Updated: Sep 2
A few years ago I was on a hero quest to discover the cause of my chronic illness.
I went from very healthy to very sick in a matter of weeks and over the next few months would visit dozens of doctors.
When I found myself often in the emergency room, I felt relief when I made it there.
I was filled with a youthful confidence in the brilliance of my doctors, that they would, in a spectacular 'House'-like manner, tell me what was causing everything and give me a magic pill.
That's the expectation, right? All those commercials we see everyday of young families frolicking around in fields - there are always fields - and at the end of it "ask your doctor about. . . ". Easy.
Then you get sick, and worse, you get sick with a set of symptoms that don't match a specific disease. Now you're in the no-mans-land of sick-without-a-diagnosis.
No magic pill for you.
Not All Doctors Are Created Equal
When you get sick, you become acquainted with the different types of doctors out there.
There are those that google your symptoms on the computer while you're talking to them.
The ones that go get one of their medical school textbooks after you discover you have a positive ANA test and flip through the different autoimmune diseases and wonder aloud 'which one you will get' and hope it's not 'one of the really bad ones'.
There are those that ask you where you are in your cycle, how stressed you are, then suggest yoga and other ways you can 'calm down'.
Then the looks.
There was the doctor who I waited a month to see.
I told her that the migraines that suddenly started were so severe they caused a stroke-like paralysis on the left side of my body, would often make me lose consciousness and that my head inflammation was so bad I could no longer read.
I told her that these symptoms were made much, much worse if I ate gluten.
She gave me a skeptical side-eye over her clipboard and said curtly "I've never heard of that."
Open Water & Anchoring
Its not only patients who expect their 'one thing' to be solved by 'one pill,' doctors can fall into the trap too.
Some doctors are in a hurry to package their patients into a diagnosis and funnel them down the diagnostic assembly line to collect their pills.
That is why those without a diagnosis can find themselves adrift - unable to find treatment or even get a clear answer on who they should see next.
Those with a misdiagnosis or impartial diagnosis find it hard to escape it and hard to convince their doctors to order additional blood testing to explore other possibilities.
Doctors refer to this as an 'anchoring problem' - once a diagnosis is found, practitioners usually stop looking for other causes or treatments outside of the radius of the diagnosis.
The Many Things
Don't be daunted by the fact that it's probably not 'one thing' that got you sick and not 'one thing' that will get you better.
In the abbreviated version of my case, it was some impaired methylation genes, coupled with heavy metal exposure, which led to dozens of food allergies, which lead to adrenal collapse, which lead to severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies all of which caused rampant inflammation, severe pain and many other things.
The Wonders Of Integrative Medicine
The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) gave me the first real break from my symptoms.
I began to look everywhere for alternatives to pharmaceuticals - in Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs, diet, and in posts on message boards on chronic disease websites.
I found out that my story was not unique, there were thousands like me with symptoms that doctors had trouble diagnosing.
From my fellow online patients I learned that there are doctors who specialize in complex cases and whose t