One of my best friends in the world was recently diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease that affects the spine. When she emailed to tell me, my heart broke a little bit for her. I remember the day I was diagnosed. I was lost. A complete wreck. I was sad...angry. I wanted to scream. I cried, a lot. I felt completely alone. This lasted a couple of days. But then I decided to stop being sad—to stop playing the victim. I started reading, researching and talking to people. I found the autoimmune protocol diet and changed my diet that day. Once I got my healing diet dialed in, I started taking self-care, self-love, sleep and movement seriously. I became empowered over the fact that my lifestyle choices could help me to feel better. If you have been recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, here's what I want you to know about autoimmunity...
THERE IS HOPE | The first thing I want you to know is that there is hope. There is so much you can do to feel better and live a vibrant life. You have the power to heal yourself. It is possible that you may even be able to put your disease into remission through diet and lifestyle. However, do know that this takes time and dedication. Feeling better rarely happens by chance. You must take an intentional approach to healing. Getting better will most likely require a complete lifestyle overhaul. Don't be intimidated, it's a beautiful thing.
HEAL THY GUT | As Hippocrates once said, "all disease begins in the gut." He was on to something. The process of healing your autoimmune condition begins in the gut. Research suggests that nearly eighty percent of your immune system in located in your diegestive system. Autoimmune conditions are thus heavily tied to your overall gut health. In order to begin to heal our autoimmune diseases, we must first heal the gut. The best way to do this is through a nutritent dense, healing diet and lifestyle interventions such as reducing stress and getting lots of quality sleep.
AUTOIMMUNE PROTOCOL | Don't wait. Jump right in. The autoimmune protocol is a powerful elimination diet based on the research of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. Also known as AIP, the autoimmune protocol is a healing, elimination diet that removes all potential food allergens that might be triggering an unwanted immune response. You won't have to be on this elimination diet forever, but you may have to be on it for a couple of months (or up to a year) to completely heal. Start with a month. Once you begin experiencing an improvement in your symptoms, it will be hard to turn back. I suggest starting with Dr. Sarah Ballantyne's book The Paleo Approach. Check out my resources page for awesome blogs, cookbooks and websites that will help you with the diet component. And just a note, unlike the paleo or primal inspired diets, there is no 80/20 option with the autoimmune protocol. Don't dabble with a ninety percent commitment—it will not be effective in treating your condition. Jump in with two feet.
FIND YOUR TEAM | Create a team of health care professionals who share similar values to you. I suggest starting with a functional medicine practioner. I would also encourage you to seek out a doctor who specializes in your particular condition. Each doctor you have on your team will provide you with a different perspective and may provide a unique addition to your overall healing protocol. My current team includes: a functional medicine practioner, a thyroid specialist, a massage therapist and a psychiatrist. I will be adding an acupuncturist to my team soon.
BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE | The truth is no one cares about your health more than you. You need to take responsibility for yourself and for your health. Don't put your health in the hands of anyone else. This means listening to your body and addressing your own needs. If a medication or diet isn't working out, change it. Prioritize yourself and practice self-love and self-care. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. Love yourself. Stand up for yourself. No one else is going to do the hard work for you. This is your journey.