Understanding and Managing Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which your immune system attacks healthy tissues in your body, without cause. While its exact source remains unknown, genes could play a factor in an individual’s susceptibility.

Certain lifestyle habits can help alleviate symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases. This includes diet, exercise, stress management and medications.


Diet is an integral component of living a healthy life and managing symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions, but finding the appropriate balance may prove challenging.

Dietitians and nutritionists can provide invaluable assistance. These professionals specialize in creating tailored plans based on an individual’s cell health and DOI guidelines, while helping identify trigger foods like gluten, dairy and nightshade vegetables which could worsen symptoms associated with an autoimmune disease. Furthermore, these professionals may assist with an elimination diet trial under supervision to see how certain food groups affect an individual’s autoimmune symptoms.

Exercise can play an essential part in managing autoimmune disease, particularly high-intensity interval training. Exercise helps improve circulation and oxygenation to the brain, reduce inflammation and ease muscle pain.


Exercise and fitness are important for everyone, but especially those living with an autoimmune condition. Exercise can reduce inflammation, strengthen muscles and bones, promote cardiovascular function, reduce anxiety and even boost mental wellbeing.

Finding the “sweet spot” of exercise to manage autoimmune disease can be tricky when working with a trainer or participating in group fitness. Your ego might tell you to push harder, but this could trigger inflammation or cause flare-ups in your condition.

Research has demonstrated that patients suffering from autoimmune disease tend to find relief through a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise (such as walking or cycling). Aerobic exercise helps decrease lymphocyte-secreted cytokines which contribute to inflammation; at the same time it stimulates endorphin production which inhibits immune cells that contribute to further inflammation. As people living with an autoimmune disorder tend to require higher protein intake than general population individuals it would be a good idea to consult a registered dietitian on how best to meet your protein requirements.

Stress management

Stress is a widespread concern in America, yet its management remains taboo. Addressing chronic stress effectively is key to decreasing inflammation, managing symptoms and attaining overall wellness.

Health coaches can assist their clients in identifying and managing stressors. This may involve encouraging them to establish sleep routines that promote restful night’s rest; and avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other stimulants which interfere with relaxation and interfere with falling asleep quickly.

Meditation, mindfulness, yoga and deep breathing can also be effective methods for stress management. Helping clients identify their sources of anxiety – those they can change or that will resolve themselves over time versus those that are out of their control – enables them to focus more easily on areas within their control, and feel more empowered when taking action against these situations. Stress management is one of the cornerstones of improving quality of life for those with autoimmune disease.


Although autoimmune diseases do not have a cure, treatments can help manage symptoms and enhance quality of life. These may include over-the-counter and prescription medications to address pain, swelling, fever, fatigue, sleep difficulties as well as skin or gastrointestinal concerns.

Autoimmune disorders can affect any organ or system of the body and in severe cases even become life-threatening.

At risk for developing an autoimmune disease are multiple factors, including one’s gender (females are more likely) and family history. Certain infections, environmental exposures such as sunlight or mercury exposures or genetic predisposition. Because symptoms may resemble other medical issues and make diagnosis difficult, seeking professional medical help from healthcare specialists like gastroenterologists or rheumatologists is crucial in order to properly identify what’s causing symptoms and recommend the most effective treatments options such as steroids which reduce inflammation.

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