Autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society—including myself! In fact, autoimmune disorders affect more women than breast cancer and heart disease combined. And yes—women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases than men.
It is true that the number of cases is rising, but there is also something we can do about it to reduce symptoms or even get rid of them altogether. So there is hope—stick with me!
What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease is a condition where our immune system attacks our own body. Often, one type of tissue or organ is attacked such as the thyroid gland, which is called Hashimotos’ Thyroiditis, the pancreas—type 1 diabetes, the gut—Celiac or Crohn’s disease, joints or others.
Usually, the immune system helps to protect us from foreign invaders, but in the case of autoimmune disorders, the immune system turns against us and attacks a healthy body.
What causes autoimmune diseases?
There is no clear reason why someone might be affected and another not, but researchers suspect that it is connected to our diet and all the chemicals in our environment. There are thousands of manmade chemicals introduced in the last decades that never existed—over 80,000 since 1900, to be exact. Functional medicine doctors like Dr Mark Hyman name toxins, infections, allergens, poor diet, and stress as a few possible causes of autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune disease treatments
In conventional medicine, you would get immune-suppressing drugs and anti-inflammatories to help with your symptoms, but this is also all it does: treating the symptoms and not the cause.
Therefore, natural or holistic doctors take the route of finding out why you might be suffering from an immune disorder in the first place. First, they usually check if you have any underlying infections or heavy metal toxicity, then they will fix your gut and nourish you with anti-inflammatory foods together with other lifestyle advice.
We all know that the fast-paced, fast food dominated world causes inflammation. The most important thing anyone with an autoimmune disease must remember is to try to reduce anything that can cause chronic, low-grade inflammation.
Usually a diet rich in vegetables, especially greens, together with high-quality protein and fat such as nuts and seeds rich in omega 3s, fermented foods and low in white sugar, wheat, alcohol and other inflammatory foods really helps the body to heal. By eating lots of healthy foods, we also stock up on so-called chelators that are the only possible carriers to transport heavy metals out of your body.
Speaking of heavy metals: Also looking around your environment and making sure everything around you is as natural as possible will help: from your toiletries to your cleaning agents and even furniture.
Stress can also cause chronic inflammation and therefore, any way you can bring some easiness into your daily routine will help. And don’t forget to get enough sleep!
Am I perfect? No. I still eat gluten, drink a glass of wine and am stressed from time to time, but what counts is what you do most of the time. Some might need to be a bit stricter to start so you don’t give your body a reason to attack you. Everyone is different and the best course of actions is to consult with a professional, such as a functional/holistic medicine doctor or naturopath to help guide you through the process.
For the past few years, I have hardly experienced any symptoms from my own autoimmune disease—more often than not, I feel great! Therefore, I can tell you from my own experience that maybe we can't heal an autoimmune disease completely, but you can definitely live symptom-free.