-free immunoglobulins. According to the description on the product page:
“Immunoglobulin G (IgG), the most abundant antibody in the system, can be found in blood and extracellular fluid, allowing it to control infections in the body. IgG antibodies can bind a variety of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as their toxic by-products. Binding these toxins will neutralize them and allow the immune system to safely remove them from the body.”
While I was excited that these were able to bind and clear toxins from various sources in my body, I was most excited when I heard anecdotal (key word) stories that this supplement was helpful when reintroducing foods the body might not like. One of my major problems.
So, I started on 8 capsules a day, taken all at once. The bottle says 4 capsules, but after learning more about the studies supporting the use of immunoglobulins (you can view some of them on the product page), I realized the dosages they were using were much higher than the 4 capsules.
I’ll go into my experience below, but this supplement was one of the most impactful, life-changing supplements I’ve ever taken. I’m not exaggerating. I wouldn’t be paying $99 a MONTH if it didn’t do anything (and I am not affiliated in any way to these products). So, if you’re interested, please read:
The real test. Did it work?
After following this protocol for two full months, I highlighted some major differences in how my gut felt on a daily basis. The most notable was the fact that I stopped craving carbs and sugar, and I felt fuller so much sooner than I did before. This was encouraging… and really surprising. I actually felt better!
But the real test was: would I be able to introduce foods without throwing myself into a major pain flare?
The answer? YES!
At first, I approached every individual food with extreme caution. I stocked up on digestive enzymes and took 2 capsules 15 minutes before consuming the food. Then, immediately after, I took my 8 capsules of the MegaIGG2000.
I was able to introduce almonds, soaked and pressure-cooked beans, hot peppers, and even noodles made from chickpeas! Glorious.
Some foods I still reacted to – eggs, walnuts, tomatoes, and flaxseeds (interestingly, all the same foods my children also have sensitivities or full-blown allergies to). I suspect my body may never tolerate these foods, unless I address each one specifically using something like NAET.
The good news is… this is where the MegaIGG2000 really showed its power and totally won me over. Within hours of taking the supplement, the inflammatory reaction from trying these foods died down significantly. Eggs once sent me into a full month flare, but with the IGG, I reduced it to 1, maybe 2 days.
I did not try gluten, dairy, or any grains. I have no desire to add those back into my diet at this time.
But, something was still missing.
Even after making progress by:
- Changing my diet to the Autoimmune-Protocol (AIP) diet
- Using the Microbiome labs gut-healing supplements
- Testing for gut issues when I stopped making progress
- Treating overgrowths/infections using the gut clean-up protocol
- Reintroducing foods with success
I realized I had more healing to do.
Yes, my diet was more diverse, but I still had lingering, low-level pain every single day. As much as I love my CBD and turmeric (and they REALLY worked to take the pain away completely), I felt like they were band-aid solutions. Something was amiss.
So, I continued my search. The next post in this series will outline how I addressed possible environmental triggers using many different types of interventions and finally got rid of the pain, and experienced other significant and totally unexpected results (like no longer needing thyroid medication for my Hashimoto’s). That post is coming soon… stay tuned.
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits. Consider me, and my husband, Frank, your autoimmune disease health coaches. Are you ready?!