If you’ve been diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease, this is a real question for you, because you’ve been to your doctor, and you’ve been to a specialist (or two or three or more), and they don’t know what caused your autoimmune disease. The best they can do is give you medication that might suppress the symptoms. But then it might have terrible side effects, or it might not work at all, or they might not even have any medicine to prescribe to you (because you aren’t “sick enough” yet, as my doctor told me). So you don’t feel any better, or you feel worse, and there is no specific Germ or Virus to point to and say, “Hey, you caused this!”
In fact, instead of one causal culprit, we know that autoimmune disease is a complex problem with many factors combining: from the immune system attacking the body, to gut health, to virus exposure, to the food we eat, to the environment we live in, and more. There are so many factors that contribute that it is impossible to say that any one incident is The Cause of someone’s autoimmune disease. And that seems like a big problem—how can we hope to find the solution to our autoimmune disease if we don’t know its cause?
But, actually, maybe it’s not. Maybe we could ignore causes altogether. I was introduced to this idea by Robert Biswas-Diener, who is teaching much of the coaching content in my ADAPT Functional Health Coach Training Course. He explained that we all have stories about how and why we came to be the way we are, but he said, “I don’t believe in people’s stories of causality,” because we can never really know for sure what The Cause was. The many components that came together to make our sickness can never be 100% untangled. So instead of agonizing over possible causes, he says we should focus on solutions, and dive right into fixing whatever is wrong.
I love this idea, because it means there’s no need to stress over the causes of my Hashimoto's and Histamine Intolerance: I can just get right to healing them. And realizing that there is no one Cause has helped me to boost the way I look for solutions. Previously, I thought I needed to make baby steps — to try one thing at a time and see if it worked, then add another thing, and so on, as if I was conducting some grand experiment and needed to control my variables. However, if the cause is so multifaceted, then surely the solution will be too; and perhaps what finally “works” will be unknowable, because a range of healing actions will interact in ways that—like the cause—can not be untangled. In other words, there will be a whole bunch of things that combined to work. And, to my mind, a combination of things acting together to solve a complex problem seems the most likely to work in the end anyway.
That is why one of the most powerful solutions I have found for my own health has been a multifaceted approach: the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). AIP is a complex solution to a complex problem, and its strength lies within its complexity. It starts with the premise that by reducing inflammation in the body we can re-balance the immune system and dial back autoimmune disease. To apply this, AIP first removes all possible sources of dietary inflammation and promotes eating nutrient dense foods to nourish the body and balance the immune function. Then it looks at lifestyle factors that can contribute to inflammation—stress, sleep, exercise, gut health—and shows you ways to reduce inflammation by adapting your behaviors. And by the time someone with an autoimmune disease has acted on all of these areas, they usually feel much, much better. AIP is a multi-factorial solution which is powerful enough to address the hugely complex problem of autoimmune disease.
Now, what I’m calling complexity — the many diet restrictions (no grains, seeds, nuts, dairy, nightshades, sugar, or eggs) as well as the lifestyle recommendations about sleep, stress, circadian rhythms, exercise, and gut health — leads some health professionals to call the AIP “too strict.” I agree that AIP is strict: the diet changes combined with the lifestyle changes make for a lot of change for most people, myself and my husband included. But the so-called strictness is how the AIP attacks autoimmune disease in a complex, multi-factorial way. In other words, it’s why it works. And if you’ve got an autoimmune disease, and have had it for years, and have been bounced from doctor to doctor failing to heal it, wouldn’t it be worth a little “strictness” to get something that actually works? It certainly has been worth it for me (and my husband).