Guest post written by Tara Grant:
You’ve been Paleo for a couple years and things are great. Your weight is down, your energy’s up, your hormones are balanced—diet and exercise are locked down tight. You’re PAF 90% of the time and feel like a rock star most days. Things are much better than they’ve ever been—but not everything’s perfect. There’s the matter of the skin on your upper arms, which gets these tiny, hard little bumps on it from time to time. And the fact that sometimes you break out in an itchy rash on your legs, or get hives/bug bites that no one else seems to get. There’s the occasional bout of dandruff for no reason, that weird, inflamed ingrown hair in your armpit, the severely painful menstrual cycle from time to time, and the seasonal allergies you just can’t shake. Still, you’re tons better than you used to be.
When I first went Paleo, I was so metabolically deranged that it would be easier to tell you what wasn’t wrong with me, instead of what was. (I actually spent an hour trying to come up with something that wasn’t wrong with me. Couldn’t. Didn’t have cancer. That’s about it.) The longer I stuck with an ancestral lifestyle, the more I began to heal. The symptoms, problems, and maladies just faded away, one by one, until all I was left with were the minor issues. For me, most of these symptoms involved my skin.
Although it had gotten drastically better when I first changed my diet, my Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) still wasn’t in complete remission. I continued to get cystic acne occasionally, and sometimes my scalp itched. I was way better than I had been before, but I still wasn’t 100 percent. My energy wasn’t where I wanted it to be, my muscles ached a lot, and I was having problems with my sleep, too.
I started biohacking myself and doing research. I looked into known autoimmune conditions and was shocked to find that I had already “healed” from a few. Who knew that things like endometriosis and restless legs syndrome were autoimmune? Not my doctor, that’s for sure. As I discovered more and more “conditions” and “syndromes” were actually autoimmune in nature, a family tree littered with autoimmunity revealed itself to me—on both sides. I, too, had been suffering from autoimmunity (a whole bunch of it) but I had had no idea. By treating the disease like the autoimmune condition it was and coming up with a specific HS protocol, I found that not only did the HS go into complete remission, all the other annoying symptoms I’d been having did too. It was all absolutely connected.
So what about those nagging symptoms you’re still plagued with? Or new ones that “pop up” out of nowhere? Are you suffering from a fungal infection, as your naturopath suggests? A bacterial infection, as your doctor repeatedly states? Is it all in your head, as the psychiatrist says? Perhaps your yoga instructor is right—you simply need to detox. Or maybe—just maybe—you’re actually experiencing symptoms of early autoimmunity. According to Sarah Ballantyne, a biophysicist and author of The Paleo Approach, symptoms of autoimmune conditions can be very mild for years—even decades—before they start to worsen and develop into full-blown disease. Here’s how to tell if those nagging symptoms are part of something bigger:
Top Ten Signs You Could Be Suffering From Autoimmunity
1. Your symptoms have not resolved with a standard Paleo diet. They may be less frequent and less painful, but they still appear occasionally.
2. Your doctor has said that your symptoms are “unexplained,” “incurable,” “untreatable,” “chronic,” or “in your head.” Standard treatments, antibiotics, and western medicine have failed to “cure” you.
3. Your symptoms involve inflammation in some way—whether that inflammation is in your joints, your colon, your nerves, or your hair follicles makes no difference.
4. Your symptoms relapse and remit—they’ll get better for a while, and then get worse for (seemingly) no reason at all.
5. You have a family history of not only disease, but of conditions, symptoms, syndromes, and unexplained illnesses.
6. Sugar makes your symptoms worse.
7. Stress and hormones make your symptoms worse.
8. You’re also facing some sort of mental disturbance, whether it’s depression, hopelessness, anxiety, fog, or memory problems. You may be having issues with your sleep.
9. You have, or used to have, metabolic syndrome, or resistance to weight loss.
10. You are susceptible to infections, have digestive issues, allergies, or have been diagnosed with some sort of “syndrome,” including PMS, PMDD, IBS, PCOS, CFS, etc.
Just reading this list can be overwhelming—let alone figuring out where to start if you do think you’re facing autoimmunity. I faced a sense of excitement at first, but was confused about how to go about getting started. This is where I’d like to offer my help. My journey to health was successful, but it was painstaking and challenging in many ways. In my book, The Hidden Plague, I make things easier for you by presenting a systematic approach to healing. While the book has a special focus on Hidradenitis suppurativa (because this is the area of most desperate need), my dietary protocol for identifying trigger foods and healing your digestive tract applies to all autoimmune conditions that are diet related.
The Hidden Plague is organized into two sections: The Whys and Wherefores of HS and The HS Autoimmune Protocol. In the first section, you will learn the clinical definition of HS, how the medical community typically treats it, the root cause of HS (autoimmunity, caused by leaky gut), how stress and hormones can play a role, and how to care for your wounds. This stuff is very relatable to other autoimmune skin conditions, like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
The second part of the book addresses the practical methods of kicking your autoimmune skin condition into remission through diet. We’ll discuss how to start an elimination diet to zero in on your personal food triggers. You’ll receive detailed instructions on what to include in your self-designed Paleo autoimmune diet—and what to avoid—and be introduced to some new and tasty recipes, including Tomato-Free Ketchup, to help you find substitutes for your favorite foods. I’ve also included a couple of sample journal pages from Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint 90-Day Journal in the back of the book to get you started on tracking your progress.
By following this approach, you can take all of the guesswork out of your journey to health. You will know with great certainty what you can and cannot have—and why. You will know what to do to get out of trouble if you have a flare-up or any sort of health setback. If you are interested in personal support, I also offer consultations through my web site PrimalGirl.com