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Dr. Cynthia Li Discusses Kim Kardashian’s Autoimmune Disease Diagnosis

Keeping Up With The Kardashians star Kim Kardashian recently revealed that her “antibodies are positive for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.” She is one of millions of people who suffer from autoimmune diseases and seeking treatment.

Dr. Cynthia Li, who does  not treat the reality star, recently discussed steps patients can take and what to expect in terms of health and treatment.

What can Kim Kardashian expect for the road ahead?

“The vast majority of patients with autoimmune conditions (largely women) have intermittent, relapsing flares of autoimmunity, which causes widespread inflammation. In lupus, this can occur in the kidneys or skin or blood vessels, among other tissues and organs. In rheumatoid arthritis, this can occur largely in the joints or skin or muscles. A small percentage, roughly ten percent, of patients have persistent, progressive courses, and an equal percentage seem to undergo long-term remission.

The lived experience of autoimmunity can be extremely varied. Fatigue can be debilitating in some, while others can live a full life. Access to healthcare, stress levels, nutrition, community, purpose, and general underlying state of health seem to play important roles in the course of such conditions.”

Tips to help manage, or better yet, to heal.

“Conventional treatments are anti-inflammatory medications or immune-modulating drugs, and in large trials, patients who underwent earlier treatment seemed to fare better in terms of symptoms and disease progression.

While autoimmune diseases usually have a genetic predisposition, environmental factors play a large role in ‘turning these genes on.’

As a doctor trained in internal medicine and functional medicine–the latter is a field in integrative health that investigates root causes of chronic conditions–I help the patient discover and uncover what might be triggering the autoimmune response and inflammation. The 5 general classes of causes are infections, allergens, stress (physical, emotional, mental), a poor diet, and environmental pollutants. By addressing any or all of these triggers, the patient can become empowered to take a part in her own healing.

The doctors can screen for infections or allergens. But the patient can begin simple lifestyle changes, like getting a daily dose of nature,resetting her inner (circadian) clock, detoxifying the house and healing the gut. Other options include doing grief work, changing her thoughts to both rewire her neurons, and turning different genes and on off. All these measures can help reduce the inflammatory response for a greater quality of life. In many cases, patients can go beyond coping to experience profound healing.”

How someone might know they have these. 

“Chronic conditions, including any of the 80+ autoimmune conditions, usually don’t happen overnight. They can start years, sometimes decades, before a diagnosis is made.

Some of the earliest signs of potential autoimmune disease: fatigue beyond the usual post-exertion tiredness; joint stiffness, especially upon waking; muscle soreness without heavy exertion; ‘brain fog,’ or a diminished mental sharpness; swollen glands; swollen fingers; excessive hair loss.

It’s during this window, between early symptoms and a diagnosis, that addressing inflammation is optimal. The flares are less severe, and therefore more easily reversed by focusing on the above mentioned measures. In theory, an autoimmune condition might even be averted.”

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