A look into life with an autoimmune disease and bringing awareness to the community during Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month this March.
You’re given a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease (for me, Celiac Disease) and you think life, as you know it, is over. You were given a life sentence of a disease that has no cure and you do not know how to go on. Come on, have your pity party, BUT THEN, we must wipe those tears, hold our head up high and go on with life, because, frankly, the world still turns regardless. Today, I am here to give you a little help with navigating life with an autoimmune disease. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Okay, are you sitting down? Well I’m assuming you must be, who reads standing up? If you’re sitting, then get ready for these mind-blowing facts I’m throwing your way:
It is estimated that approximately 24 million Americans are affected with an autoimmune disease across the country according to the NIH. Scientists know about more than 80 autoimmune diseases. Some are very rare, but some are more well-known like type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Celiac.
24 million! That’s A LOT of people.
Why? Why so many people? Scientists are still doing studies to discover why certain people are susceptible to one or more from the long list of these diseases, that unfortunately do not have cures. What they do know is that these diseases occur when your body’s immune system attacks your own organs and tissues and can affect any part of the body, from nerves to muscles and vital organs.
Unfortunately, with some of the rare autoimmune diseases, and even the common ones like Celiac, it can take years to get a proper diagnosis. Most of these diseases do not have a cure but, I wholeheartedly believe our food and environment are major factors when it comes to maintaining a happy, healthy life with this diagnosis. There are plenty of other factors that come into play when you follow lifestyle changes to feel better and live a fuller, healthier and happier life.
Alright, facts are cool and all, but let’s get down to the raw, real life details and my opinion on what makes life a little better when you are living with an autoimmune disease:
EAT A HEALTHY BALANCED DIET
Eating a balanced diet filled with good nutrition, can help ease symptoms of an autoimmune disease.
Now I’m not a nutritionist so I cannot tell you what is and is not good for your body and what you should and shouldn’t eat. I can only tell you that with a disease like Celiac, you must avoid gluten for the rest of your life. For most of those with an autoimmune, gluten can be an enemy so if you can eliminate it, that might be best at giving your body a chance to heal. In my opinion, days filled with lots of fruits and veggies and healthy protein are all good components of a balanced diet. Sugar seems to be evil and is not best to consume often, so a diet low in sugar can help you maintain your weight and will help you not have to deal with the addictive quality that sugar possess making you feel like you are always jonesing for your next sugar fix.
30-60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week, will help your body stay in shape, regulate your metabolism, lower stress and help with mental clarity.
Exercising regularly, in my opinion, is one of the best things you can do for your body. Which is why I listed it second on my list. Food is SO important, and exercise does so many good things to the systems in our body! Talk to your doctor and find what exercise is best for you and your health. 30 minutes a day is all you need to maintain a healthy, happy body. For me, I do a variety of exercises throughout my week from a kickboxing-type class to running, a bootcamp and a weightlifting class. I really love all types of exercise. I still need to try a hot yoga class!
What more can be said about this?! Sleep is so vital to our bodies. It helps ease stress and gives our bodies a nice reboot and ready to start the next day. Aiming to get 7-8 hours a night will help refresh your body and gives your body enough time to repair tissues and joints.
I have 2 young boys, so I know sleep is easier said than done. It wasn’t too long ago when we had a newborn and sleep was something that we thought we once got regularly but it was hard to remember because all you could think about was how you were going to survive on 2 hours of sleep, why do babies cry so much and what did sleep feel like again? But I still have a 4-year-old who wakes up often and comes into our bed to sleep. Or more recently, now sleep walking and talking. So, I understand how getting a solid good-night’s-sleep can be difficult at times. All I can say, is try your best. One day our kiddos will be grown up and out of the house and we will miss that newborn stage and sleepless nights. Wait, maybe not the sleepless nights part!
MANAGE YOUR STRESS
It is important to find activities you enjoy that help lower stress levels and can reduce symptoms like pain.
Oh man, I honestly don’t know how to manage this category very well. Truthfully, this is the category I struggle with and it is NOT good for someone like me with Celiac. Eating well and maintaining my exercise routine does help with my mental clarity so it is a start. Balance that with life’s demands and juggling PTA meetings, baseball and karate schedules, friends and dates with my hubby, can all be stressful at times but doing your best to take each day one-day-at-a-time, is helpful for maintaining your stress level. I also try to stay calm (still working on this one!). Probably my best advice though, that helps me at managing my stress level has been walking away from drama and toxic people. It has been an AMAZING piece of the lowering my stress level puzzle.
Listen, I’m in the same boat. It’s not easy suffering through our symptoms, whether they are constant headaches, joint pain, painful bloating, vomiting, etc. Some symptoms can leave us in a state that makes it difficult to do everyday tasks. But I’m telling you right now, we can still live a happy, healthy life!
It all starts with those 4 items I mentioned above: eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting a good night’s sleep and managing your stress.
Some of these diseases may be incurable BUT can be treatable by following those steps. Some live with these diseases not showing outward symptoms and are living with an “invisible illness” like me with Celiac. Together we are bringing awareness to the community about autoimmune diseases! Together we are fighting! Together we are living a life with an autoimmune disease, but we will NOT let it define us! We can and we will, still live our best life!!
“Never allow anyone to take away your sparkle. Be kind and laugh and love often.”