Wellness Begins Here, LLC

About Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune Disease is defined as an overactive immune response of the body against normal human tissue. In other words, the body attacks its own cells. The immune system recognizes one or many areas as a pathogen (a germ, fungus, virus bacteria, etc.) and turns against the body.

 

Perhaps the most confusing aspect of Autoimmune Disease is its diversity. It is not one disease, but many different diseases and conditions. In fact, there are more than 80 that fall under this category, including Thyroid Disease, Lupus, Crohns, Celiac, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s and Addison’s and Multiple Sclerosis. There are many more that are less common, however, no less serious to those afflicted. Researchers are starting to believe there is a strong autoimmune component to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, as well.

 

More than 50 million Americans have an Autoimmune Disease, qualifying this challenge as a major U.S. health crisis. Women are afflicted 75% more often than men, and it ranks as one of the Top Ten Killers of women under the age of 65. Cases tend to cluster in families. For example, if your grandmother had one, you could be at a greater risk for developing one yourself.

 

All Autoimmune Diseases have their own specific symptoms, however, there are some that commonly cross-over from disease to disease. Challenges such as:

 

  • Metabolic issues (such as unexplained weight gain or weight loss)
  • Digestion problems
  • Achy, painful and or swollen joints
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Circulation problems/numbness in fingers and toes
  • Abnormal Blood Clotting
  • Insomnia or other Sleep Disorders
  • “Brain Fog” - forgetfulness, cognition issues
  • Hormone Imbalances
  • Blood Sugar Problems

 

As we know too well, when people feel “off”, they may lose focus and be unable to effectively communicate what they are experiencing, which can lead to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. We need medical professionals who can navigate through this self-defeating road block, but finding the right doctor for your particular needs, can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. We need doctors who are knowledgeable, compassionate and willing and able to slow down and truly listen to what we have to say. We desperately seek doctor “detectives” who investigate and treat the cause and not merely the symptoms. We need medical professionals who view and treat us as a whole person, and are willing to offer alternative options.  

 

If you suspect you are suffering from an Autoimmune Disease, make an appointment with an Endocrinologist or Rheumatologist. Seek out those with a strong reputation for “treating outside the box” and professionals who are open to holistic approaches. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, go for classic blood work, live blood analysis and other tests, and be sure to study-up on side effects of recommended medications. Understand what you are putting into your body. Use both your knowledge and intuition to help determine if this particular approach is right for you. Will it fix the problem or just mask your symptoms? Also, it is important to ask for other, alternative treatments. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your visit, always get a second or third opinion.

 

People with Autoimmune Disease often feel alone with their disease and with the everyday struggles that it brings into their lives. By educating yourself and learning what your options are, you will be empowered. You will become your own health and wellness advocate. The internet is full of websites that offer Blogs and support groups for people who struggle with Autoimmune Disease. You can learn, share and have a voice. People with Autoimmune Disease could benefit by finding a Lupus Foundation in their community. The Lupus foundation is not just for Lupus patients. They also focus on helping people with other Autoimmune Diseases. They can provide support and other services, such as Educational materials (most have a  lending library full of books, brochures, CD’s & DVD’s) for the person with Autoimmune Disease as well as for family members who may not understand the disease and the physical, emotional, support the person may need. Family members may feel afraid, confused and not know their role in the healing process or as a caregiver. It is important their needs are addressed as well.

 

Stress (especially emotional stress) has a major impact on Autoimmune Disease. Stress generates brain chemicals that negatively impact your mood, your ability to heal and your overall state of well-being. By better managing or eliminating stress triggers in your life, the Immune System may often return to an optimal state to fight off disease. Start with shedding your guilt and carve out some quality time for yourself. Learning not to take on too much at one time is also very important. One thing I have learned to say is, “I wish I could help you, but unfortunately I can’t right now. How about I get back to you on Thursday.” These are a few of many fairly simple, positive changes that can result in a more balanced, healthy path through your illness.

 

Most importantly, open your mind to complimentary and alternative treatments. Many people have experienced great success managing their Autoimmune Disease through the use of Acupuncture, Meditation, Reiki, Qigong, Massage, and Yoga. I myself have had great success with music, pet and play therapy. Any activity that ignites your child-like sense of play, tends to yield great results. One activity in particular, Aqua Activities or pool play, has been very successful for my clients. This is a combination of low-impact movements in a pool that are choreographed to fun music while you laugh, dance, play and heal all at the same time. Depending upon your medical challenges, exercising out of the water can be difficult. By utilizing the buoyancy of the water, even the severely challenged can exercise and splash their way to physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

 

The most important lesson I have learned in managing Autoimmune Disease is learning to fight on some days and surrender on others. Surrender does not mean give up. It just means allowing yourself to relax and heal such as taking a 20 minute nap to recharge. Oftentimes, attack-mode and being “too driven” can make things worse. Find your own personal balance point for coping, surviving and thriving through your challenges.