- Dr. Christa O'Leary
7 Steps to Wellness for People With Autoimmune Disease
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Living with an autoimmune disease is tough, but there are many things you can do to live a healthier life.
The six steps below will help you optimize your lifestyle and have less flare-ups. These steps are just some of the ways that people have found success in living with their condition. You may not be able to incorporate all these changes at once, but by working on one or two each month, you'll find yourself feeling healthier and happier than ever before!
1. Eat a healthy diet
Autoimmune diseases are often associated with poor nutrition, so it can be difficult to know what to eat for optimal health. For some people, following the autoimmune protocol is enough to keep their disease in remission. This diet eliminates common allergy-inducing foods such as gluten, soy, corn, nuts, eggs, and dairy. If the autoimmune protocol doesn't work for you, there are many other diets that can help improve your specific condition. For example, some people find relief from an anti-inflammatory diet or a vegetarian diet. No matter which one you choose, make sure to add in foods that will help your body function at its best - leafy greens, healthy proteins and fats, while avoiding foods that cause inflammation in the gut. In order to avoid flare-ups, it is important to eat a healthy, nutritious diet.
2. Manage your stress levels
Many people with autoimmune diseases also suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Excess stress can have negative effects on the body's inflammatory response and make symptoms worse. Stress management is an important step in preventing flare-ups, because stress can exacerbate symptoms and lead to depression. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try to find ways to decrease your stress levels. Some helpful strategies include meditation, yoga, exercise, spending time with friends and family, listening to relaxing music, keeping a journal for self reflection, breath work, or acupuncture. Anything that helps you relax is beneficial in preventing flare-ups.
3. Exercise regularly
Exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality, both of which can lead to a healthier life as well as improved symptoms from autoimmune disease. However, when you have autoimmune disease, it can be difficult to determine what exercises you can do. The best way to start is with gentle exercise that doesn't cause pain, such as walking or swimming. As your strength increases, begin incorporating low-impact workouts that are easier on the joints, including stretching or Pilates. For some specific diseases, there are additional exercises that can help. For example, if you have ankylosing spondylitis, gentle stretching specific for this condition may be helpful.
4. Get enough sleep
Many people with autoimmune disease also struggle to get enough sleep at night, but it is important to find a healthy balance between the amount of sleep you need and the amount of sleep you are getting. Although it can be difficult to get more than 6-8 hours daily, try to set a schedule where you are in bed each night by 10 pm at the latest so your body has enough time to rejuvenate overnight.
5. Manage stress
People with autoimmune disease often experience high levels of stress or anxiety related to their disease, but chronic stress can actually make autoimmune conditions worse. If you are finding it difficult to manage your stress levels, try incorporating different relaxation techniques into your day - deep breathing exercises help calm the body and mind quickly. Try meditating for 10 minutes each day if that is more manageable, or set aside time each weekend to go for a calming walk in the woods or on the beach.
6. Find support
Living with any chronic condition can be challenging, but having people who understand what you are going through makes everything feel more manageable. Support groups, whether online or in person, can provide you with a safe place to talk and share your struggles and victories with people who understand what you are going through. There is also a variety of online support groups available where you can talk to other people dealing with autoimmune diseases.
7. Get regular checkups
If your autoimmune disease was recently diagnosed, it is important that you get regular check-ups from your doctor. It may take some time for you and your doctor to determine the optimal treatment plan for you, and it is important that you work together as a team. If your autoimmune disease has been diagnosed for several years, it may be time to reassess your treatment plan with your doctor. For example, if you have had ankylosing spondylitis for several years but are only now experiencing a severe flare-up, it may be time to focus more on controlling your symptoms and preventing new ones from popping up. Ask your doctor what steps you need to take for regular checkups or follow-ups so that any changes can be addressed as soon as possible.
Achieving optimal wellness is all about finding what works best for you. If you stick with your treatment plan and practice these 7 steps, you should find yourself feeling better than ever!
Auto immune disease can be a frustrating chronic condition because there is no cure, but following these steps can help you manage your symptoms and feel better overall. Living with autoimmune disease does not have to limit your life - focus on finding what you enjoy doing to keep yourself feeling balanced and happy! Need support managing it? Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.