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Autoimmune Flares: How To Shorten The Intensity, Duration, and Frequency

Having an autoimmune disease really throws a wrench into the vision of life we have for ourselves. While diagnosis is a relief in the sense that what has been going on in our bodies for years isn’t all in our heads, it can be frustrating dealing with the flares. Autoimmune flares vary in length, severity, and triggers, often times seeming to happen without any apparent rhyme or reason. Despite what your MD may have told you, diet and lifestyle play a significant role in the expression of your disease. This is what we are going to dive into today.

Diet and Lifestyle Factors Impacting Autoimmune Flares

Quality of food

Consuming a diet based on highly processed, nutrient deficient foods will negatively effect all people’s health. For those with autoimmune disease, it will also negatively impact the effectiveness of your medications, increase the duration and severity of your flares as well as their frequency. No one wants that!!

The biggest favor you can do for yourself is switch your diet to an Autoimmune Diet. This diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, high quality pastured/wild meats, probiotic rich foods, and healthy fats. Healthy fats are: extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, butter from grass fed cows, lard and tallow from pastured, natural diet feed animals, and egg yolks. It does not include gluten in any form, grains, soy, beans, refined sugars, food additives like preservatives, MSG, and artificial food colorings.

Gut health

With 70-80% of our immune system located in our gut, it makes sense that if our gut isn’t healthy and keeping out particles of foods, it will cause the immune system to be on high alert and on the attack. Unfortunately, on a cellular level, certain foods look exactly like parts of our body. Gluten, for example, looks like the cells in our thyroid and dairy proteins looks like the cells of our pancreas. So when our intestinal lining is permeable and food particles, instead of amino acids and nutrients, get into our blood stream, our bodies cannot tell the difference between foreign invader and self.

Implement a gut healing protocol  to heal the intestinal lining and prevent food particles from entering the blood stream. Once the gut lining is healing and working properly, the immune system can then start to settle down and go back to maintenance mode. When this takes place, then our bodies can start to heal.

Learn how to implement a gut healing protocol by scheduling a free consult with me. You can contact me here.

Stress Management

Even if our diet is perfect, and we’ve healed our gut, high levels of stress (acute and chronic) will cause flares and keep them going once they happen. Learning healthy strategies to manage your stress is the most important thing you can do for yourself. I like to look for the silver lining in every hard situation and autoimmune disease is no exception. Having an autoimmune disease can really be in a blessing in that self care becomes one of the top priorities in life. We truly cannot serve from an empty vessel. So being forced to regularly recharge and protect ourselves from unnecessary negative energy really leads to a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

We cannot always plan for stress, we cannot always change jobs, or know when a significant loss will happen. Developing healthy strategies when life is going well will make dealing with stressful situations so much easier when they occur (and we all know they will.)  A few of my favorite strategies for my clients to explore are:

  1. Journaling
  2. Meditation/Prayer
  3. A Yoga Practice
  4. Moderate daily exercise
  5. Breathing Slowly
  6. Adult Coloring Books

This list is not exhaustive and there are many other strategies out there. I highly recommend exploring what works for you and helps you feel peaceful and restored daily.

Exercise

I mentioned exercise above in stress management and it’s worth mentioning twice. When going through any stage of an autoimmune flare, it is important to note that strenuous exercise will actually cause a flare to become worse. Training for athletic events, intense hour-long boot camp classes, lifting heavy, and exercises more than 10 hours a week are not recommended. I know it is frustrating and concerns of weight gain, muscle loss, and reduced endurance will be on your mind, but it is important that you slow down and take care of yourself. Your body is crying out and it needs your love and attention.

A flare does not mean laying around on the couch all day though. (Even though I know you’re exhausted and want to.) Gentle exercise is restorative and beneficial to your body. Walking at a moderate speed for 30 minutes, a gentle yoga practice taking classes like Restorative, Ananda and Hatha, and light strength training for 20-30 minutes are great options until the flare is over.

Sleep

The amount and quality of sleep you get is an important factor in your health. Healthy adults, not in a flare, need 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. Most adults get less than 7 and it is usually interrupted even then. We have pets, kids, partners, small bladders, and environmental factors that effect our sleep. While we can’t always control these factors, there are things we can, and should, control. These are:

  • Turning off technology an hour before our decided bed time.
  • Keeping the house dim an hour before as well.
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday. Trying not to go to bed or sleep in more than 30 minutes outside of those times.
  • Drinking the majority of our water before noon, instead of at night. This will prevent bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.
  • Do not eat less than two hours before bed.
  • Keeping your house cool. We sleep best when the temperature is below 68 degrees.

I know some of these seem impossible or maybe even unreasonable, and I understand. However, science shows that these strategies work and work well. You don’t have to change things overnight but as you begin implementing these strategies, you’ll be amazed at how quickly sleep happens and how much better you feel.

What To Expect After Implementing An Autoimmune Lifestyle

Symptoms and Medication

An Autoimmune Lifestyle is not a guarantee of a life symptom free or even 100% medication free. Studies have shown that by implementing these strategies will reduce symptoms anywhere from 70-95%. For a medication to be labeled effective, it must reduce symptoms just 20%. Medications, if they even help, will eventually stop working and new medications will need to be explored. Diet and lifestyle are powerful when it comes to quality of life, and also help with the efficacy of medications when they are needed.

Length of Time to Feeling Better

The length of time it takes to calm the immune system, and start feeling better, depends on your age, how long you’ve been symptomatic, and the severity of your symptoms. Some people start to feel better within weeks of making the leap. For others it can take months or even a year. Again I want to emphasize that a diet and lifestyle change is the foundation, but not a guarantee of a life symptom free. Your flares will be further apart, less severe, and shorter by nurturing your body properly.

Getting Support

It is a big change and can be difficult to do 100% from day one without guidance and support. Partnering with me and a holistic practitioner such as a Functional Medicine Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor will ensure you feel better as quickly as possible, are on the right medications, and heard when you have concerns.

autoimmune flares shorten

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24 thoughts on “Autoimmune Flares: How To Shorten The Intensity, Duration, and Frequency”

  1. This is fabulous. All are such great points and truly makes such a difference with autoimmune disorders. I have hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis and notice a world of difference when I’m abiding by this healthier lifestyle. Thanks for sharing – I’ll definitely be sharing repeatedly on twitter/facebook and pinning it to remind myself 🙂

    1. Marian Mitchell

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience with having an autoimmune lifestyle. It really helps those who are unsure if a change will really help. Thank you so much for sharing this post!

  2. Love this! Especially the sleep strategies. I know sleep and stress are the two main things affecting my health right now, but they both seem impossible to get under control with my high-needs 2-year-old. You’ve given me some great things to try! Thanks!

  3. Great post. I’ve had some horrible reactions to stress and I can confirm that breathing slower and getting more exercise help a lot!! Summer of last year, leading up to a huge, stressful move, I had the worst stress/panic attack episode I’ve ever had. Changing my diet, getting more sun and exercise, and starting to practice mindful breathing has helped tremendously.

    Thanks again for your insight, keep up the great work.

  4. These is a great breakdown of steps to take that can make the difference in managing an autoimmune disease. I was speaking with a friend who has an autoimmune disease and the steps she is taking are also on your list :).

  5. All of this is so true, my friend is ill and a simple thing as lack of sleep and an unhealthy meal can trigger a flare up. Making sure to take care of yourself can really make a difference

  6. These are some great strategies. I did the Whole30 a while back, and even though I don’t have autoimmune disease, I noticed a big difference in the way I felt. I think everyone should eat this way.

  7. Its so useful post!! i definitely pin it … You’ve given me some great things to try Thanks for sharing with us 🙂 Happy New Year

  8. Great post. Thanks a lot for taking out time to write this post and spread awareness. I have seen a close friend suffer from an autoimmune disease..so I can totally relate

  9. Great list! I love the fact that you brought up Gut health because many people overlook the importance of a healthy gut! I take something every day to make sure I am clean from the inside out that’s natural and not harsh. Thanks for this list!

  10. I love this post. Love the tips about sleep, this is something that we all struggle with in our house. we went through about a 12 month period of where we went through testing for autoimmune disorders with my son when he was 18 months old. His results came back inclusive and thankfully, touch wood, those issues seemed to have cleared up.

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About Us

Hi friend!

I’m Marian Mitchell, Health Coach, Chronic Illness Warrior, Mom, and Food Lover. I help you navigate the food and lifestyle side of Chronic Disease Management with coaching, meal plans, recipes, podcast, and this blog. You can thrive without eating the same 4 things every day. I’m here to show you how.

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