If you are anything like me, when you were finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (and it can take years) you probably felt overwhelmed.
The doctors probably wanted to offer you drugs to manage the symptoms but you didn’t receive any advice around what you could do for yourself to improve symptoms and slow down the disease progression.
There is an equally overwhelming amount of advice online, it’s quite the minefield and so much of it seems to contradict each other.
We are all bio-individual, so there is no magic “cure” for all but after having dived into my own research, experimenting with my own condition of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I did get to a place where I am symptom-free.
Whilst some of the tools I used might be unique to me, I do have 5 tips that I know will lead to improvements in all of you suffering autoimmunity and I have listed them here in order of importance:
1. Ditch the gluten 100% (wheat, barley, rye)
Gluten is difficult to digest for more than half of the population. In fact we don’t break it down into individual building blocks (amino acids) but instead splice it into 3 chunks. One of these chunks is gliadin and this is the main offender.
Gliadin is a type of lectin known to disrupt digestion. It crosses the lining of the gut, largely intact and causes an inflammatory response - your immune system is expecting small building blocks (amino acids) and mis-identifies this large protein as an invading bacteria or virus, launching an immune attack. During this process, gliadin causes the cells lining the gut to become damaged, leaving holes in this delicate, single-cell deep barrier between you and everything in your intestines.
Now, all kinds of things can pass through these holes which ordinarily would pass straight through you - things like other partially-digested food, gut bacteria, toxins, waste products - basically anything destined for the toilet ends up in your body...think about that next time you have a poo!
All of these trespassers contribute further to the cycle of inflammation. We know that a leaky gut is the main trigger for autoimmunity, even more so than genetic pre-dispostion AND inflammation is the first symptom of virtually all chronic disease, not only autoimmune diseases.
Ditch the gluten 100%. Even a small amount taken accidentally can cause a reaction so it’s also not something you want to just have “as a treat”. It’s not really treating yourself to make yourself unwell.
2. Take Digestive Enzymes
Without digestive enzymes and stomach acid we cannot adequately break down our food and if that happens we then cannot absorb all the nutrients in it. It’s no good eating a healthy diet if you can’t absorb it.
Partially digested food and a leaky gut are a recipe for increasing inflammation and worsening symptoms.
Since your immune system is the single biggest user of micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals and it’s working on overdrive, it needs a lot of them, as does the rest of your body for things like hormone production and tissue repair. If they are passing straight through you, you end up in a state of nutrient insufficiency - you just don’t have the raw materials to work efficiently and symptoms worsen.
Taking a digestive enzyme 30 mins before meals is all it takes AND it can really help if you do accidentally get glutened when eating out.
3. Eat a nutrient dense diet
Since the immune system is hoarding all the micro-nutrients it can find in order to continue to work on over-drive, it is essential to eat a nutrient-dense diet. Whilst you are making the switch to eating this way, take a good quality, bio-available multi-nutrient which includes Omega 3 essential fatty acids as well.
A nutrient-dense diet is not found in refined carbohydrates, which sadly have been promoted as the biggest element of the food pyramid for the past 40 years….just as we see epidemic rates of autoimmune disease and other, largely lifestyle disease such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. A co-incidence? No.
So what should we emphasise?
Organ meats and bone broth - my number 1 nutrient-dense food - we eat these frequently
Other meats (pasture-raised if possible, but if that's not within budget then choose lean cuts)
Vegetables - especially greens - loads of them
Root veggies and squashes
Healthy fats - like coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil
Eating these regularly whilst avoiding processed foods and sugar will give your body everything it needs to repair, especially those holes in the gut so we can start taming that inflammation.
I recommend Life Long Vitality or Daily Nutrient Pack and Terrazyme Digestive Enzymes, which you can pick up here: Supplements & Oils
4. Avoid OTC meds which list gut-related side effects - chose natural options instead
Many of the drugs we are prescribed come with a long list of gut-related side-effects. Anything from nausea to constipation and diarrhea. We often then need another medication, either prescribed or over the counter, to deal with these gut issues.
Since we know gut health is the absolute foundation of all health, anything which disturbs it is going to work against our healing.
Work with your doctor here. There may well be medications you have to take because of how far tissue damage has progressed with your condition, so I am not advocating you stop taking that.
However, there are many, highly effective natural remedies for gut issues and other side effects caused by these essential medications, which DO NOT interfere with gut function. So, whilst you are healing the gut through nutrition you don’t need to work against that.
Many of my gut symptoms disappeared when I started using essential oils rather than over the counter meds for my IBS. They are safe and very effective. Healing the gut can then continue so it isn’t a dance of one step forward and one step back. My favourites are peppermint and Zengest blend as well as ginger and wild orange.
5. Daily balance your nervous system
We live in stressful times and being chronically ill, nutrient-depleted and unsupported makes it 10 times worse. We end up living in a highly reactive part of our nervous system, designed to help us fight or run away in those rare circumstances when our life is threatened.
These days, instead of this response being activated occasionally, we live constantly from this place and guess what? It’s another nutrient-guzzler AND it messes with hormonal balance.
Every day find ways to switch back into the relaxation response - that part of the nervous system which should kick in after the life-threatening event and bring us back to “normal”. Being chronically wired, vigilant, awake, worried etc is not normal, even though it has become crazily common.
Do some of that every day. Establish rituals at the start and end of each day and periodically throughout the day.
Choose from mindfulness, breathing techniques, gentle yoga (depending on your levels of pain), drawing, walks in Nature, Tai Chi, gratitude journalling, jigsaw puzzles, long warm baths with calming essential essential oils like lavender, Balance blend and Adaptiv blend...anything which helps you switch off that over-active part of your nervous system because healing doesn’t happen there - it happens when we are truly at ease.
We are a product of what we habitually do and think. So, whilst these tips may seem small and insignificant (ok apart from the gluten one) they accumulate into profound change.
You can check out my free mini-video series on where to start (especially if you are not ready to tackle gluten) by clicking this link and registering: Register for FREE Video series
And watch out for my upcoming Autoimmune Group Coaching Program which I will be announcing more about soon, for a mid-May 2021 start. Email me at [email protected] if you want to be one of the first to hear about it.