An autoimmune disease is like an enigma in the medical world – and yet there’s an excellent chance that you or someone you know has one and doesn’t even know it. Considering that women are three times more likely to have one, we thought we’d help shed some light on what it’s like living with one and a few tips on easing the pain.
What are Autoimmune Diseases?
When your body can’t tell the difference between itself and foreign invaders and subsequently creates antibodies that attack normal cells, the resulting damage is an autoimmune disease. There are more than 80 known types and symptoms can be all over the place – everything from extreme fatigue to sensitivity to light to arthritis, like this woman experiences.
Because there are no telltale symptoms and it’s possible to show zero symptoms for long periods of time, autoimmune diseases are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. For those suffering from one, this can get incredibly frustrating.
Who Gets Autoimmune Diseases?
Women are a lot more likely to get an autoimmune disease, usually around their childbearing years. Those with a family history are more at risk, but environmental factors could trigger them too. Finally, some autoimmune diseases are more common to those of certain races. Lupus is an autoimmune disease and it’s significantly more common in African American and Hispanic people.
What Can Someone With an Autoimmune Disease Do to Stay Healthy?
If you or someone you know has an autoimmune disease, there are a few things you can do to feel better more consistently. We talked to Nutritionist Susan Bires for her top tips for staying healthy while living with an autoimmune disease.
- Reduce Stress
“One way I do this as a full-time worker and parent of two is to plan out what I’m having for dinner before I go grocery shopping,” Susan says. “This takes the “What am I having for dinner?” daily stress away. I have everything I need at my fingertips to whip up a healthy dinner fast. If you don’t have a plan, most people wind up making poor nutritional choices.”
- Take Your Vitamins
Susan specifically recommends taking a broad spectrum probiotic and vitamin D to boost your immune system.
… and do it consistently. “This is one of the best things you can do to keep yourself strong and boost your energy level,” she says.
- Catch Some Z’s
Getting at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis will also help boost your energy level.
- Pile on the Veggies
“If you are not already, increase the frequency and quantity of vegetables in your diet,” Susan says. “Instead of eggs and toast, have eggs and kale. Improving your culinary skill level will help you to eat a healthier diet overall.”
For more info on autoimmune diseases, check out AARDA.org.
Do you or someone you know have an autoimmune disease? What do you do to stay healthy? Share with us in the comments!