A healthy autoimmune lifestyle leads to a life that is mostly symptom-free and flares are infrequent and resolve quickly. When first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, you are relieved to have answers but often left feeling like there’s nothing in your control. Fortunately, that is far from true! While medication might be necessary, it won’t work well if you don’t get your lifestyle right.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there on what an autoimmune lifestyle looks like. Every expert seems to have a different set of rules to follow. It’s frustrating when every expert is saying something different. However, when I look at them, I look for what they have in common. This combined with clinical experience, I have developed 5 pillars of an autoimmune lifestyle. When you have these 5 down, the rest are just tweaks based on individual needs.
5 Pillars of an Autoimmune Lifestyle
The Paleo diet has you focusing on consuming anti-inflammatory foods while minimizing the most inflammatory foods. Most disease-specific diets follow the paleo diet then add their own tweaks to it. The paleo diet encourages a high amount of produce, grass-fed and wild-caught animal products, healthy fats, and minimal amounts of grains, legumes, dairy, added sugar, and completely eliminates highly inflammatory foods including processed foods and gluten.
Sleeping 7-9 Hours Per Night, Consistently
The importance of consistently getting adequate sleep cannot be overstated. It’s easy to overlook. There’s just so much to do. You have to work, run a home, try to have a social life, you’re exhausted anyways. Maybe you’re sleeping way more than that. Maybe you’re sleeping 14 hours per day. Obviously if you’re in a flare, stay in touch with your care team and rest. However, once you’re out of the flare up make consistent sleep a priority will hep prevent another one.
Stress well managed
Managing stress isn’t easy. Most recently there’s been a pandemic and lockdowns. Political turmoil. Lack of physical connections with friends and loved ones. We can’t control what happens around us, but we do have control over how we take care of ourselves. What does this look like?
It looks like:
- Technology breaks
- Consistent sleep
- Eating well
- Spending quality time with friends and loved ones
- Creative outlets
- Breathing room in our schedules
- Spending time outside in nature
Meditation is especially effective. Just 5 minutes a day not only reduce current stress levels, it minimizes reactions to stress you may experience throughout the day! Talk about effective. There are apps that can walk you through it. You can walk and focus on clearing your thoughts. You can box breathe. There are many options that aren’t just sitting there saying “Om.”
We all know we need to exercise more. It’s extremely difficult to do when you’re struggling with fatigue and pain. How can you include movement when you’re already feeling like crap? Something as simple as a 10 minute walk, stretch based yoga (versus flow or power yoga), tai chi, and gardening are all great options. It is frustrating to go slow and short, however, you won’t be in a flare forever. Eventually you’ll be able to increase the length and intensity. Meeting yourself where you are at and still getting the extensive benefits movement offers is essential.
We are created to be social beings. Having relationships that are mutual, respectful, and give us energy versus leaving us drained are a critical part of our healing journey. Make time to connect with these people, visit with them, ask them for help when you need it, and watch your health blossom.
Healing doesn’t take a bunch of gimmicks and hard to follow rules, it takes self-love and making yourself a priority. We cannot serve from an empty cup but from the overflow from our cup. Getting back to the basics is where it’s at.