Did you know that 25% of people living with an autoimmune disease were initially labeled as a hypochondriac?
Twenty five percent!
You knew something was off in your body, but you didn’t know what.
You went to countless doctor’s appointments trying to explain the symptoms…
- Chronic pain
- Brain fog
- Digestive Issues
But they were vague symptoms and therefore didn’t have a clear answer to explain why you were experiencing them.
So you were dismissed.
Your doctor suggested that your symptoms are just a cause of stress or lack of sleep.
Well, turns out those symptoms can also be the early stages of autoimmune disease.
Understanding the Prodromal State
It’s called the prodromal state and it refers to the early or preclinical stage of a disease.
It is a period of time when you may experience vague symptoms but are not yet diagnosed.
Here’s the kicker, the prodromal state can last for 2 to 15 years prior to full-blown autoimmune disease diagnoses of MS, RA, Lupus, Psoriasis, IBD or celiac.
During the prodromal stage of MS, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, numbness or tingling, or cognitive changes, but these symptoms may not be severe or consistent enough to meet the criteria for a definitive MS diagnosis.
So the diagnosis is “brewing” but not recognized on tests.
Western vs Eastern Medicine
And when it comes to western medicine we don’t treat until there is a diagnosis.
Which is understandable in some aspects, I guess, but here’s why I think it’s rather frustrating…
The prodromal state is often considered a window of opportunity for early intervention and treatment to potentially delay or prevent the onset of full-blown MS.
What a valuable window of time!
It holds so much power and potential, but instead of leveraging it, you’re led to feel like you’re the crazy one.
That your symptoms are “all in your head.”
But clearly it’s not.
The symptoms are real and they shouldn’t be ignored.
I had the opportunity to study Ayurvedic medicine during my yoga teacher training.
This is the style of medicine that’s practiced in India but has spread around the world now.
Well they look at health from the opposite perspective.
They don’t wait to treat disease.
Their main focus is not just keeping you disease free, but ensuring that you have vibrant energy and health.
And the first sign of that diminishing, they treat.
And they treat first through food, herbs and lifestyle habits.
They use things that are familiar to the body, and they use them early when the body is likely to be most receptive.
The body doesn’t need such a heavy lift, because they’re starting early.
The Power of The Prodromal State
Dr. Terry Wahls suggested that this pre-disease state is precisely when “diet and lifestyle changes can often normalize cellular function, reverse the damage and lead to disappearance of the autoantibodies and resolution of symptoms, so disease diagnosis never happens.”
This is incredible!
But it can also feel like it’s coming a day late and a dollar short if you’ve already been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
How is this relevant to you know?
It’s relevant for two reasons.
Trust Your Gut
First and foremost, it validates the fact that you knew something was off in your body.
You were right.
You eventually got the diagnosis to prove it.
That’s not to say that you wanted to get diagnosed with MS, but a diagnosis certainly can be validating given the months, and sometimes years you went through from being dismissed.
This hopefully builds trust in your intuition of what’s going on in your body.
Trust your gut!
You may have been lead to believe that you were overreacting or making something up but that’s not true.
You knew and you were right.
The more you can build this relationship and trust with your body the more likely you are to hear it when it whispers and not wait for it to start screaming with a megaphone.
Trust when your body is speaking to you.
Which leads me to my second point.
Don’t Wait, Be Empowered
You may say, great, thanks Alene, I like this idea of trusting myself when I know something is off… but what could I have done differently?
I went to the doctor. I explained the symptoms. I got dismissed.
Maybe you even got a second or third opinion and were still brushed off.
Well, patient advocacy is certainly something that I speak a lot about.
It’s something that I’m really passionate about and talk about in coaching programs.
I teach you how to best prepare for appointments so that you can establish a collaborative relationship with your healthcare providers.
We don’t want to feel like it’s us against our doctor, we want to build a collaborative relationship.
It takes time and intentionality but it’s worth it.
My point is, speak up until you get the answers you need.
But in the meantime, don’t just sit around and wait, give away your power and your health to your doctor.
You still have the ability to influence your health with diet and lifestyle.
Do not tell yourself the lie that only your doctor can “fix” your health problems.
You don’t need a diagnosis to start improving your diet and lifestyle.
Small Beginning Gain Momentum
Any doctor will tell you that a healthy diet and lifestyle are beneficial to your health.
It may not be a cure, but as Dr. Wahls suggests, it’s not completely out of the question for it to stop something in its tracks or at least delay the progression.
Isn’t that worth it?
But again, going back to your question about how this information is relevant to you now, given that you may already have a diagnosis?
Well, did you know that having an autoimmune disease makes you more likely to get another autoimmune disease?
Apparently once your body learns how to attack itself it can’t unlearn that.
That’s pretty wild.
So what if you’re in the prodromal state now of another autoimmune disease.
My friends, we always need to stand guard when it comes to our health.
We have “attacks” to our health every single day including toxins from the:
- Air that we breathe,
- Food that we eat, and
- Water that we drink.
There’s also chronic stress, lack of sleep, lack of sun exposure and a sedentary lifestyles. The list goes one. You can’t just sit back and believe that your body doesn’t need your help.
That help can start with one serving of vegetables. Virtually every diet out there emphasizes eating less processed foods and eating more vegetables so start there.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple.
Swap one of your glasses of soda out for a glass of water.
Pick something and start there.
You don’t need to do a complete overhaul – but you need to recognize that your body needs your help every single day – whether you experience symptoms or not.
Every Stage of Your Health Journey
And learning about the prodromal state makes me that much more passionate about it.
Diet and lifestyle may not be a cure, but it can feel like one.
If you already have a diagnosis: What if making changes to your diet helped to lessen the fatigue and boost your energy?
If you don’t have a diagnosis: What if it helped you delay the onset of one?
Regardless of whether you have a diagnosis or not: What if diet and lifestyle helped you to avoid something coming at you that you otherwise would have been impacted by, but because you started eating healthy and improving your lifestyle you avoid it.
We will never know how big or small those things are that we avoid, but what a blessing it is to think about.
The Law of Diminishing Intent
Those possibilities are there but the longer you wait, the further you push those possibilities away from you.
The longer you wait, the less likely you are to ever make changes.
And according to John Maxwell, the Law of Diminishing Intent says, “the longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.”
I love the riddle he uses to describes it too…
Five frogs are sitting on a log.
Four decide to jump off.
How many frogs are left?
Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing.
Have you decided that you were going to change your diet, but haven’t started doing it yet?
THIS is why the understanding of the prodromal state is relevant to you today, even after a diagnosis.
Perfectionism is a Trap
Personally, it lights a fire in me to be as proactive as I can be with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Am I perfect? Absolutely not!
I’m far from it, and I am continually reminding myself that perfection is a myth so stop chasing it.
Instead, allow yourself to do your very best each day, and try to get one step closer toward your goal each day.
This gradual progress builds, momentum starts to pick up and eventually you start to see results come through.
Because the reality is your body is changing every single day.
The question is, are you helping it more closer to health or disease?
It’s a strong question, but I’m willing ot ask it in hopes that it can inspire you to take action today.
There are no guarantees in life, especially when it comes to our health, but I want to know that I did my best to at least stack the odds in my favor.
And I wish that for you as well.