What is now the #1 chronic health problem in the United States? Hint: it’s notwhat you will find on the Internet: heart disease or cancer or diabetes or Alzheimer’s.

If you guessed autoimmune disease, you were right. Autoimmunity impacts more people than heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s combined. (In fact, all of these diseases are now actually classified under the umbrella of autoimmune disease!)

An estimated 50 million, or 1 in 5, Americans now suffer from autoimmunity. Over 100 diseases have been classified as autoimmune, and that list just keeps growing. What’s more, women are diagnosed with 80% of all autoimmune illnesses. (There are reasons for this, beyond the scope of this article, but I discuss them in my book, Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle.)

So, what is autoimmune disease?

The word “autoimmune” means that your immune system has begun to attack you. Autoimmunity means your immune system has lost the ability to differentiate between you and the foreign invaders it is designed to protect you from, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system, which defends your body against disease, decides your healthy cells are foreign. As your hyper-vigilant immune system attacks healthy cells and body tissue, you can end up with damaged organs and body systems and ultimately cancer, even death.

Autoimmune diseases will often fluctuate between remission, with little or no symptoms, and flares that include worsening of symptoms. The standard American medical (SAM) model focuses on relieving symptoms by using toxic prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. The commonly used immunosuppressant treatments and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used as pain relievers lead to devastating long-term side effects while making the pharmaceutical industry billions of dollars a year.

Because many autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms, people can go for years undiagnosed. In the current SAM model of matching drugs to symptoms, the vague and often over-lapping symptoms have made diagnosis difficult and medical delivery of care convoluted in the extreme. When you develop one autoimmune disease, you are 75% likely to develop another, and another. Why? Because we are not addressing the root causes of autoimmunity. We are chasing symptoms, and people are getting sicker and sicker and dying because of a healthcare paradigm that is not working.

Enter Functional Medicine and its limitations

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), I began searching for alternative treatments to what my doctor had prescribed for a terminal and life-consuming illness. I first found Ayurvedic medicine, and then Functional Medicine (what I now think of as the Ayurveda of the West—with one important omission; read on…). I discovered through my own research and the wisdom of Ayurveda that the 4 root causes for autoimmune disease are: 1) genetics, 2) exposure to toxins, 3) leaky gut, and 4) past trauma and current-day stress.

Unfortunately, I eventually found that Functional Medicine providers don’t really look for past trauma, and if they do, they don’t know what to do with it nor how to help their patients. As a result, the patients that come to see me are often angry because they have spent so much money on labs, supplements, and followed rigid food protocols that have not successfully reversed their disease. This is why I call healing trauma and learning how to get out of fight-or-flight the missing piece of the puzzle. This is also why I went back to school to learn to be a psychotherapist and got certified in 5 different trauma healing techniques.

There is never going to be one medication, diet, exercise regimen, or supplement protocol alone that will solve the root cause(s) of your weight, your hormone imbalance, your depression, your diabetes, your fatigue, your low libido, your high blood pressure, your autoimmune disease, or your pain. You will, however, be able to find an answer in the four root causes.

Do you want to get started on building more emotional resilience, healing your trauma, and developing more self-awareness? Try the you Unbroken Program on your computer from the comfort of your own home. You can get it here: https://www.drkeesha.com/youunbroken

Here’s to your health!

Article originally posted on drkeesha.com.

Dr. Keesha Ewers is a board certified Functional and Ayurvedic medical practitioner, as well as Doctor of Sexology, host and founder of The Woman’s Vitality Summit, and founder of a new branch of medicine called Functional Sexology. Click here to learn more about her Integrative Medicine Health Coach Certification Program.