Autoimmune disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent. But why? And are there any natural solutions to fixing them?
Autoimmune diseases have become a big part of my life. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008, and it rocked my world. I was devastated to say the least. In fact, I vividly remember having a complete and total melt down in the cereal isle while shopping; it wasn’t pretty. I now am a lot more sympathetic to seemingly crazy people bawling at the grocery store; I get it.
What is an autoimmune disorder? In short, your body starts an immune system war against what it believes to be a foreign invader, and you get to be the battleground; in the process your tissues suffer the most. Foreign invaders can range from gluten (celiac disease) to a toxin to an infection or stress response. In a more medical sense, it’s an abnormal immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body (autoimmunity).
The worst part is it only takes a little— no joke, like a crumb to set it off! Your body doesn’t differentiate between a little or lot of gluten with celiac disease. Simple cross-contamination like using the same knife to make a PBJ on wheat bread for your kids and then on on your gluten-free bread sends your body fighting itself.
Fast forward a few years of living gluten free and doing wellwhen I decide I want to try to eat gluten anyway. I was culturing my own kefir, and it seemed to help with the pain, so I figured I was fine–yeah, I was not fine.
In fact, I did so much damage to my body from all of the internal warfare against my food (flattening intestines, important nutrients not being absorbed), I earned myself another autoimmune disorder; Hashimoto’s disease (a very under active thyroid that often accompanies celiac disease). The thyroid is a gland under your Adam’s apple and an essential regulator for your metabolism, which means I was basically whipping my thyroid into overtime.
I know, I know, looking back, I made some dumb choices. I made very bad choices. Paying for it now, but what’s next? Well, it’s either deal with it, or work to make things right.
I’m choosing not to pursue medication to treat my Hashimoto’s disease (since thyroid is more likely to give up rather than step up once you go on medication) and instead try to fix it by getting back to my gluten free ways and implementing the tips in this post.
Some of you may know, celiac is just one of many autoimmune diseases.
Common autoimmune diseases include:
- Thyroid disorders (including Hashimoto’s Disease)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac Disease (and gluten intolerances)
- Dairy or soy intolerances
- Multiple sclerosis
- Atopic dermatitis
There are more, but these rank among the most prevalent.
Unfortunately for those suffering with an autoimmune disease, these buggers tend to travel in packs because they all link back to inflammation in the body.
What’s the big deal with this anyway?
When your body is attacking itself you are less able to absorb vital micronutrients, leaving you feeling tired, run down, irritable, bloated, sick, and really just not yourself (honestly there are so many side effects I can’t list them all here). The tricky part is you could have some side effects but not others, so autoimmune disorders are very tricky to nail down.
So what can you do about it?
There are lots of ways to treat autoimmune disorders naturally. These tactics all help with inflammation in the body which is what links all these disorders together. These have been the most helpful for me:
1. Take an excellent daily multivitamin. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out which ones I use.
2. Avoid trigger foods and toxic chemicals in your diet. The most common trigger foods are processed foods, gluten, dairy, and hydrogenated fats. Keep sugars and refined carbs to a minimum as sugars feed candida which can be a contributing factor to autoimmune disorders. (I avoid gluten and processed foods. I have found these to be my triggers. You may have to experiment to find out what yours are.)
3. Increase good gut bacteria. Introduce probiotic into your system. Healthy yogurt (not the stuff loaded with sugar), especially kefir (culturing your own is very cost effective) can be incredibly beneficial. Also consider flaxseed, omega 3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes.
4. Reduce Stress. Say no to things that cause undue stress. Consider yoga and/or meditation as a way of reducing stress. And take time for activities you enjoy. (This has been a difficult one for me. I like to do everything and help everyone, and I have had to scale back on my commitments. It hasn’t been easy, but I have to put myself and my family first.)
5. Exercise but don’t overdo it. Exercise can be extremely beneficial, but listen to your body and don’t overtax your adrenals. Consider starting slow and building up, backing off if you notice any flare ups. Yoga is excellent for inflammation. My favorite yoga videos are from Erin Motz at erinmotz.com. She is awesome and very relatable!
6. Get plenty of sleep. It is thought that autoimmune disorders and adrenal fatigue go hand in hand. If you are constantly tired and lack energy, this may apply to you. Aim to get consistent sleep each night, realizing you may need more at first. Avoid screens the last hour before bed to give your mind a chance to unwind. Consider taking a bath with essential oils and epsom salt.
7. Clean up your environment. While it’s difficult to avoid all chemicals, eliminate all those you have control over. Check the labels on lotions, fragrance sprays, body washes, sunscreens, and cleaners. Use natural alternatives whenever possible. I have found the more I cut back on chemicals, the more money I save and the better I feel. Check out this post on a natural make-up remover to get you started.
While autoimmune diseases and chemicals in food don’t appear to be going out anytime soon, you’re body works at its best when you use natural restorative methods to get it back on track.
I’ve got an interesting year ahead trying to kick my thyroid back in gear (noting that a year only is fairly optimistic), using some independent research, I’ll keep you posted as I go on what’s working and not working. Hopefully it can help you too.