In typical western medicine, we treat autoimmune diseases with drugs that suppress the immune system. But treating symptoms without getting to the root of the cause doesn’t solve the problem and health care providers are realizing that getting to the root involves deeper, lifestyle changes. Treating the source of a symptom rather than simply suppressing it.
Even without an official diagnosis, if you have symptoms that are common to some autoimmune diseases, you’ll want to pay attention to these suggestions and lifestyle changes as well.
What is an autoimmune disease? Autoimmune diseases are estimated to effect up to 50 million people in America. That’s close to 15% of the population. This type of disease occurs when the body mistakes good cells for bad and produces antibodies to fight them as if they were an illness or infection. This produces symptoms that affect the blood, joints, skin, muscles, and connective tissue.
What are the causes? You may have heard of diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, and Crohn’s disease, all of which are considered autoimmune diseases. The definitive cause is largely unknown but it is believed that there are many factors at play. Exposure to chemicals, contracting an infection, using certain drugs, and toxins in the environment are all possible culprits.
Getting tested If you have symptoms that you believe may be autoimmune related, do some detective work with your doctor. Have them test for infections such as Lyme disease and look for yeast, viruses, and bacteria. Also have your doctor test for food allergies and celiac disease which is a body’s autoimmune response to eating gluten. Lastly, test for heavy metals such as mercury in your system as these are also risk factors.
Lifestyle Changes tip #1: Healthy eating Make sure you’re eating an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet. This includes lots of green, leafy vegetables with a lot of color variety. Whole grains, beans, fish high in omega-3’s, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cruciferous veggies. Healthy snacks such as non-artificially sweetened dried fruits, nuts, carrots and celery. Use oils that contain healthy fats such as olive oil and avoid those with a high amount of saturated fats. Avoid processed foods, corn oils, refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, and too much sodium. All of these contribute to inflammation throughout the body. Also, take a few supplements such as a good multi-vitamin, fish oil, vitamin C, and probiotics that will promote good bacteria in your stomach and intestinal track. Drink lots of water.
Sticking to this diet will not only reduce autoimmune symptoms, but reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, and will lead to an overall healthier you.
Lifestyle Changes tip #2: Regular exercise Exercise is a natural anti-inflammatory. Regular exercise gets your blood and body fluids moving and keeps your muscles toned. Exercise helps your body perform at its best possible level which contributes to your overall health and wellbeing.
Lifestyle Changes tip #3: Rest and relaxation Make time to relax and practice calming techniques. Stress weakens your body and your immune system and also makes autoimmune symptoms worse. Practice deep breathing, yoga, and meditation techniques to help you relax. Lastly, make sure you’re getting eight hours of sleep every night. Your body needs that time to reset and let your systems heal. Prolonged lack of sleep can damage your metabolism and increase your risk of certain health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
These lifestyle changes contribute to the long term health of your body. They’ll not only help prevent autoimmune symptoms, but they’ll keep your body strong and working at its best. You’ll protect yourself against disease and slow the effects of aging, you’ll stabilize your blood sugar and increase your metabolism, and you’ll promote happiness and your overall life-long well-being.