Autoimmune diseases are so common yet still misunderstood. Its causes are unclear, but so far, research found that stress, unhealthy diets, exposure to chemicals, infections, and genetics may have something to do with them. Some people are at a higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease than others. Thankfully, treatments are available and effective, but a cure, in general, hasn’t been discovered yet.
There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases, but only 14 are the most common. Living well with any autoimmune disease can be incredibly stressful. But since stress is also a factor that can aggravate the symptoms, sufferers are advised to always de-stress and to engage in healthier habits.
That said, here are the lifestyle changes you should make to help manage your autoimmune disease better:
1. Take Care of Your Mental Health
A recent study has explored the connection between mental health and autoimmune disorders. People with stress-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be more likely to develop an autoimmune disease. If they already have an existing autoimmune disease, they can develop another. Their risks may also go higher if they’re younger.
Therefore, manage your stress well by doing things you enjoy and getting adequate rest. You can try therapeutic activities like yoga, meditation, or creating art. If you are taking medications for stress-related disorders or mood disorders (e.g. depression), follow your doctor’s prescribed dosage. Certain antidepressants may reduce the rates of an autoimmune disorder.
2. See a Doctor Regularly
Some symptoms of autoimmune diseases seem harmless. Hypothyroidism or low thyroid, for example, causes symptoms including depression, decreased concentration, irregular periods, itchy and dry skin, and constipation. You won’t normally assume that these symptoms are anything serious, but left untreated, your metabolism will slow down, and the growth and repair of many parts of your body will decrease.
See an endocrinologist to confirm the possibility of a hypothyroidism diagnosis. To manage your other symptoms, see different specialists. Despite the unavailability of a cure, treatments can go a long way and will allow you to stay in top shape.
3. Manage Your Time Wisely
Fatigue is another common symptom of autoimmune diseases. If you tend to cram your schedule with work, manage your time better by dividing your tasks into manageable bits. Finish one task at a time, then give yourself a break. Overworking yourself only drains out your energy, worsening your symptoms and stress. So try to alternate between work and rest. Spread out your activities evenly. Make it a goal to end each day without feeling fatigued.
4. Take Health Supplements
If you have a thyroid problem, add selenium, vitamin B, and probiotics to your diet. Sources of selenium include tuna, turkey, Brazil nuts, and grass-fed beef. Consult your doctor on how much selenium is right for you, because it differs from person to person.
As for vitamin B, you can take them as supplements, or through eating peas and beans, tuna, asparagus, sesame seeds, cheese, milk, and eggs. And for probiotics, you can get them from yogurts (sugar-free), some cheeses, kombucha, kefir, and probiotic drinks.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Staying up all night causes many problems, especially if you have an autoimmune disorder. It increases your stress levels and fatigue, triggering worse symptoms. So, create a bedtime routine that will allow you to relax a few hours before you sleep. Aim for at least seven hours of slumber every night. That’s enough time to repair your body’s tissues and joints.
6. Exercise Regularly
You don’t have to engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or weight-lifting every day to manage your symptoms. As long as you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, your condition will improve. But talk to your doctor to find out what type of exercise is right for you.
7. Reduce Your Sugar Intake
High sugar levels in your system aggravate autoimmune disorders, especially thyroid problems. Hence, transition into a sugar-free diet. Limit your intake of processed foods as well, until you can eliminate them altogether.
To sweeten your dishes and drinks, consider these natural sugar substitutes:
- Monk fruit sweetener
- Yacon syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Maple syrup
Note, however, that sugar substitutes don’t automatically result in optimum health. You still need to consume them in moderation and to confirm with your doctor if they are indeed safer for you. But in any case, they’re a better option than sugar. Just don’t abuse them and assume that they’ll treat your disease.
These lifestyle changes may take some getting used to, but they’re definitely worth the effort. Remember to be patient, follow your doctor’s advice, and be kind to yourself. Living with an autoimmune disorder can make you feel limited, but with healthier habits, you can push those limits and feel as strong as any healthy person.