Chances are either you or someone you know are part of the estimated 50 million people in America (or 20 percent of the population) with an autoimmune disease.
And, if you're like many of them, your symptoms are unrelenting and negatively impacting your life. You're tired, frustrated, and seeking answers.
Life feels incomplete and unsatisfying at times because there's a life inside of you that's begging to be experienced. And, you know that better health is what'll get you there.
Intuitively, you know more can be done but your health care providers only offer a cornucopia of medications.
Medications can be a valuable and essential part of a treatment protocol. But there are many unconventional (and often overlooked) treatment options that make a powerful impact on your overall health and the progression of your autoimmune disease.
These options are highly individualized and focused on finding answers specific to you and your body.
Your autoimmune disease doesn't have to be the barrier standing in your way on your path to a better life.
This is a general approach of how I help women find answers and finally feel renewed:
- Get an accurate and complete diagnosis
This can't be overstated. I'm amazed at how many women show up in my office with only part of the puzzle put together. The majority of them have incomplete (or even inaccurate) diagnoses.
Without an accurate diagnosis, treatment can be a crapshoot. (As one of my clients said, "I felt like a science experiment.")
Find a licensed health care practitioner who specializes in functional medicine and autoimmune disease. You want someone who is willing to give you the attention you deserve, as well as provide a thorough workup (including a complete set of blood work) and complete diagnosis.
It's important to take a holistic and comprehensive approach in order to find the best treatment and lifestyle options. This includes finding a practitioner who will address the mental, emotional, and spiritual components of your health.
Often, there may be more than one autoimmune disease occurring at the same time each of which must be addressed.
- Learn what is best for your body
Not all treatment approaches or lifestyle choices are good for all people.
You're a unique individual with a unique situation. There's no "one-size-fits-all" approach to health or autoimmune disease.
Unfortunately, what works for your best girlfriend may not necessarily work for you.
The people in your life have the best intentions when offering advice but until you thoroughly understand how YOUR body works, it'll be difficult to find the ideal treatment approach that could change YOUR life.
The types of food, exercise, supplements and lifestyle choices you need are unique. Part of this discovery will be on a trial-and-error basis. But your needs will become clear as you work closely with your health care provider over time.
Find a health care provider who is willing to dig deep into the root of your issues and encourage you to be a proactive contributor to the conversation about how to approach treatment.
- Remove things that are harmful to you
It's believed that autoimmune disease is triggered or made worse by toxicity in the body, undiagnosed chronic infections, and immune reactions (to allergens, foods, and the environment).
Reducing your exposure to toxic environmental chemicals (things like toxic cleaning agents, health care products and pesticides) and encouraging your body's mechanism to detoxify can, over time, help tremendously.
In most cases of autoimmune disease, gentle and slow detoxification is preferred as quick, intense detoxifications can exacerbate symptoms.
It's important to look for and eliminate foods that are "toxic for you" (these can be discovered through a blood food sensitivity test or an elimination diet). Common foods people are sensitive to are gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and nuts.
A health care provider should be able to order blood work and investigate if chronic infections are contributing to your symptoms.
Additionally, it's important to look at other unconventional "toxic things" that may be harming your health -- such as toxic relationships and unresolved emotional issues like grief or anger.
- Add in things that are beneficial
The key ingredients to add to a healthy treatment plan are water, good food, supplementation, and lifestyle support.
Drinking lots of clean water and eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet are a good place to start. Choose organic when possible. Include lean proteins (from happy animals) and plentiful amounts of vegetables.
Generally, some supplementation is beneficial, and I usually start with a few basics for people including: fish oil, probiotics, and vitamin D.
Additional supplements are usually helpful but are very specific to your situation. Be sure to check with your health care provider about what is best for you. Not all supplements are good for all people.
Also include other beneficial things such as: meditation, practicing gratitude, exceptional self-care, and support from your community.
- Move your body
It increases blood flow to the tissues, allowing for more toxins to be released, and brings essential nutrients to the organs that need it most. It increases energy, helps balance hormones and your mood, and it helps people sleep better. And it's a great stress reliever.
It's important to keep in mind that intense cardiovascular exercise may worsen the symptoms in some women with autoimmune disease.
Your health care provider should be able to discuss the best ways to move your body keeping in mind the state of your health (and your adrenal glands).
Some of the best forms of exercise are nourishing and gentle such as: walking, yoga, stretching, swimming or even pulling weeds.
- Strive to reduce stress
Life-long, chronic stress has a profoundly negative impact on autoimmune disease because it significantly reduces your body's ability to heal itself.
When you're in a constant state of "fight or flight" you cannot detoxify, heal, metabolize properly, or utilize your immune systems to full capacity.
Many of us are under so much constant daily stress that we hardly recognize it anymore. And, sometimes, the chronic stress is unrecognizable and may be subconscious (such as negative thoughts, unresolved emotional traumas or toxicity found in our workplaces, community, and relationships).
Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, journaling, prayer, practicing gratitude, playing outside and sharing good conversation with friends are all great ways to reduce stress in your life.
It may be beneficial to dig a little deeper with the help of a healthcare provider or therapist.
- Learn to love yourself more every day
This is the most essential, and most often overlooked, component of treating any chronic health issue, including autoimmune disease.
Loving yourself means making a deep commitment to heal any part of you that is wounded or broken. This includes toxic emotions (like anger, grief, and shame), unforgiveness toward yourself and others, and negative, self-destructive thoughts, feelings or behaviors.
Our thoughts alone have the power to exacerbate or alleviate symptoms.
Learning to love ourselves can be one of the most challenging components of health. But working to create emotional peace, and practicing self-compassion and self-love is powerful.
According to Louise Hay, the go-to guru for the connection between illness and emotion, many people with autoimmune diseases have, deep within their bodies, some kind of destructive message that needs to be revealed and transformed.
In my eyes, this destructive message correlates very deeply to your disease. Autoimmune disease is essentially your physical body betraying you (by attacking you). Part of the underlying emotional healing that needs to take place is releasing your own self-betrayal.
Read more here: 4 Ways We Betray Ourselves Every Day.
Many people with autoimmune disease are relieved to know that they have a tremendous amount of power when it comes to their health. There are many options, in addition to or instead of, a prescription medication regimen.
It's often the overlooked, unconventional things that can turn the tides toward healing in your life.
Every woman deserves to feel fully alive and at peace in her body.
Your physical challenges are often great gifts which, when opened, provide the opportunity for tremendous personal and spiritual growth.
Many blessings to you as you continue on your journey to renewed health.
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