So, you just got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. First of all, I want to acknowledge how scary that can feel! Secondly, I want to let you know you are not alone. Autoimmunity is the third most common cause of chronic illness in the US! Research confirms autoimmunity is also on the rise.
However, despite how common autoimmune diseases are, they are not commonly understood. Far too often, I speak with clients who have been newly diagnosed, yet have no idea what their diagnosis even means, let alone what to do about it.
So, let’s do some uncovering.
I want to preface this by saying NOT ALL AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES ARE CREATED EQUAL, but they do have many common threads. One common thread is that autoimmune diseases pretty much always result in elevated inflammation. Here’s why:
Autoimmunity is when your body builds up antibodies against your own tissue. So if you have Hashimotos Thyroiditis, for example, your immune system perceives your thyroid as an enemy, and builds up an immunity against it. (Not very convenient, am I right?!?)
Your immune system starts to send T-cells to attack the tissue (in this example, the thyroid tissue). This results in depleted abilities of the thyroid and damage to the tissue.
Here is a MAJOR KEY that I want to make sure you understand: inflammation is a healing process. So, when the T-cell attack healthy cells and cause cell damage, this process will be followed by INFLAMMATION to try to heal those cells.
Inflammation is often really helpful. For example, when you get a cut on your knee and the area gets puffy, the “puffiness” is your immune cells teaming up to gather at the wound site. Then the wound gets fixed, the immune cells go on their merry way, and the inflammation goes away.
Chronic inflammation is a bit of a different story. Since there is no known cure for autoimmune diseases, the cell damage often never fully stops. So… if the autoimmune process never stops, meaning the cell damage never totally stops, the inflammation (which is the healing effort of the body) will never totally stop.
***THIS IS WHY MOST PEOPLE WITH AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES DEAL WITH CHRONIC INFLAMMATION.***
Inflammation can look very different in different bodies. Some people experience inflammation as chronic pain. Others experience digestion issues, brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, food sensitivities, skin sensitivities… the list goes on and on!
But the root of the inflammation is likely tissue damage.
Here’s the good news … although there’s no known cure for autoimmune disease, there are things we can do to slow the process. There are even things we can do to reverse the process in some cases.
And it all starts with the GUT! Did you know the majority of your immune system is made in your gut? YUP… upwards of 80%! So, if you have chronic inflammation from an autoimmune disease, getting your gut health in order is a really great way to start regulating your immune system.
I wish I could give you a magic bullet answer for how to achieve gut health. Unfortunately, it’s just a bit more complicated than that! This is why working with a professional to pinpoint your unique needs is the way to go. Medical nutrition therapy has been proven to lower inflammation and in some cases reduce antibodies present.
Again, while there is no magic solution for every scenario, if you do not have the time or financial ability to work with someone 1:1, here is where you can start healing the gut:
-Get 35 g of fiber every day
-Drink 1/2-1 oz of water for every pound you weigh
-Cut out processed food
-Reduce sugar intake and be wary of hidden sugars in items like granola, yogurt, breads, and cereal
-Reduce saturated fat intake
-Get 8 hours of sleep every night
-Consider cutting out caffeine
I hope this article helps clear up some questions about autoimmunity! This is by no means the full picture, but it’s a good place to start. If you want to learn more, you know where to find me!