Do you have an autoimmune illness or do autoimmune illnesses run in your family? Did you know that over the 50 million Americans are living and coping with autoimmune illnesses and 75% of them are women? That number is on the rise.
Autoimmune illnesses are in the top ten leading causes of all deaths among women age 65 and younger.
An autoimmune illness occurs when the body views its tissue as foreign. This triggers the immune system to mount an attack on the tissue. This can happen to any organ, system, or tissue in the body.
Here are several risk factors that you may want to think about if you already have an autoimmune illness or if autoimmune illnesses run in your family.
You’re at a greater risk of developing an autoimmune illness:
- If you are a woman from age 20-70.
- If you have a family history of autoimmune illness(s)
- If you already have one autoimmune illness you are at a much higher risk for multiple autoimmune illnesses.
But, if you are facing an autoimmune illness it is not all doom and gloom. It certainly requires a fair amount of advocating for yourself, educating yourself and perseverance in taking proactive measures that will help you to live a better quality life.
- There may be underlying infections that can be difficult to determine through conventional measures. A doctor who specializes in and understands environmental medicine or who practices functional medicine will have an understanding of how to uncover any underlying infections.
- More often than not, food allergies and intolerances can stem from or lead to leaky gut, which in turn can cause the body’s systems to mount an attack on the body’s tissue.
- Heavy metal toxicity is frequently an underlying issue with autoimmune illnesses and can also lead to an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the body, causing additional overload.
- Stress is a primary factor in autoimmune flare-ups. Left unchecked, stress can lead to an autoimmune attack and damage to the body’s tissue. Some well-known methods that may help in managing stress can include yoga, stretching, Pilates, regular sessions with a psychotherapist, a long walk in the park or the woods, or anything else that you find help to bring a feeling of ease to your mind.
What can be done to support or to take proactive measures where autoimmune illness is concerned?
- A healthy diet of whole foods and proper nutrition is a great place to start. Your food should be from sources closest to its original form as possible. Foods in cans and boxes may not be the most ideal source of nutrients as these products may sometimes contain additives or synthetic chemicals that have a negative effect in the body. A diet consisting of leafy greens and vegetables, little to no grains, healthy fats, and high quality proteins that are grass fed and organic may help to form a basis of support when seeking to address the root cause of an autoimmune illness. Dietary needs may vary from person to person and may require adjustments depending on your personal needs. Continuing symptoms may be a sign that further adjustments to dietary intake may be necessary or food intolerance testing may be necessary.
- Taking supplements with vitamins A, B, C, D and E, and minerals such as magnesium may help to fill nutritional gaps that can be present even when proper nutrition is part of your lifestyle. Autoimmune illnesses are often an indicator that a person is not getting the vitamins and minerals the body needs from their diet, or that the body is not absorbing nutrients properly. Your doctor can run labs to see if you are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.
- In many cases an autoimmune illness indicates that the gut is compromised. 70-80% of our immune system is located in the gut, which describes the gastrointestinal tract. The gut relies on “good bacteria” that help to digest nutrients and fight off “bad” bacteria. However, when compromised, these good bacteria will be compromised as well, which can lead to infection. Probiotics are a way to replenish good bacteria. Choose probiotics that have several strains and high CFUs – the more the merrier.
- Fermented foods are also a good way to increase the good bacteria found in the gut. But these should not be your only resource for increasing bacterial health. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir are all tasty option to add to your diet.
- Bone broth is an oldie but goodie and is easy to make. Bone broth is considered an ancient food because early humans would heat the bones of animals in water to extract the valuable nutrients within. Modern science has found that these nutrients have a supportive effect in the gut and the development of connective tissue.
- As we age the digestive enzymes in the body diminish. These enzymes are crucial to breaking down foods and absorbing nutrients. In order to get all the nutrients out of our food, those with autoimmune illness(s) may benefit from adding a digestive enzyme supplement. These should be taken with each meal to help the body digest sugars, dairy, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Educate yourself on your specific autoimmune illness(s), but make sure you receive information from quality sources. Take these with you during visits with your doctor(s) and ask plenty of questions. If your gut tells you that you are not getting the right support from your doctor, it may be time to consider other opinions or options.
Autoimmune illnesses may feel daunting and exhausting. Getting symptoms under control often consists of a combination of conventional and alternative treatments to help you live the best life possible. Start by looking at the source of the symptoms. This may take time, but those with the disease say that perseverance pays off in the long run. Quality of life is truly possible and requires commitment, taking responsibility for your wellness and focusing on the steps that will help you to maintain lasting wellness.
Merrit Bachman is a Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Nutritionist. She is an expert in Lifestyle Education for those with chronic illness and those who want to prevent hereditary chronic illness. Merrit personally understands the challenges that come with chronic illness and that each person requires their own unique treatment plan. She is an expert at helping her patients discover, achieve and live to their fullest potential through her guidance in the areas of lifestyle adjustments, nutrition, supplementation and other modalities as well as taking into consideration individual genetic make-up. She provides empathy and a warm bedside manor which, stem from her own unique experience with chronic Lyme and four autoimmune illnesses that started around the age of eight. She provides consultation in person or via phone. Merrit Bachman, HHP, NC at The Vital Beet, Denver, CO www.TheVitalBeet.com or [email protected] or 303.539.9362