How You Can Self Manage Autoimmune Diseases
When people first learn they have an autoimmune disease, they’re often overwhelmed and emotionally distraught. A common reaction is feeling as if you’re losing your identity and that life as you knew it will never be the same. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Although autoimmune conditions should always be managed under the care of a qualified and understanding doctor, you can also do certain things to help improve your symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about self managing autoimmune conditions.
What Are Autoimmune Diseases?
Simply put, autoimmune diseases are conditions that develop when a person’s own immune system attacks healthy cells, thinking these cells are foreign. There are over 100 recognized autoimmune diseases with some of the most common ones including, lupus, myositis, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. These diseases are chronic conditions, meaning there’s no cure.
If you have an autoimmune disease, you’re not alone. According to the AARDA (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association), autoimmunity ranks second in causes of chronic illness. Furthermore, roughly five percent of Americans live with an autoimmune disease with women making up 75 percent of this population.
Eliminate Gluten from Your Diet
If you have an autoimmune disease, it’s important to avoid eating foods with gluten, which is a grain protein that’s contained in many breads, cereals and pastas. Gluten doesn’t bother most people, but it does affect the small intestines of millions of people who have the autoimmune condition known as celiac disease.
There are three main ways that gluten has an effect on autoimmune diseases. For example, gluten is extremely inflammatory, putting stress on the immune system. Also, gluten is the main cause of leaky gut syndrome, as gluten activates the release of the chemical zonulin, which opens up the spaces between intestinal cells, allowing certain substances to pass through, while keeping out harmful toxins and bacteria. When you have high levels of zonulin, the gate control system in your intestines is out of whack.
Furthermore, the chemical structure of the gluten protein is very similar to the tissues of your body, such as your thyroid. This can result in a condition known as molecular mimicry when the body attacks its own tissues, mistakenly thinking that it’s gluten.
Use Herbal Remedies
Five main herbs are beneficial for autoimmune conditions.
- Sarsaparilla is an herb purifies the blood as well as reduces muscle and joint inflammation. It’s been used worldwide in treating arthritis, gout, skin diseases and other conditions.
- Yarrow, which has antiviral properties, is also highly effective as it can be helpful for blood purification and reducing joint and muscle swelling.
- Yucca plant extract is used for improving pain and stiffness. It’s also beneficial for reducing discomfort from skin-related autoimmune diseases. Besides being edible, yucca is available in shampoos and body soaps.
- Chlorella (spirulina), which is rich in amino acids, vitamins and chlorophyll, is an herbal supplement used for relieving lupus discomfort.
- Drinking green tea can be another effective herbal remedy because it contains polyphenolic compounds, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Get Additional Screening
An ANA (antinuclear antibody) test is usually the first test that a doctor conducts when assessing if a patient has an autoimmune disease. Also, the IFA (immunofluorescence assay) test screens for the roughly 150 possible auto-antibodies that can arise in different autoimmune diseases.
Because there are some conditions that have low antibody levels, you may need to undergo additional tests to determine if you are deficient in specific kinds of antibodies. A more specific screen can be done by using multiplex bead immunoassay technology. If the five antibodies in this test are found to be negative, you should go on to the next tier, which involves four antibodies, and if these antibodies are negative, continue to the last tier.
Considerations and Warnings
- Rather than happening suddenly, autoimmune conditions are gradual, occurring over several years.
- Taking Omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful in managing symptoms as they contain anti-inflammatory properties.
- Often, people with autoimmune diseases are lacking in vitamin D, so consider getting a blood test for vitamin D levels.
- Besides taking vitamin D supplements, spend more time outdoors in the sunshine to get additional vitamin D.
- Many people who have autoimmune diseases suffer from depression and low self-esteem, so they find help from psychotherapy.
Questions? To learn more about how you can control autoimmune conditions and improve your overall health, call the professionals at Dr. Allie’s Vitality Clinics. We focus on empowering women on how they can balance their hormones so that they enjoy their lives and be healthier. Please contact us.