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Daily Habits To Prevent and Reverse Autoimmune Disease


How to put your autoimmunity into remission and prevent further autoimmune conditions through functional medicine

Maybe They Were Born With It,

Or Maybe It’s Just Their Environment.


Autoimmunity is on the rise and you or your loved ones may be the 1 in 25 people world wide that have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. You may have been told “it runs in the family” , “these are the cards you were dealt, there's nothing you can do" or "you need to take these medications for life to manage your symptoms”. Thankfully, those responses aren’t actually true.


Your genes influence your health, but much of what your genes do is in your control. Only 25% of your genes are out of your control. The other 75% can change based on your environment, the food you eat, and the information you tell your body.


That means you have much more say in your health than what you may have thought. In this article we will review what influences you have on your autoimmunity and what you can start doing today to change your health narrative.


What Is Autoimmunity


Your immune system’s job is to protect your body from anything that may cause you harm. Whether that is bacteria, viruses, infections, or allergens, your immune system is waiting and ready to fight. What happens in autoimmunity is your immune system has received the wrong message that something in your own body is a threat, and it starts attacking you.


This often happens when your immune system has been on the defensive for a long period of time. Just like you are more prone to mistakes when you are exhausted, your immune system is too. Instead of targeting specific threats, it starts attacking anything that looks remotely similar to previous threats in the hopes of making the attacks stop. Unfortunately for us, many threats mimic our own tissue, causing our immune system to attack different parts of our own body, resulting in autoimmune diseases.


So what causes our immune system to overreact?


What Causes Autoimmunity


There is no one cause of autoimmunity, rather it is a combination of less than optimal health circumstances. Here are some of the main drivers of autoimmunity that overwhelm and exhaust your body.


  • EpigeneticsEpigenetics is how your genes are active in your body. You are made up of thousands of genes, but the information you tell your body determines which genes are on, which are off, and how they are expressed. This means that the food you eat, the exercise you do, and the mental states you practice will modify how your genes are acting and affecting you. If your foundational health isn’t optimal, neither will your genes. Having a predisposition to certain health conditions is not a life sentence. What you do with your body will determine your health outcomes.


Fun Fact: more often than not, your “family genes” are not actually the main cause of health problems. Your family shares the same environment - eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, exposure to the same toxins, and a similar emotional environment that leads to similar health results - for better or worse.


It’s why it is so important for us to model healthy habits to our families because it influences the health of our loved ones more than we know. If you didn’t have the environment you wanted growing up, start creating the environment you wish you had. It will be harder and take more discipline, but you can change how your genes are expressed by changing your habits. What you choose today will change your genes for tomorrow.


  • Stress. We all experience stress, but how we respond to stress and how long we hold onto it greatly affects our overall health. Chronic stress (physical, emotional, or mental) disrupts many systems within our body, causing chaos from head to toe. Stress impairs our immune system's ability to function and makes us unable to manage our inflammation. Stress also breaks down the lining of our gut, leading to leaky gut. Our gut is responsible for 80% of our immune system, so if it isn't able to function properly, neither is our immune system.


  • Diet. Diet is how you obtain your nutrients, manage your blood sugar, provide raw materials for hormones, and support your immune system. Without a robust diet, you begin to hinder all those things and it starts to show in your mood, body aches, sleep, and more. Not only that, but many foods have hidden inflammatory ingredients, secretly adding more stress to your immune system.


  • Medications. Medications are incredible in life saving situations & making unbearable situations tolerable for a season. But long term? Medications can cause more harm than good. Side effects begin to pile up, vitamin and mineral deficiencies increase, and the problems you were medicating are no longer controlled by your previous dose because the underlying problem was never solved, just suppressed. Not only that, but medications alone are responsible for over 10% of many autoimmune disorders developing.


  • Weight. Studies have shown that excess weight is linked to the start and progress of autoimmune disease. Your fat cells produce adipokines, proteins that communicate to other cells in your body. Adipokines negatively affect the regulation of your blood sugar and hormones, as well as increasing inflammation.


  • Sedentary lifestyle. Movement has many benefits besides weight. It helps improve sleep, balances blood sugar, regulates hormones, strengthens your immune system, and increases healthy gut bacteria. Without movement, your body will begin to suffer in many areas, especially when it comes to your immune system.


  • Lack of sleep. Your body does lots of repairs when you’re asleep. Sleep is absolutely necessary when healing. Without it, your body isn’t given the time or space to properly recover. Chronic lack of sleep, especially those requiring sleeping aids, are shown to be at a 70% increased risk of developing autoimmunity.


  • Toxin exposure. Toxins are anything that harms your body, rather than nourishes it. Toxins can be anything from mold exposure, mercury or heavy metals, hormone disruptors, immune irritants, and more. Toxins elicit the same response as an infection, triggering your immune system to react. The more toxins you're exposed to, the more stress you're placing on your immune system.


  • Hidden Infections. Infections are not always obvious. Bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic organisms that are dwelling within your body can show up under many diverse symptoms and may not be routinely tested for at a regular doctor’s office. Because they are not commonly tested for, the infection may go untreated, leading to worsening health complications.


All of these factors put stress on your immune system. The more stress, the harder your immune system has to work. Our job? To reduce as much stress as possible so your immune system has time to rest, recover, and do it’s job properly.


Symptoms Of Immune Dysregulation


  • Fatigue

  • Joint Pain

  • Muscle Aches

  • Numbness/Tingling

  • Digestive Issues (bloating, gas, stomach aches, nausea)

  • Constipation/Diarrhea

  • Acid Reflux

  • Food Sensitivities

  • Swollen Glands

  • Infertility

  • Inflammation throughout the body

  • Redness and Swelling

  • Rashes

  • Dry Skin/Itching

  • Hair loss

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Anxiety/Depression

  • Insomnia

  • Memory Impairment

  • Shortness of Breath/Trouble Breathing

  • Temperature Sensitivities

  • Weight Trouble

  • Frequently Sick

Diagnosis – Only Half The Answer


Autoimmune diseases are often diagnosed based on symptoms, family history, and blood tests. The blood tests will indicate if your immune system is running wild.


Diagnosis can be helpful, we know what you are struggling with, but that still doesn’t tell us why your immune system is reacting and why it is producing these specific symptoms.


The problem we often see today is that many doctors stop at what, and simply start medicating. Medications can be helpful short term in managing your symptoms while correcting the cause of your body’s reaction. However, when the why is neglected, medications go from short term management to a lifetime of suppressing a problem that has never really been addressed. This can lead to your autoimmune condition worsening, along with an increase in dangerous side effects from medications.


Functional Medicine Approach To Autoimmune Disease


Functional medicine looks to understand why your immune system is attacking your body and how to restore a healthy immune response. This is done through advanced functional medicine tests that indicate what infections, toxins, allergens, or deficiencies your body is currently fighting.


Then, we address those specific results to calm the overactive immune system. This allows your immune system to properly protect your body from threats, without harming you in the process.


The Problem With Autoimmune Medications


Medications can be a huge help when it comes to health and should not be stopped or changed without talking to your doctor first.


With that being said, not all medications should be life long, and can come with some nasty health drawbacks the longer you are on them. As a patient, you should be aware of the benefits and detriments that come with your medications, as well as a solid plan to help your body heal with the goal of one day getting off medications. Below are some of the common medications prescribed with autoimmunity and their drawbacks to be wary of.

Pain Medications. Autoimmune conditions can be very painful, and lead to the chronic use of anti-inflammatory medications. Although there are alternatives that don't come with as many harmful side effects, many doctors suggest NSAIDS to suppress inflammation. Some common NSAIDs include Motrin/Advil (Ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxyn) and Celebrex (celecoxib). These medications may help you short term, but some of their side effects can actually harm your body further. These side effects can include:

  • Heartburn

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Stomach Ulcers/bleeding

  • Constipation/diarrhea

  • Dizziness

  • Vitamin Deficiencies

  • Heart Attack

  • Stroke

  • Bronchospasm

  • Kidney dysfunction

  • Psychosis

Immune Suppressing Medications. Steroids, DMARDs, and Biologics are all used to help suppress your immune system, but they can cause just as many symptoms as your autoimmune disease itself. Some of the common symptoms associated with immune suppressing medications include:

  • Increased risk of infection

  • Decreased red and white blood cells

  • Increased risk of cancer

  • Easily bruised

  • Easily bleed

  • Anxiety/depression

  • Mood swings

  • Irritability

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Insomnia

  • Heartburn

  • Nausea/ Vomiting

  • Stomach pains

  • Loss of appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Hair loss

  • Anemia

  • Muscle aches/pains/cramps

  • Weight gain

  • Increased blood sugar

  • Vitamin deficiencies

  • Fever/Sweating

  • Irregular heartbeat

The other problem? Suppressing your immune system not only prevents it from attacking you, but it also prevents it from attacking any infections that you are exposed to. This can leave you very vulnerable and seriously ill from minor infections and common colds. To protect yourself, you may need to avoid social gatherings and loved ones.


If you have been on these medications for a long time and haven’t received a plan to heal your immune system from your current providers, I cannot recommend enough working with a functional medicine doctor experienced with autoimmune conditions.


In the meantime, If you want to start digging into your why and take a step closer to getting off medications (or prevent using them all together), start implementing these autoimmune remission tips today. I promise your genes and immune system will thank you.


How You Can Combat Autoimmunity Naturally


1. Quality Sleep


Sleep will give your body a chance to heal, but when and how long you sleep are very important. As much as you’re able, try to be falling asleep as close to 10pm as possible, and aim to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Life is messy and this may not always be an option, but do whatever is in your control to prioritize sleep. Many sleep deprivation symptoms can mimic your autoimmune symptoms. You may be surprised how much better you feel from consistent quality sleep.


If you struggle to fall or stay asleep, check out these 5 lesser-known tips on how to get that quality sleep you’ve been craving, but has been out of reach.


2. Stress Reduction

Stress negatively affects every part of our body, so try to reduce the stress that is in your control. You and I both know saying "just don't be stressed!" isn't helpful. Here are a few things to consider to help reduce your stress:

  • Consume enough nutrients. Under-eating raises your cortisol and throws your blood sugar into a tizzy. Make sure you prioritize getting three full meals in a day and snack when you feel hungry.

  • Get Enough Sleep. Lack of Sleep also raises your cortisol, so prioritize that sleep we talked about above

  • Set Healthy Boundaries. Whether it is with work, friends, or family, make sure you are not over extending yourself. If you notice a personal relationship is causing emotional distress, communicate how you are feeling. If they are unable to come to a healthy resolution, take some time and space for your heart to heal.

  • Active Relaxation. I don't know about you, but I always thought laying on the couch was what relaxation looked like. But, every time I sat on that couch when I was stressed, my thoughts would be racing and my mental do-to lists got longer. Take time to do activities that bring you joy - going for a walk, reading a book, taking a bath, or talking to a supportive friend. Relaxation doesn't necessarily mean doing nothing; it means doing something that brings you joy and recharges you.

  • Deep Breathing. This one I struggled with for a long time. I thought breathing is just something you do naturally, there is no technique or need to "practice breathing". Boy was I wrong. I didn't understand the power of breathing techniques until I had a panic attack. There are many different kinds of deep breathing, which can be confusing. If you're overwhelmed and don't know where to start, no worries, we go over deep breathing techniques in our 1:1 Coaching sessions!


3. Fix your gut


Your gut is home to 80% of your immune system. If your gut isn't strong, neither is your immune system. So how do we get and keep a healthy gut? Unfortunately, there is no one size-fits-all answer as each person will have different hurdles to face to properly rebuild and fortify their gut.


With that being said, there are a few things you can start doing now to creating a healthier environment for your stomach and intestines:

  • Remove processed food.

  • Limit sugar intake, especially artificial sugars.

  • Cut out any personal food sensitivities while you heal your gut. If you don't know your food sensitivities, you can schedule an appointment with our functional medicine doctor to run a food sensitivity test!

  • Remove Gluten & Dairy.

If you've started to implement these habits and are still struggling with leaky gut symptoms, or are overwhelmed and in need of some accountability, we would be happy to help address your body's specific needs to repair your gut and help guide you through the process.


4. Quality Diet


Food gives your body the raw materials it needs to function properly. It also gives your body instructions. For example, foods high in nutrients give your body energy, fight inflammation, and keep you feeling your best. They tell your body it is properly supported and to remain in a stress-free state. On the other hand, less optimal food can actually make you sluggish, increase your inflammation, and give you brain fog that makes it difficult to get through the day. Our advice: Try and get as many homemade, nutrient-dense meals in as possible to best support your immune system.


5. Consistent Exercise


Exercise is not only beneficial for your blood sugar and weight, but it is also great for balancing hormones, reducing inflammation, and creating a healthy gut! Exercise is very personal, and what is healthy for one person, may not be for another. My suggestion is to work with someone who can customize your workout routine to your health needs.


I highly suggest working with Coach Dave at Pro10. He is the best of the best when it comes to exercise, injury prevention, and recovery. He specializes in virtual 1:1 sessions to give each client individual attention in the comfort of their own home or preferred gym. Not only that, but he has multiple years of experience working with professional athletes. If the athletes who depend on their body for a living trust him, so can you.


6. Reduced Toxin Exposure


Toxins fill our air, water, food, and personal care products. Exposure to harmful chemicals constantly taxes our immune system, causing it to flare up multiple times a day, maybe even multiple times an hour. When we aren't careful with what we put in and around our bodies, we can unknowingly cause our bodies damage and create new or worsening health problems that our tired immune system can't protect us from.


The best thing to do is to reduce toxins within reason. This does not mean we should fear the world around us, but take this new knowledge and apply it where we can. The best places to start are to replace your most used, most toxic items with lower toxic options.

Before you get overwhelmed, know that you don't have to do this on your own. Part of our job at Restorative Wellness NC is to help guide you through the process of replacing toxic items. We understand that the volume of products on the market can be mind-boggling and that the labels can be confusing at best and misleading at worst. Just because it says "clean", "organic", or "natural" doesn't make it safe. This can make the process even more frustrating. We help teach you how to read labels while also sharing our most trusted products that won't hurt your health.


7. Limit Unnecessary Medications


I said it before, and I'll say it again. Most medications can be incredibly helpful short term, but not long term. As a reminder, I am a Doctor of Pharmacy. I am not anti-medication by any means. My life was devoted to studying medications, so I truly understand just how amazing medications are in a crisis or for short term circumstances while healing. That being said, I also understand all the dangers, side effects, and problems that come from being on medications long term.


Most medications should not be a life sentence. Every medication effects multiple parts of your body, not just the one thing you are trying to target. Everything in your body likes to be in balance. By changing one hormone, blocking one absorption, or increasing one excretion, you are affecting many more. Limit as many unnecessary medications as possible to give your body a chance to regulate without being thrown for a loop every few hours.


8. Get tested for hidden infections


Infections can be tricky because they can come with a long list of general symptoms and they don't always show up on normal lab tests. You might think that hidden infections, such as parasites, aren't common in your area of the world, but in reality about 1 in 3 people have parasites. Those numbers are parasites alone and don't include other bacteria, viruses or fungis.


These hidden infections can leave you frustrated with symptoms that don't imrpove despite doing "all the right things". If you've been struggling with symptoms that don't seem to have a direct cause, the best thing to do is to find a trustworthy functional medicine doctor and get functional medicine testing. This will give you the answers you've been searching for, as well as a personalized protocol designed for your specific infections to eradicate them from your body.


Bonus


Once you start building a healthy foundation, supplements can be a great support beam to your immune system. Supplements should not be taken lightly. They are medications, which means they can be over done, have side effects, and interact with other medications. Talk with your doctor or a functional medicine expert before adding these into your daily routine.

Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equally. Where you buy your supplements matters just as much as the supplement itself. CVS and Amazon do not count as "trustworthy" sources. For quality supplements you can trust, sign up under my Fullscripts account. You'll gain access to my personal list of trusted products as well as the ability to search through top brands for your own medication needs to keep you and your loved ones safe and feeling good.


Functional Medicine And Your Health


In need of some guidance on your heath journey? Doing all the right things and still not seeing an improvement? Overwhelmed with all the health advice and don't know where to start? Apply to work with our integrative and functional medicine doctor to find the root cause of your health symptoms and start feeling your best.


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Restorative Wellness NC, LLC and its owner can receive commission on qualifying purchases made through the participating Amazon links within this post. This is to help maintain the website and continue to provide you with the same top notch health and wellness information you have been reading. We thank you for any and all support you provide us to further educate and empower everyone to access a healthier tomorrow.

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