Natural Treatments for Autoimmune disease
(Courtesy of John Berardi, Ph.D. and Spencer Nadolsky, D.O, Precision Nutrition)
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system (wrongly) attacks healthy organs and tissues in your body. Experts don’t know exactly what causes autoimmune diseases, but it’s likely a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
Autoimmune diseases are on the rise, now affecting 24 million people in the U.S.
Common autoimmune diseases include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- type 1 diabetes
- inflammatory bowel disease,
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
- thyroid condition like Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s
While there are treatments for autoimmune problems, there aren’t (yet) cures.
What your diagnosis means
With more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, many of which share symptoms, it can be difficult for your doctor (and stressful for you) to pinpoint the problem.
Common symptoms include:
- low-grade fever,
- gastrointestinal problems,
- itchy skin, and
- redness and swelling.
Treatment depends on the specific autoimmune disease you’ve been diagnosed with. While researchers haven’t identified cures, some of these diseases can go into remission.
What you can do about it
If you’ve got an autoimmune disease, you may have noticed you have good days and bad days. Sometimes the disease may flare up, often without warning. Sometimes it may calm down. It can be hard to know why, or what’s causing the changes. And sufferers can feel powerless.
Gather data about yourself
One way to help yourself feel more in control is with a symptom diary.
This can help both you and your doctor identify patterns, such as whether particular foods, types of exercise, or other factors such as sleep, stress, or hormonal changes seem to affect symptoms.
In particular, consider tracking what you eat and whether you notice any changes in symptoms.
If you have a food sensitivity or intolerance, then your diet may be wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal tract, damaging intestine cells and allowing food particles and other junk into your bloodstream.
These types of triggers — perhaps innocuous to many other people — can worsen inflammation; your body’s immune response may rage against the perceived invaders.
There’s no one-size-fits-all “best diet” for autoimmune conditions. However, looking for food sensitivities and eliminating foods that seem to worsen your symptoms is a good start.
If you’d like to explore this further, consider doing Elimination diet, in which you eliminate whole categories of food for a few days, then reintroduce foods one by one, making note of any reactions you have.
If you notice a reaction, consider eliminating the culprit food from your diet permanently (of course, talk to your doctor).
Ask your doctor about food allergy and sensitivity testing. The latter is still being studied, but the findings could still be illuminating, especially in conjunction with an elimination diet.
What about the Paleo-style diet for autoimmune diseases that’s getting attention these days? Dr. Nadolsky says there’s some evidence that the diet may help by reducing inflammation, but this is totally hypothesis-based at this point.
Autoimmune symptoms like fatigue, weakness, aches, and chronic pain can make it tough to get to the kitchen for your coffee in the morning — let alone to the gym.
But, conversely, finding a way to work in low-impact exercise can help reduce symptoms significantly.
- boost your energy,
- improve your mood,
- improve flexibility and mobility,
- release pain-targeting endorphins,
- reduce inflammation, and
- relieve depression and anxiety.
Talk to your doctor about how to make exercise work for your specific autoimmune condition.
Always talk to your doctor before taking supplements for a medical condition.
- Vitamin D:may modulate the immune system (especially in multiple sclerosis patients). Dosage: 1,000-2,000 IU per day; get tested for a more tailored dose.
- Probiotics:These beneficial bacteria may help improve gut health, potentially reducing inflammation and autoimmune issues. The problem: There are so many different strains that it’s hard to know which to take, the dosage, or the efficacy. But there’s no harm in trying a few strains of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, Dr. Nadolsky says. Dosage: 1-5 billion CFUs per day.