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5 Ways to Feel Better: Help for Autoimmune Disease Sufferers

By Joseph Nahas, MD October 19, 2019 Posted in: Wellness

Having an autoimmune disease that can be managed but not cured can be challenging. But there’s much you can do to feel better on a daily basis. Try these five ways to improve your symptoms.

1. Eat Well

You’ll find a cornucopia of advice online regarding what to eat and not eat to improve autoimmune disease symptoms. It’s best to discuss diet and your specific autoimmune disease with your health care provider. Some different recommendations include:

  • Emphasizing anti-inflammatory foods like tomatoes, olive oil, leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines) and strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges.
  • Considering a gluten-free vegan diet. One study found it significantly improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Eating food with potassium (avocados, spinach, bananas, acorn squash, sweet potatoes) which was found to decrease pain in a 2008 study
  • Trying recipes that includes the spice turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory.
  • Avoiding table salt. Some research, including a study using a mouse model of multiple sclerosis, found that a high-salt diet accelerated the disease’s progression.
  • Talking to your care provider about nutritional supplements which may help. Some options include fish oil, vitamins C and D and probiotics.

2. Consider Exercise

Movement and exercise can stimulate the immune system and act as a natural anti-inflammatory. You don’t have to be a super athlete. If you can, go for a walk or take up a sport like tennis or golf. Tips for getting started:

  • Seek out support. Talk to your health care provider first, then get a fitness assessment or see a personal trainer.
  • Go low impact to save your joints. Try an elliptical machine or swimming for easy-on-the-joints exercise.
  • Go at your own pace. Allow yourself to start slowly and increase your pace gradually.

3. Manage Stress

Stress can worsen symptoms. Consider adding some form of relaxation to your daily or weekly routine. Options include yoga, deep breathing and meditation. You can even treat yourself to a massage. If it improves your symptoms in the case of an autoimmune disease, consider it good self-care.

4. Sleep Better

Fatigue is common with autoimmune disorders, which makes quality sleep all the more important. Poor sleep can also hinder your metabolism. Making sleep a priority can improve your symptoms and your overall feeling of wellbeing.

5. Check Your Gut

Gut health has become a popular buzzword in the past few years, and much has yet to be understood about the connection between your digestive system and health conditions and disorders. A syndrome dubbed “leaky gut” has also been connected autoimmune and other diseases. This is a somewhat controversial condition in which the intestines are thought to become permeable and allow bacteria and toxins to leak through the intestinal wall. It’s not a diagnosis that is taught in medical school and remains an area of early research. If you want to know more gut health, talk to your primary care provider.  Want to find your perfectly matched provider? You can at My Provider Match!

Resources:

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11600749

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18468955

3https://www.nature.com/news/salt-linked-to-autoimmune-diseases-1.12555

Joseph Nahas, MD
Joseph Nahas, MD

Dr. Joseph Nahas is a Rheumatologist at CHI Health.

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