What every person with an autoimmune disease needs to know

Getting diagnosed or being in the process of finding a diagnosis for an autoimmune disease can be a very stressful and overwhelming experience. However, this growing group of diseases has been well studied all over the world, and more and more people are able to live healthy, normal lives, despite having a chronic illness.  Here are some facts you need to know if you have an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases look different on everyone.

An autoimmune diagnosis is a pattern of similar inflammation in someone’s body. The immune system has created antibodies that attack a particular type of tissue. For example, in multiple sclerosis (MS), the immune system attacks the brain; in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the joints. People will likely fit into one category and receive a diagnosis based on their symptoms, but an autoimmune disease looks different on everyone.  If you google your diagnosis, you will most likely find horrific cases in which someone talks about their inevitable journey towards permanent disability.  Take a deep breath. Everyone’s story is different, and there is nothing “inevitable” about inflammation.

There are more options for treatment than your doctor will recommend.

At diagnosis, your doctor will give you a treatment plan. This can include a regimen of medications such as biologics, steroids, and methotrexate. These drugs serve one purpose: to suppress your immune system. Suppressing an overactive immune system can help you feel better at first; however, chronic use of these medications can lead to unwanted side effects such as frequent illness, drug resistance, cancer, weight gain, etcetera. 

You have other options for treatment. Eastern medicine is generally better suited to treat chronic health needs and is well versed in autoimmune diseases. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, functional medicine doctors, life coaches, and others can help you learn how to support your immune system.

An autoimmune disease is a disease of the immune system. 

Yes, autoimmune diseases may manifest itself differently with different diseases and different people. However, the term “autoimmune disease” clearly states what the common, root problem is. It is a disease of the immune system. If you want to treat the root of the problem, stay away from medications to treat the symptoms and choose ways to support your immune system. 

Here are my top ways to support an overactive immune system and decrease inflammation:

  1. Eat a non-inflammatory diet. My favourite one to put my clients on is the Autoimmune Protocol or (AIP). This eliminates all potentially inflammatory foods to give your body a chance to heal and calm down. Then, you slowly reintroduce foods to assess how your body reacts to each one. After the process is completed, you are left with your own personal non-inflammatory diet that keeps your immune system happy and drastically decreases your inflammation.
  2. See a specialist about your autoimmune disease. They can guide you towards finding underlying causes and diagnose supplements to help your body heal and treat potential triggers to your immune system, such as unnoticed chronic infections.
  3. Learn how to properly manage stress. Easier said than done, right? When our brains negatively react to stress, these messages travel through our nervous system and can wreak havoc in our bodies. Have you ever felt sick to your stomach after hearing some disturbing news? That is a good example of a stress message leaving your brain and expressing itself physically in your body. Repeated negative reactions to stress can lead to increased inflammation and autoimmune flare-ups. 

Fortunately, living a healthy life with an autoimmune disease is completely attainable. By treating the root of the problem, you can make choices to decrease inflammation and support your immune system. 

Laura Clowdus is a Registered Nurse and Life Coach that helps women with autoimmune diseases heal and maintain a healthy lifestyle. For autoimmune support, including one on one coaching, visit lauraclowdus.com.


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Laura Clowuds, RN, BSN

Certified Wellness Life coach