Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease is only the beginning for most people.
Often it takes so long to get a clear diagnosis that there is a sense of relief of knowing what is wrong.
For some, their bodies fall apart piece by piece while they wait for some sense of direction. They wait for answers which do not give them the whole picture of why they are sick.
Sadly, even after getting a diagnosis, they are left with more questions than ever before.
WHY do I have this autoimmune disease?
Will I ever get better?
Why are autoimmune diseases chronic in nature?
Will I ever stop my immune system from attacking my body?
I have been tested for everything, still no diagnosis., now what?
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Getting the right treatment for your autoimmune disease
Their lives become a merry-go-round of medical tests, hospital visits, stress, and uncertainty. They keep waiting for the day until someone gives them a “cure” and they don’t need to suffer anymore. Sadly, that day never comes.
Because unless they discover and address the underlying imbalances and deficiencies which have led them to this diagnosis, they won’t get much relief.
In this post, I share with you 5 steps that you should take after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
Remember though that these do not replace any medical treatments in any way. These are steps that you can take immediately to help you to lay the foundations of long term health.
Step 1- Assess your diet
Your diet is the FIRST thing that you need to take care of. Food is medicine when it comes to healing from a chronic illness. What you CHOOSE to eat or not eat has a powerful impact on your body.
Food also has a huge effect on the amount of inflammation you have in your body.
I have written about the connection between autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation and you can read it HERE.
You should choose food for how it affects your cells and not just how many calories it has. Every food has the potential to cause an immune reaction, however, gluten has a special role to play in autoimmune disease
(I have shared more about this in a separate point)
It is the information present in foods that moves your body either towards disease or good health. Removing these problematic ingredients from your diet can lessen some or all of your symptoms, no matter what they are. I see this in my coaching clients all the time where we eliminate inflammatory foods like dairy, soy, corn and eggs.
Assessing your diet and then removing inflammatory foods is a starting point to lowering inflammation and reducing your symptoms.
Step 2- Eliminate gluten
Gluten is a protein naturally found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. Though foods can cause inflammation in your body in several different ways, the one that has the most impact on autoimmune conditions involves IgG antibodies. This is because a combination of immune complexes and enhanced intestinal permeability aka leaky gut cause inflammation and damage to local tissues.
Evidence suggests that all people with autoimmune disease have leaky gut syndrome, which means that they are likely to have immune reactions to gluten and other foods. It is now well understood that gluten can trigger the release of a protein in the human gut called zonulin which actually causes leaky gut.
However, this may or may not show in a blood test (IgG food sensitivity/intolerance test). Immune mediated reactions can be quite complex in nature and not get captured in a blood draw.
Research also shows that leaky gut provides an opportunity for chronic inflammatory molecules in our gut along with microbes and toxins to get into our bloodstream causing an immune response.
Full gluten elimination from the diet and healing the gut lining is a very powerful and effective way to break the cycle of intestinal permeability for those with autoimmune diseases. However, it’s critical to understand that this elimination must be 100% in order to see improvements.
You can read more about gluten sensitivity in this excellent article by clicking HERE.
Step 3- Create a self care routine
As women, we are natural caregivers and tend to give of ourselves on a regular basis. We also lead super busy lives with little or no room for self-care.
If we do not take out time on a regular basis to recharge and replenish, we end up feeling exhausted, depleted, and burned out. This is a recipe for chronic illness in the long run.
What is the solution?
Putting in place a consistent self care practice.
We can pay a heavy price for not focusing on this on a regular basis. This is even more important if you need to heal from a chronic illness like an autoimmune disease.
A few things to keep in mind
- Try and incorporate self care rituals into your daily routine with as little disruption as possible.
- Find a few things that work for you and break them down into smaller pieces that you can do every day.
- Treat this time as sacred and schedule this time into your calendar.
- Make a commitment to yourself and remind yourself that you are worthy of your own time and attention.
- Take this time to replenish yourself rather than feeling guilty or selfish.
Step 4- Improve your eating hygiene
Even the healthiest diet in the world can’t help if it cannot be well digested and then well absorbed.
Putting in place proper eating hygiene can help tremendously in reducing symptoms like gas, bloating, reflux and belching. And even those these ideas seem very simple, they are very powerful in ensuring good nutrient absorption as well.
The first and the most important aspect of good eating hygiene is to slow down. Your mealtimes should be a form of meditation, a real form of self care and health care. And the second most important thing you need to focus on is the act of chewing.
Chewing your food till it is semi liquid can significantly reduce the amount of work your stomach has to do later. Chewing also helps the digestive enzymes to do their job properly. It helps prevent fermentation in the gut that can otherwise cause bloating, belching, and gas.
Teaching my clients how to eat mindfully is something that I do right at the beginning of my coaching programme.
Step 5- Prioritise good quality sleep
High quality sleep is critical for healing and long term health.
Sleep is the time when your body is busy processing toxins, repairing tissues, restocking hormones, fighting emotions, processing emotions, and long term memory. This makes sleep a priority for you if you want to get better.
When we are asleep, our body follows the circadian rhythm (day and night) and releases a hormone called melatonin. For ideal sleep, melatonin should be riding steadily and cortisol (a stress hormone) should be quite low at bedtime.
The thing to note is that melatonin is released only in response to darkness. Unfortunately, our evening activity choices like watching tv, video games, email, and cell phones do not help with this. These activities confuse our brains in figuring out whether it is nighttime or not.
Keep this in mind
- Try and go to bed at an early enough time so that you wake up in the morning a majority of the time before your alarm goes off.
- Practice going to bed when your unique body feels sleepy.
- Create rituals to wind down and let your body and brain know that it is time for sleep
The thing is, your autoimmune disease diagnosis does not have to control your life. You don’t have to feel constantly sick, in pain and deal with extreme fatigue for the rest of your life.
There is much you can do to take charge of your health and get your life back. Taking these steps will get you started.
As Nido Qubein had said,
Your present circumstances don’t determine where you go, they merely determine where you start
“AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE 101”
A carefully curated and comprehensive collection of carefully selected books, podcasts, websites, blogs, and other resources from the field of Functional Medicine with a focus on autoimmune diseases
If have been looking to get ANSWERS to questions like
-Why do I have this disease?
-Will I get any better?
-Can anyone help me? Nothing is working
-Is there any hope for me to get my life back?
-I am still waiting for a diagnosis, which direction do I need to move towards?
then this GUIDE would a game changer for you!
“Autoimmune Disease 101” is a carefully curated and comprehensive collection of carefully selected books, podcasts, websites, blogs, and other resources from the field of Functional Medicine with a focus on autoimmune diseases.
The Functional Medicine model of care for chronic diseases seeks to answer the question “Why do you have this disease” so that you can get personalised and effective care for your unique condition.