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What Causes Guillain-Barre Syndrome? Signs You Might Have GBS

[Webinar] Could you have Guillain-Barre Syndrome? It’s an important question to ask if you feel tingling and pain in your body. GBS is a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system. Find out its symptoms, causes, and how Dr. Radawi, as a functional medicine practitioner, approaches GBS.

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Although Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare disease, it could strike any person – old or young, male or female. Adults, especially older adults, are a bit more likely to get GBS than children, but children can get it, too. Each year, GBS affects about 1 in 100,000 people.

GBS is typically a short-term illness, but it can be extremely severe. Although people who get GBS usually recover, they might have life-threatening symptoms. That’s why getting the best care during the course of the illness is essential.

Possible Causes of GBS

Scientists have not yet clearly identified the exact cause of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. However, they do know that it’s an autoimmune disorder that causes your own immune system to attack your body.

One possibility is that the immune system might start attacking an infection first. Then, the immune cells falsely recognize your nerve cells as bacteria or viruses. So, the immune system begins to fight the nerve cells.

Like other autoimmune disorders, GBS causes your immune system to attack your body. And, just like other diseases in this category, scientists have not yet identified one specific gene that causes GBS. At the same time, there is evidence that genetic factors and environmental conditions come into play.

Risk Factors for GBS

Many of the risk factors for GBS are things you don’t have much control over. Interestingly, GBS usually crops up shortly after someone has had an infection that affected the respiratory or gastrointestinal system.

In some countries, GBS has seemed to follow infection with the Zika virus. Other times, it happens after surgery, and very rarely, it occurs after vaccination. Here’s a list of some of the risk factors that have been identified.

  • Infection from a bacteria called campylobacter from undercooked poultry.
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Zika virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Hepatitis A, B, C, or E
  • HIV
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Trauma
  • Surgery
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Rarely from flu shots or childhood vaccinations
  • COVID-19 virus
  • COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca

Guillain-Barre Symptoms

10 Symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome Infographic

The most common first symptoms are weakness and tingling in your legs and feet that progress to your arms and upper body. Here are the symptoms to watch for if you think you might have Guillain-Barre syndrome.

  • Tingling or a pins and needles sensation in your fingers, wrists, toes, or ankles
  • Weakness starting in your legs and spreading to the upper body
  • Unsteady gait or you can’t climb stairs
  • Uncontrollable facial muscles when trying to speak, swallow or chew
  • Double vision or you can’t move your eyes
  • Severe pain that’s worse at night
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control
  • High or too-low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing

The weakness, which nearly all GBS patients share, is typically the worst about two weeks after you notice the first symptoms. It’s always important to get help for disorders that might be severe, such as GBS. However, some symptoms tell you that you need to seek help immediately, such as:

  • The tingling or weakness spreads rapidly
  • It’s hard to catch your breath
  • You’re choking on your saliva

In these cases, immediate care is crucial because the faster you receive help, the more likely you’ll have good results from treatment. GBS can very quickly progress from an annoyance to an extremely serious condition, so if you see signs that you have it, seek help from a doctor right away. If you reach the point described above, it is an emergency.

Want to find out how Functional Medicine treats autoimmune disorders? Check out our blog: Can Autoimmune Diseases Be Cured?

Functional Medicine Approach to GBS

The functional medicine approach always starts with finding the root cause. As mentioned before, the risk factors are both genetic and environmental. While you can’t change your genetic makeup, you can control many things about your environment.

Assessing Your Health

Dr. Radawi begins with a patient interview. You have a chance to describe what you’ve been going through with the symptoms that might be Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The doctor may ask you questions about your lifestyle and physical surroundings at home and at work.

A functional medicine practitioner goes beyond the symptoms to find the underlying causes. There are typically more environmental than genetic risks involved. The environmental causes could be things that are outside you, such as exposure to chemicals, smog, or allergens. However, your environment also includes your inner environment. That means the doctor will consider the foods and beverages you consume, as well as things like smoking or drinking too much.

Testing is another critical step in the diagnosis and in making the treatment plan. Dr. Radawi orders any tests that are needed and then analyzes and explains your results. It’s important to know that there is no one test that can tell you if you have Guillain-Barre Syndrome. However, you will have a clear picture of your health.

Treating Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Remember that your symptoms are not the source of your problem if you have GBS. They can be quite uncomfortable and even frightening for some. Yet, to deal with your illness effectively, Dr. Radawi works with you to heal the underlying problems.

Treating the Root Cause

It’s important to remember that the source of GBS is the dysfunction of your immune system. It may present as tingling or weakness, but it’s your immune system behind those symptoms. Therefore, the doctor will take several steps to improve your immune system.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome usually requires a complex treatment plan that is custom-designed for you. It could include changes in your diet, adding supplements, dropping unhealthy habits, and balancing your digestive system. Also, since GBS attacks your nerves, the doctor may help you improve your nervous system.

Functional Medicine for GBS in Tennessee

You have easy access to a functional medicine clinic if you live in the Tri-Cities of Tennessee or in nearby cities in Virginia and North Carolina. The Tri-Cities Functional Medicine Clinic, headed by Dr. Radawi, provides comprehensive functional medicine services.

Whether you suspect GBS or have some other unexplained symptoms, we invite you to come to our clinic for treatment. Our team includes a registered dietician-nutritionist, health coach, and of course, our functional medicine doctor, Dr. Radawi. Together, we offer our patients our complete care, concern and tools for getting healthier day by day.

Before you come, you can find out if our clinic is a good fit for you. Simply watch our webinar to get started. Here’s how to begin:

Watch our free webinar to learn about our approach to the health concerns you are facing.

Schedule a free discovery call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.

● After your discovery call – if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA