My Autoimmune Health Story

It’s My Birthday…

Three hours in the waiting room seemed like an eternity on my 26th birthday.  Although I donned the darkest sunglasses I could find, even closing my covered eyes did nothing to protect me from the lingering light that struck excruciating pain within my brain. This is my autoimmune health story.

Autoimmune disease is a genetic condition, wherein a part of the immune system goes crazy, and attacks the body’s own tissues. This can manifest in many ways, including tiredness, weight gain, depression, joint pain, back pain, diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes, & muscle weakness. These symptoms can be caused by autoimmune diseases in various parts of the body.


Examples are:

  • Thyroid: Hyperthyroidism (Graves’ Disease) & Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis)
  • Spine & Eye: Ankylosing Spondylitis & Iritis
  • Nerve coverings: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Whole Body: Lupus
  • Bowels: Celiac Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease
  • Skin: Vitiligo & Psoriasis
  • Joints: Psoriatic Arthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Liver: Autoimmune Hepatitis
  • Pancreas: Diabetes Type I
  • Muscles: Dermatomyositis
  • Arteries in Head: Temporal Arteritis

This is My Autoimmune Health Story…

This was the third recurring eye inflammation, so sudden and severe, that I was debilitated.  I had to be imprisoned in a darkened room, tortured by even the slightest exposure to light.  The diagnosis was given as Ankylosing Spondylitis.

 Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)  is a chronic, painful, degenerative inflammatory arthritis, primarily affecting the spine and sacroiliac joints. This autoimmune disease can cause eventual fusion of the spine and the related iritis.  Complete fusion results in a complete rigidity of the spine, less ability to move and chronic debilitating pain.

Now I’m High Maintenance, Health-wise….

Iritis refers to the inflammation of the iris part of the eye, causing severe eye pain, light sensitivity & pain with exposure to light, blurred or cloudy vision, and redness, all making functioning in life difficult, if not impossible.  Iritis (eye inflammation) was determined, as I recounted my family history & symptoms. I was crushed, as my perception of boundless health seemed forever ruined. I was now high maintenance, health wise, and I knew it!

OMG!  I’m Going BALD!!

Severe bald spots appeared, crowning my head. I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata (Autoimmune Hair Loss).  Weakened immunity and chronic severe back pain followed, despite the time between my car accidents. I wasn’t healing, I was weakening, and then I realized that I had to become my own patient.  My genetics had reared its ugly head to the fullest extent, in varying parts of my body. That was enough; I rose up & treated myself.

Alopecia Areata (AA) is a condition in which hair is lost from areas of the body, usually from the scalp. Because it causes bald spots on the scalp, especially in the first stages, it is sometimes called spot baldness. In 1%–2% of cases, the condition can spread to the entire scalp (Alopecia Totalis) or to the entire skin (Alopecia Universalis). The condition is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles and suppresses or stops hair growth. There is evidence that T cell lymphocytes cluster around these follicles, causing inflammation and subsequent hair loss. As with most autoimmune diseases, alopecia areata is associated with increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, specifically systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Tears

The pictures you see here are of me, Dr. Jiwani, with 3 different large bald spots.  A well-known dermatologist stated that it was the worst case he had ever seen, this inherited disease of mine that was creatively expressing itself in many ways.

I was also suffering from severe back pain and excruciating eye pain, but dealing with my bald spots was almost as difficult.  I awoke with them, as I carefully fixed my hair in the morning, and I bleakly viewed them as I brushed my teeth before bed.  I couldn’t walk down the street without worrying that the wind was blowing my hair to reveal the balding spots. The worst was constantly asking my office manager if my hair covered the bald spots between patients.

I’ve Gone Through It, Let Me Help You…..

Having suffered these distressing health challenges has helped me to become a better, more supportive doctor. In school, no matter how much they teach you with textbooks & clinical experience, nothing compares to the actual day to day suffering of going through it yourself.  In retrospect, I am glad that my symptoms were so obvious, as the constant suffering provoked me to stand up and treat myself.

Wait a Minute, I am a Doctor!

Thank goodness I was practicing naturopathic medicine already, as conventional medicine only prescribed immunosuppressant drugs: Prednisone, Cortisone injections & Rogaine for my Alopecia Areata; muscle relaxants, and painkillers for the chronic back pain, and nothing for my weakening immunity.

Say NO to Steroid Drugs!

I didn’t take the drugs, because I was trained to know better.  But I recalled my childhood, worrying for my mother, a victim of her own deteriorating health; a downward spiral that was expedited by the grand concoction of varied pharmaceutical drugs that wreaked havoc on her frail system. I had to watch a strong, independent, powerful woman concede to the drama of multiple diagnoses of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, severe environmental allergies, migraine headaches, recurrent bronchitis and pneumonia.

Mom had Mysterious Drug Interactions

Many doctors’ visits were to recount the mysterious drug interactions that created bizarre rashes all over her body.  It was the insanity of the itchiness, and the multiple steroid drugs driving her to eat, and cry.  Drugs, whose effect eventually wore off, so new, stronger, more severe drugs replaced them, until she became a slave to an oxygen machine & nebulizer.

Why I became a Naturopathic Doctor

These were the thoughts and fears that drove me to naturopathic medicine, since my desire to practice medicine arose when I was seven years old. But it was another 14 years that passed, until I serendipitously discovered naturopathic medicine.

I had already applied to medical school, written my MCAT Admissions Exam, when a friend showed me a brochure on naturopathic medicine. I read the philosophy of “do no harm”, “treat the cause of the symptoms” and “doctor as a teacher”, and instantly I was home. I knew then and there, that this was my destiny.

One Clinic, One Doctor

That is why I have a ONE CLINIC, ONE DOCTOR POLICY. It is through my experiences, suffering daily mental, emotional & physical afflictions that allows me to better understand that a nurturing, compassionate one-to-one contact is what you deserve.

You need someone that understands what you are going through, to work together with, to achieve true health. Thus, my “One Clinic, One Doctor” Policy means that I am and always will be the “only naturopathic physician” & healthcare practitioner in my clinic, to ensure that you have my personal care, experience and expertise.

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Ingrid Jansons Dr. Jiwani January 3, 2017

Dr. Jiwani saved me from pain and stiffness from my autoimmune disease of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I can’t thank her enough and would recommend her to everyone Read More

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