Autoimmunity is a condition where your immune system attacks certain tissues in your body. While a diagnosis can feel shocking and overwhelming, there are many practices you can put in place to live well with autoimmunity.
If you need help with autoimmunity, click here
Practical Tips to Live Well with Autoimmunity
Autoimmunity is a condition where your immune system attacks certain tissues in your body. Autoimmune conditions include Hashimoto’s, IBD, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, multiple sclerosis, along with many others.
Some stats show that autoimmune conditions are almost as common as cancer and more common than heart disease when combined all together.
While a diagnosis can feel shocking and overwhelming, there are many practices you can put in place to live well with autoimmunity.
Autoimmune immunity is an issue of an overactive immune system; it’s not a problem with a particular organ. Therefore, helping calm your immune system through dietary and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in symptom reduction.
There are several natural approaches you can take to get your autoimmune disease under control and to start healing your body.
Contributing Factors to Healing
- Diet and nutrients – There are several dietary protocols that may be helpful if you have an autoimmune condition, but we suggest starting with the autoimmune protocol. It’s a modified version of the paleo diet that removes other potentially inflammatory foods for a short period of time. Focus on nourishing your body with enough protein, fresh vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats.
- Lifestyle – Adjusting your lifestyle to promote healing is critical. Begin to prioritize 8-9 hours of quality sleep. Learning effective stress-management strategies and doing them daily will make a big difference. Some examples include yoga, walks in nature, deep breathing, journaling, prayer, meditation, and limiting screen time.
- Supplements – In addition to healthy diet and lifestyle, specific supplementation support may be necessary. This may include probiotics, neurotransmitter support, hormone support, and nutrient support.
- Treating underlying infections – If you’re still not feeling better after modifying your diet and lifestyle, there may be an underlying infection that needs to be addressed. In this case, consider getting tested for possible infections including, H. Pylori, parasites, SIBO, Candida, etc.
When you have one autoimmune condition there is a higher likelihood of having another autoimmune disease. However, this is not meant to spark fear. Fear and stress can often be more dangerous than the autoimmune disease itself.
We simply say this to bring awareness and to empower you to heal your body with your own self-care. Taking the necessary steps to clean up your diet, modify your lifestyle, and understand your condition is essential.
Inform and Collaborate
Make it a point to understand your disease. Learn about your condition and gain knowledge. Understand that autoimmune disease is a problem with your immune system, not a problem with the organ. For example, if you have Hashimoto’s, zapping your thyroid is likely not the solution. Be familiar with the testing you need.
Find practitioners that you can collaborate with, someone who will work with you to help you navigate your healing path. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a team of practitioners, maybe a naturopath, specialist (endocrinologist, gastroenterologist), and health coach.
The autoimmune protocol is a wonderful dietary protocol to implement to help reduce inflammation, calm your immune system, and nourish your body. It is designed to be an elimination and reintroduction protocol. The elimination phase should last 60-90 days. Then you will begin to reintroduce of the foods.
The primary foods you will eliminate include:
- Grains (all grains: both gluten and non-gluten grains)
- Nuts/seed (including coffee and chocolate)
- Nightshades – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant
You do not need to continue with the elimination phase longer than 90 days. If you don’t see improvement after this time period, then there may be an underlying condition such as an infection that needs to be addressed first.
As you reintroduce foods, you’ll be able to identify specific foods that trigger a reaction and those that you tolerate well. Start with adding in the most nutrient dense foods that are least likely to cause a reaction. End with the least nutrient dense foods that are most likely to cause a reaction.
Fear of Food
It’s important to reframe your perspective in regards to food. Don’t think of the foods you’re eliminating as bad for you. Rather, think of the elimination process as a reset for your body. Then be okay with adding foods back in.
Many of the foods you’re eliminating temporarily are healthy, nutrient dense foods. During the reintroduction phase, consider starting with seed-based spices or cold-pressed oils from seeds. Or try raw nuts and seeds or pasture-raised egg yolks. These are very healthy, nourishing foods that you’re likely to tolerate.
This will enable you to find the most diverse diet that works for you and makes you feel good. That way, you won’t feel restricted or deprived, and you won’t live in fear of food. This protocol is intended to give you a healthy body, not a burdened heart and mind.
In addition to food, lifestyle factors must be addressed. We suggest prioritizing the following:
- Rest – quality sleep each night
- Breathe – daily stress management
- Move – the right amount of physical activity for your body
- Connect – with friends, family, and nature
How to Avoid Overwhelm
Take this process in baby steps. Even implementing the diet can be a slow transition and that’s okay. Then focus on implementing the lifestyle pieces. Work with a health coach to help guide you along.
The future of treating autoimmunity is very hopeful. More and more practitioners and patients are realizing the value of dietary and lifestyle changes. These are fundamental pieces in treating autoimmunity and reversing symptoms. Then, thoughtful use of medications can be added when necessary.
To discover more tips on getting control of your autoimmune disease, check out our podcast with Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt.
If you need help with autoimmunity, click here
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Dr. Ruscio is your leading functional and integrative doctor specializing in gut related disorders such as SIBO, leaky gut, Celiac, IBS and in thyroid disorders such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. For more information on how to become a patient, please contact our office. Serving the San Francisco bay area and distance patients via phone and Skype.