What is an autoimmune disease? Autoimmune disease is basically when your own immune system attacks your own body because it has gotten completely confused and no longer functions like it is supposed to. Apparently there are over 100 autoimmune diseases, so far. The key to living with an autoimmune disease is learning what you can do to protect your body, regulate the immune response, and learn everything you can. However, there are some relatively easy steps to begin to take control of your autoimmune disease and live a healthy life. Here is what I have learned in dealing with my own autoimmune disease (hashimoto's thyroiditis).
1. Read and learn everything you possibly can about your disease and autoimmunity in general. You really have to become pro active in knowing about your disease. Doctors don't know everything and in maintaining a practice it is very difficult for them to truly stay up to date on research. You need to be a partner in your health and take an active approach to your own healing. Don't miss the free autoimmune summit taking place now online.
2.Find a doctor willing to work with you. If your doctor is one of those that thinks they are the end all be all and won't discuss your disease and possible treatment options then find a new doctor. I have gone through 14 doctors in the past 10 years with my disease. I have a wonderful GP now who listens to me and talks with me, not to me. unfortunately she doesn't have much confidence in her own abilities and I admit I am a complicated case, but I consider her a treasure.
3. Take a proactive approach to your diet. Diet definitely has a role in the immune response for many people with AID (autoimmune disease). I highly recommend trying an autoimmune or elimination diet and seeing if you notice a difference in the way that you feel or if your particular antibody numbers get lower. For me, grains raise my antibody levels and I notice I suffer much more if I am exposed to wheat especially. You may not think you have a problem with foods, but you really don't know whether you do or not until you stop the exposure and then re-expose yourself. Things that can cause a problem are grains (especially wheat), dairy, and legumes. This is a big one that most people tend to balk at, but really a few months out of your life eliminating some of your favorite foods to see if it improves the quality of your life is not that big of a deal. I love bread, hot fresh bread dripping with fresh homemade butter...yum! However, I don't tolerate wheat. My pain level goes up, I get a migraine headache, and I suffer for days if I am exposed to wheat. I have the same reaction with corn. So for me, the response is not worth it. The is simply too much to justify that slice of bread or piece of cake. You might not have the problem that I have, but isn't it worth it to find out.
4. Heal your gut. Consider probiotics, fermented foods, and other things that will help to heal your gut. This does go along with the diet above.
5. Detox your liver and your life. Our world is so full of toxins. Chemicals in shampoos, conditioners, cleaning products, clothing, furniture, etc. etc. etc. all work to trigger an immune response and damage our immune system. If we have an autoimmune disease then we don't need any extra help in damaging the immune system, it is already wonky. So, make a conscience effort of ridding your life of all those unnecessary chemicals.
6. Optimize your vitamin levels, especially Vitamin D and your B vitamins. Be cautious of using herbs that stimulate the immune system because you will stimulate the attack on your body.
7. Avoid stimulating your immune system when possible. If you know that someone is sick, avoid them if possible. A typical cold can take me a full 6 months to completely recover from, whereas a normal person can recover in a week or two. I avoid sick people like the plague. If I go to the grocery store, I am meticulous about washing my hands and wiping down the handle on the cart. I try to limit my grocery store trips. I don't go around sick people. If I know someone is sick or might possibly be coming down with something, I stay away. I also try to get all my regular doctor visits done when it is not cold and flu season. You will not find me at the doctor's office during that time if I can possibly help it. I am not saying live in a bubble and go over board being a germaphobe, but there really is no reason to overly stimulate your immune system any more than necessary.
8. Exercise to tolerance. Get up and move around. It does help. I don't mean that you have to start training for a triathlon, but a walk around the block or a morning yoga routine will help keep your body healthy and happy.
To live and thrive with autoimmune disease you have to become proactive to your own health. There is no miracle pill or cure. Some steps to healing are hard, but isn't your health and your life worth whatever it takes to be healthy and happy?