As I’ve discussed in the past, the immune system is our incredible line of defense against the dangers of sickness and disease. In some cases, however, the immune system can appear to attack our own healthy tissue. These conditions include type I diabetes, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and many more. Often, when one condition emerges, there are others lying undiagnosed. There is hope for those of us living with an autoimmune condition (or several), however. Below, I share my recommendations for how to live well, no matter your diagnosis!
Autoimmune Conditions, Explained
When our bodies are exposed to an invader such as a virus, the immune system sends out its troops of antibodies to restore order. In the case of autoimmunity, these antibodies destroy the body’s own cells. For example, in the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, antibodies attack the thyroid, slowing thyroid hormone production and causing depression, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, sensitivity to cold, constipation, and fatigue.
Conventional medicine says that Autoimmune conditions are incurable. Treatments are centered around suppressing the immune system to keep it from acting up, or to just keep your body functioning around the condition. But in the Functional Medicine and Chinese medicine world science shows that most auto-immune conditions are caused by an outside force that the immune system is trying to fight. Literature and my clinical experience show that Hashimoto’s can be healed once the root cause is found. I have spent years helping people with Crohn’s disease heal their conditions successfully. Dr. Terry Wahl’s healed herself of Multiple Sclerosis – and wrote a book about it – The Wahl’s Protocol. These are just a few examples of the possibility of healing when you have an autoimmune condition.
While the varied conditions make it hard to pinpoint symptoms, anyone experiencing recurrent fever, fatigue, and malaise may be at risk. Blood tests will identify the types of antibodies your body is producing. And then we can work to figure out the underlying cause of the problem.
Finding Wellness Within and Without
The symptoms of all autoimmune conditions can be painful and debilitating. Be aware of what seems to trigger a flare-up. Keep a journal in order to track any patterns. In addition to finding and treating the root cause of your condition, you can also maximize your wellness by doing the following things:
One of the first treatments I recommend for autoimmune conditions is stress reduction. Stress triggers fight-or-flight mode, which causes inflammation in the body, making an autoimmune flare-up more likely. A form of meditation, mindfulness will help you check in with yourself during stressful situations. Yoga, deep breathing, and massage are also helpful for releasing stress and finding relaxation.
Transform Your Diet
Eating a low inflammatory diet is essential. Eliminate all processed foods, refined sugars, and grains of all sorts from your diet. While this may sound challenging, you are not limited! Experiment with fresh fruits and vegetables, and make a habit of eating the rainbow at every meal.
In Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is a way to restore energy throughout the body. Acupuncture can help stimulate a healthy immune response, as well as promote deep relaxation and relieve stress.
Herbs and Supplements
Immune-supporting herbs and supplements such as a high-quality probiotic, fish oil, Vitamin C, and Dr. Shiroko’s Daily D can help calm an autoimmune flare-up. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric and garlic help keep the immune response from firing. Adaptogens like Holy Basil and Rhodiola can help the body adapt to stressful situations.
Now more than ever, a belief in the good of humanity and the connectedness of all life is important. By putting your trust in something greater than yourself, you open yourself up to healing spiritually, mentally, and physically. No disease exists in only one part of our being, and true health comes from living with all parts of ourselves in balance. If you’ve struggled with the concept of faith, believe instead in miracles, which I observe in my practice every single day.