The Rise of Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune Wellness Expert, Emma Toms from Jot Prem Yoga and Therapy, walks us through what autoimmune disease actually is, and provides some tips to help deal with it.
So many of you have been dropping into my inbox, my awareness, and my life recently to share your own story of Autoimmune Disease, specifically thyroid issues. I don't believe in accidents and when you say hello, I always KNOW, deep in my gut we are going to go on a journey together.
As I travelled through life with my own issues and shared my story, people resonated with it. They spoke of the same kind of issues not yet diagnosed or repeated trips to the GP with little success or continuous tests and examinations that led nowhere. The story was always the same.
Your body is attacking itself
My story started with low level illness from my early teens. Although looking back there was evidence of deep anxiety and inner stress from around 10 or 11. At 17 I went to visit a boyfriend for the weekend and was struck with severe eye pain and unable to look into light (photophobia) This went on until I finally saw the GP and he sent me straight to the hospital where they diagnosed Uveitis or Iritis. I was told by a Consultant "You have an acute attack of autoimmune iritis, your body is attacking itself. It may come back it may not. It may be with you forever, nothing we can do" and that was that.
At 17, that came as quite a shock. He also didn't explain that this may lead to other autoimmune issues or that I may be living a lifestyle that could be making it worse.
So what actually is Autoimmune Disease?
The immune system usually guards against bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them. Usually, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ. Type 1 diabetes damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, can affect the whole body.
The message always is "Your body is attacking itself". This is the official line and the mainstream model sticks to this. In essence I suppose that's true, but in my own learning it goes MUCH deeper than this.
I am also finding that people are being told they have a condition and not being told it actually IS autoimmune disease either, which to me is a failure of a struggling health system, poor patient education and care-less patient care. These are conditions that can affect your entire life, if you don't understand the underlying issues you can't address your health at any level, you become disempowered and a slave to a system of pills and potions that simply dampen inflammation. This is only my opinion, but it's also been my experience, so please bear with me.
List of some common autoimmune diseases
To name but a few, below is a non-exhaustive list which is growing fast - as increasing research goes on, they are discovering so many more.
- Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's Disease
- Graves disease / thyroid eye disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis / chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis / autoimmune thyroiditis
- Lupus (SLE)
- Ménière’s disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Raynaud's phenomenon
- Ulcerative colitis (UC)
- Undifferentiated connective tissue disease
- Uveitis | anterior/intermediate/posterior
Dealing with Autoimmune Disease
Needless to say, I researched and bored people to death with my endless thirst for knowledge. I also managed to develop further issues, including, Sarcoidosis, SVT and Graves Disease. You can read a little more about my personal story in my Autoimmune Warrior blog.
I have watched this epidemic grow over the years and it makes me uncomfortable that the education is still so poor and people aren't being empowered to feel well, get well, or to learn that it's even possible. I know it is.
It isn't easy and you will face some things that will challenge you. It's also true that your journey will be totally different from mine. But I want you to know you aren't alone, and you aren't broken, none of us are.
Here are some tips to help deal with any autoimmune disease:
1.Look at your stress levels
Stress causes inflammation in the body. Stress is completely normal but when it becomes chronic and we are in constant fight or flight is when we need to slow down and find better ways of managing.
2. Review your sleep routine and hygiene
Try to go to slow down before bed, reduce screen time and get to sleep before ten. Don't have your phone by the bed and keep the room dark and cool. Good sleep is integral to body repair but also the mind and soul.
3. Stop smoking
And yes, that includes vapes and other supplementary habits . Smoking is a known and proved trigger for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It can also exacerbate symptoms and increase cardiovascular risk.
Try to reduce coffee, dairy and gluten and keep a diary to see if symptoms change. Not everyone will see a change but it can support good gut health and reduce inflammation. For more detailed information - see the AIP diet.
This is just really general advice, everyone is different. But if you are struggling, trying to take a step back and slow down is the first step to taking control and listening to your own body and being again.
I want to thank those of you who have stepped in to share their own journey with me. It truly helps me to support you. This is how we help each other. It's where the power lies. I don't have all the answers and I especially don't have yours but I can support you on your way back to your health and well-being.
If you would like some more information and support with Autoimmune Disease, then sign up to The Journal via Emma's website, or book an introductory call for some personalised support.