Autoimmunity: It's All ONE Disease...

[This post was originally published in Feb 2016 and received updates in October 2017, July 2018, and August 2023, when I also published The Curve That Isn’t Flattening.]

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the most common autoimmune condition) in early 2008 and have since built my practice on helping others manage their autoimmune hypothyroidism (and adrenal dysfunction, which I also suffered from). As they say, “We teach what we most need to learn.”

And something interesting happened along the way. I’ve become just as (if not more) passionate about autoimmunity as I am about hormones. (With most of my clients, we’re addressing both—their dysregulated immune system as well as their hormonal imbalances.)

What also happened is that about three years ago, my alopecia (autoimmune hair loss), worsened, to the point that I ended up becoming 50 percent bald. Prior to this deluge of hair loss (and fear), I’d only had intermittent (and relatively small) bald spots. Thankfully, I was able to turn this bad episode around. And all (minor) episodes since.

Many people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (or any other form of autoimmunity) have more than one autoimmune condition, whether they know it or not. 

<<< Get my Taming Autoimmunity eGuide from the form on the left. Or if you’re on a phone, scroll all the way down.

There can be a co-occurrence or “kaleidoscope of autoimmunity,” which was certainly my situation, including some female members of my family (Hashimoto’s, alopecia (two types: universalis and areata), and Celiac—and these are just the ones we know of). 

In fact, some people can have Graves’ disease (autoimmune hyperthyroidism) and Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism) at the same time. Weird, right? Another common scenario is Graves’ that morphs into Hashimoto’s.

(We’ve received a great deal of inquiries about whether our #1 best selling Essential Thyroid Cookbook will be helpful for people with Graves’ disease. Given that, at its core, it’s a whole foods cookbook, yes, it can be helpful, but more importantly, we sleuthed out the most immune-supportive nutrition to highlight in our recipes, so from that standpoint, yes, it can be helpful. Our recipes certainly wouldn’t cause a hyper flare!)

Once the immune system has gone rogue and crossed the line from focusing its attention on non-self (including microorganisms/pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, protozoa) to self (normal tissue), all tissues are up for grabs.

Heavy metals aren’t considered pathogenic because they’re not microorganisms, but they incite a similar reaction—the body mounts a response against them. Constantly mounting mounting mounting. And that’s what autoimmunity is—a hypervigilant, overactive immune system.

The topic of heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, thallium, cadmium, etc.), which is a huge issue for a lot of people, can’t be adequately covered in this post, but please know that a lot of “metals detoxes” make people more toxic. Why? Because when you pull metals out of the tissues (there are a few let’s say “popular” ways of doing this), it can contaminate surrounding tissue, simply redistributing the metals.

Is there a safe, simple, and effective way to detox metals? Yes. Again, it’s too much to cover in this post, but as of this 2023 update, I’m getting ready to teach a class about this, including…how yeast/candida feeds on heavy metals. So it’s imperative to address both simultaneously. 


Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome (MAS) is “the combination of at least three autoimmune diseases in the same patient.” 

Once you develop one manifestation of autoimmunity, if it goes unaddressed, the chances of developing another autoimmune condition are greater than 50 percent. (Yes, I know that some say that autoimmunity is simply viral and there is no “tissue attack,” but I feel this is short-sighted and only tells part of the story, at least for most of us.)

According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, “Eighty percent of those with a diagnosed autoimmune condition have antibodies to other tissues.”

In doing additional research for my Reversing Alopecia mastercourse, I found that:

  • Dr. Gerald Mullin from Johns Hopkins says that statistically, someone with an autoimmune disease is at risk of a total of seven autoimmune diseases in his or her lifetime. (The critical point I would add is…IF the known or existing autoimmunity goes unmanaged.)
  • “In addition to autoimmune thyroid disease, it has been long suspected that there is an association between [alopecia areata] and other autoimmune disorders such as vitiligo, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.” [Source]

It doesn’t mean that everyone with alopecia will acquire these diseases, certainly. There’s an association with these other conditions.

No Fear

This post isn’t meant to be alarmist or to use scare tactics. In fact, it’s meant to provide comfort and assurance. 

This isn’t about fear mongering, it’s about making value judgments, defined as “… a judgment… of the usefulness of something or someone, based on a comparison or other relativity.” [Wiki]

Autoimmunity is one disease, not 100-some separate diseases treatable with symptom management alone. (The functional medicine community is now saying it’s more like 125+ diseases.)

I need to repeat this—autoimmunity is one disease.

When you turn your attention to the root of the imbalance—again, a hypervigilant, overactive immune system—any and all manifestations of autoimmunity can be addressed.

Notice that I don’t say “cure” or “treat” or “heal.” I’m not a doctor, so I don’t claim to cure, treat, or heal anyone, but I’m confident saying that autoimmunity can be addressed, managed, and even reversed. You can live symptom-free.

(To be clear, with Type 1 diabetes, it’s understood that people with this condition need to be insulin-dependent for life.)

Even though most of my autoimmunity clients come to me with alopecia and/or Hashimoto’s (one of my clients referred to me as “the Oprah of alopecia” and I found out that I’m referred to as “The Hashimoto’s Lady” by a local holistic nutrition study group), many of my clients have other autoimmune conditions such as alopecia, psoriasis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s, rosacea, or Raynaud’s and are thrilled to hear that what we do to simply focus on the Hashimoto’s can largely, if not completely, address their other autoimmune condition(s).

While autoimmunity is one disease (there, I said it again), I don’t claim to be an expert in each and every type of autoimmune condition, given that there’s a spectrum of autoimmunity—a more advanced type is multiple sclerosis (MS), for instance. Each type needs immune modulation, most importantly, but also symptom management, depending on how the autoimmunity is expressed. 

In addition to their Hashimoto’s, nearly half of my clients also have an autoimmune skin condition such as psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema (eczema is now thought to be autoimmune in nature). Like alopecia, these are all visible expressions of autoimmunity, so any improvement in immune function (or lack thereof) is easily seen.

I’m not a dermatological expert, but the majority of the time, these skin conditions are gone by the time our work together is done. Gone, as in…completely cleared. And if they’re not cleared, they’re greatly reduced in appearance.

I’ve had clients get very emotional and say things like, “I’ve had psoriasis for years—I never thought it would go away. I’ve tried everything and nothing has worked. Now, you can’t even see where it was—I don’t even have any scarring.” (Note: These results may not be typical. Psoriasis can be one of the more challenging types of autoimmunity to address.)

No Silos

Given that autoimmunity is skyrocketing and it’s not uncommon to have more than one autoimmune condition, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with it all and think of these different manifestations of autoimmunity as silos, as in, “I have multiple diseases that I need to manage.” 

Again, there are always considerations for how different types of autoimmunity present themselves, but underneath it all, it’s one disease. And one that can be managed.

Additionally, many of the holistic, integrative approaches are considered preventative if you happen to have autoimmunity in your family and are concerned about developing an autoimmune condition. Not that it’s a guarantee that you will, especially with the beautiful science of epigenetics, or gene expression, of which diet and lifestyle largely influence—up to a whopping 70%.

Unfortunately, conventional medicine isn’t adept at helping people with autoimmunity, unless you consider a JAK inhibitor “help,” which I absolutely don’t. (This article speaks to alopecia specifically, but addresses some of the risks of JAK inhibitors.)

With Hashimoto’s, for instance, the go-to “treatment” is thyroid hormone replacement. I’m not completely against thyroid drugs, especially when symptoms are so unmanageable that they’re greatly affecting someone’s quality of life.

But man, this approach is really barking up the wrong tree—it allows the autoimmune antibodies to smolder on, advancing the Hashimoto’s and making people sitting ducks for other tissue attacks.

[Again, you can scroll up and look to the left get my Taming Autoimmunity eGuide. Or if you’re on a phone, scroll all the way down.]

With alopecia, the approach often involves corticosteroid shots, Minoxidil (Rogaine), or immunosuppressants. Don’t get me started on any of these. (If you want to know more about what I think about them (along with other helpful information), you can download my free ebook, Hair Loss: It’s Reversible without Drugs, Creams, Injections, and Steroids.)

I recently returned from vacation and on my way home, sat next to a lovely woman on the plane who struck up a conversation. She asked what I did for a living and when I told her, she said, “Yeah, I’m just waiting for the hammer to fall. Autoimmunity is rampant in my family—I guess I’ll just wait and see how it shows up for me.”

Meanwhile, she drank three Diet Cokes, ate a bunch of gluten-filled pretzels, ate a small Snickers bar, and slathered her hands not only antibacterial gel, but also toxin-filled lotion.

No judgment here—she’s likely ignorant of how these things are affecting her immune system and drawing that hammer closer and closer to her.

Remember, your genes aren’t your destiny. You have up to 70% capacity to influence how your genes are expressed. This is nothing short of amazing and should motivate anyone to remove the “it’s in my genes” language from their vocabulary. 

If you’d like to connect with me 1:1 for a Jumpstart consultation to discuss your health journey, go here. I’d love to talk with you.



Perhaps if she had asked what steps you could recommend she take to avoid what she thinks is inevitable, you could have advised her to start by changing those simple (and simply devastating) habits which you observed during the flight.  Since she did not ask, even for free advice, your best response was no response.  Condensed version of an old adage is, "Horse/water"!  Sad but wise to move on.  We want to help everyone but it is not possible.

I  have been diagnosed with hoshimotos more than 10 years ago. I have managed it with Westhroid 65 mg daily. I am just now learning about controlling this with diet and am interested to see where this takes me. What is your opinion on taking Westhroid daily? I've been told it's "natural". 

I have congenital toxoplasmosis, and severe eye damage.  Since i turned to get differen diagnosis for inmune system related deseases.  psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, IBS, endiometrosis and recently Hashimoto and reactive hypoglysemia.

Due to my Toxo, i cannot take any medicine that supresses my inmune syste. I read in your book you have helped people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and i really would like to know if you can help me too.  I have been following your recipes in the book and i love them, i am learning how to eat and cook healthy food. 

What can i do to aleviate my psoriatic arthritis? I am worry about the damage in my joints and how will this affect me in several years.

Thanks in advance,


I have Hashimoto's as well as MS (diagnosed in 1990) & arthritis in my hands, which has become very painful just the past couple months. You did not mention MS as an auto immune disease, but I believe it is considered to be.

Yes, it definitely is. There are about 100 different types of autoimmunity and I didn’t list them all. 

I’m sorry you’re suffering from MS and arthritis. I cannot recommend the work of Dr. Susan Blum (for arthritis) and Dr. Terry Wahls (for MS) highly enough.

Interested in your suggestions.  Type 2 diabeties, hair loss, arthritis, IBS, thyroid noduals.

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