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The top 10 things to avoid with an autoimmune disease

Autoimmune disease has been growing rapidly the over past 20 years. Today, there are more than 50 million Americans living with some sort of autoimmune disorder.

Many people wait years to be properly diagnosed with very limited treatment protocols and even less training in how to handle their health issues.

While there are no, “One size fits all” standards when managing an autoimmune disease, there are some general standards to follow that will lower your inflammatory response which can trigger an autoimmune flare up or worsen a chronic condition. Also, there are some emotional and environmental considerations when managing an autoimmune disease. To consolidate the major issues that would almost certainly promote an autoimmune flare up, I made you a list.

Here are the top 10 things to avoid with an autoimmune disease:

  1. Panicking – Getting any type of diagnosis can be terrifying, especially when you’ve never heard of the disease. It took me almost a month to pronounce Myasthenia Gravis after I was diagnosed with it by a doctor who’s speciality I didn’t know existed. I know it’s scary but don’t panic. Educate yourself, cry, find a plan of action, repeat. Remember, you don’t have to make too many decisions right away. Take a moment to digest the information and ease into your new life. 
  2. Pretending you are fine – Avoidance or denial is a popular coping skill when faced with a health crisis, but it will only make matters worse. The faster you come to terms with your health issues, the sooner you will find the treatment you need to feel better. You may not be feel ‘normal’ now but your new normal will also have its perks. You just have to look a little deeper.
  3. Over exercise – Listen to your body when exercising instead of following a typical routine. Some days you will be strong enough to complete your training or class and other days you may be watching from the sidelines. Your energy will fluctuate daily so don’t kick yourself if you can’t keep up with what you think you should do. Be kind you your body by exercising at the level you are at that specific day and you will bounce back faster.
  4. Processed foods – Refined carbohydrates like those found in processed flours, fast foods, cakes, cookies, pastries and breads will spike insulin levels in your body which raises inflammatory levels.  Also, in a new study, researchers found that additives common to processed foods can damage the tight junctions that protect the intestinal mucosa. These are essential to immunity balance in the gut that works to prevent autoimmune disease. Avoiding processed foods altogether will help lower inflammation that can flare up an autoimmune response. 
  5. Toxic relationships – Toxic people can be just as stressful on the body as toxic foods. Remember, you come first. If you are in a toxic relationship or have them in your life it may be time to clean house. Find a new tribe that will support and love you through your health crisis and gently bow out of soul sucking relationships.
  6. Over committing – It’s really tempting to show the world how good you feel, even when you don’t. Pair down your social commitments to just a few of your favorite ones so you can be fully present for them. Bowing out last minute or no-showing is way worse then explaining to your friends that, although you would love to be part of the event, you just don’t think you’re strong enough right now. They will understand and ask again, don’t worry.
  7. Gluten  It’s estimated that one in 30 people have a gluten sensitivity. This means that eating gluten causes inflammation in their body every time they eat it stressing your system and making your immune response less able to attack pathogens and invaders. Eventually, your body’s own tissues end up on the receiving end of the attack, resulting in an autoimmune disease. The only way to give your immune system the break it needs to regain its precision so that it can stop mistakenly attacking you, is to remove gluten completely. Recent research has shown that eating gluten can elevate your gluten antibodies for up to three months, meaning that even if you only ate gluten four times a year, you would be in a state of inflammation year-round.
  8. Conventional dairy – Conventional dairy is highly acidic for the body due to the hormones, antibiotics and other toxins that cows are fed and injected with. The milk itself is then heat-treated and loaded with other substances that cause it to become very acidic in the body. This can cause significant inflammation in the body. Switch to another milk source to keep inflammation down.
  9. Chemicals on your skin – You skin is the largest organ in your body. It is also highly absorbable to it’s environment. Many of the ingredients found in cosmetics are not fully tested on humans for toxicity. Deodorants contain synthetic fragrances and aluminum which has been associated with a variety of health issues including Breast Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Bone Disorders and Kidney Problems. These chemical and synthetic formulas, including latex, on your skin get absorbed directly into your blood stream. Keep your make up, deodorant and oils as natural as possible to avoid undue toxicity to your system.
  10. Stressing out about getting it all right – There is a lot of information out there regarding what to do and avoid when dealing with autoimmune conditions. Staying on top of it all can be a full-time job. Take the pressure off yourself because you are never going to get it perfectly. Ease in to new regimes and don’t kick yourself if you fall off the wagon and end up in bed for a couple days because of it. Just get back to clean living as soon as possible.  It’s a lot to navigate at first. Be kind to yourself and pick one or two of things to incorporate into your life at a time. It will be easier to see what resonates with your body that way too. You got this!

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Showing 11 comments
  • Peter

    I have an autoimmune disease and just dropped gluten entirely starting about 5 weeks ago. I physically feel better, and have even started losing some weight. I think kicking gluten has also helped dramtically drop my processed foods intake because 1) gluten-free pre-made items tend to be much more expensive, and 2) when I started trying to figure out what meals to make, it was easier to just move over to more vegetables, and limit which grains I eat. I hardly eat meat as it is, but you have to watch even that for gluten.

  • Arlyne

    Thanks so much for the reminders Lisa..I’m going through right now with my MG. Tingling, numbness on my fingers as I type my messages, holding my cell on my left hand goes on tremors. Even washing pots and pans is getting harder now. I’m on cellcept, prednisone 15 mgs, losartan 25 mg, temazepam 15 mg for sleeping and omniprazole. I found out my A1C result yesterday was 5.3 so I’m not diabetic. Texting on my middle for a long time cause stiffness. Whatever you’ve written is right. I’m about to change my diet. I’m on and off gluten free products, I love rice being a filipino, been eating veggies, juicing and on and off on cookies and sweets..I really appreciate your hard work to help us and understanding auto immune disease. God bless Lisa..and I wish you all the best.

  • Jo Guerra

    What other milk sources do you suggest, Lisa? What companies have you found that produce good makeup? I’m on a hunt for that. Thanks.

    • Great question Jo! I used to drink raw milk before it got outlawed. Now I make my own cashew milk which is really easy and very yummy. In a pinch I pick up some organic almond milk at the store.

      • Jo Guerra

        Oh, you can buy a share of a cow here in Colorado. But I haven’t. I gave up dairy, but I do miss the real thing. I make my own cashew and almond milk. It is delish and easy – agree. Thanks.

  • Hope

    Thank you so much for writing this

  • Angela Bertoli

    This is a really good write. I have a few different auto immune diseases and I’m always looking for answers that aren’t there. The advice here is really good and I appreciate you sharing this <3

    • Lisa Douthit Wellness Warrior

      Thank you Angela! I’m always looking as well.

      • Angela Bertoli

        I fear the search may be endless xo