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You’ve Been Diagnosed with Autoimmunity, Now What?

You’ve Been Diagnosed with Autoimmunity, Now What?

You’ve Been Diagnosed with Autoimmunity, Now What?

Autoimmune disease is a complex and likely confusing diagnosis. If you’ve recently received an autoimmunity diagnosis, there are a few things you should know. 

A healthy immune system protects the body from foreign invaders, like viruses and bacteria. After all, that is it’s primary job! So, what happens when the immune system is off it’s game and confuses its role in the body? This is often a detrimental dysfunction that sets the stage for autoimmunity to arise. 

What is Autoimmunity

Autoimmunity occurs when the body mistakes itself for a dangerous invader. This malfunction causes the body to begin attacking its own organs and tissue, drastically increasing inflammation in the body. As a result, the body becomes immune-compromised and leaves you feeling chronically unwell.

 

Types of Autoimmunity

Unfortunately, autoimmunity can affect almost any part of the body. In fact, there are over 80 known autoimmune diseases! While the list of autoimmune diseases is vast, these are the most common ones in America, today, including:

      • Hashimoto’s Disease or Grave’s Disease- an attack of the thyroid gland
      • Celiac Disease- dysfunction in the small intestine
      • Rheumatoid Arthritis– primarily affects the joints, but can also affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels
      • Lupus- an attack on bodily tissue
      • Type 1 Diabetes- dysfunction in how the body metabolizes carbohydrates
      • Multiple Sclerosis- affects the brain and central nervous system, causing various disabilities

 

Despite the different types of autoimmune disease, there are common symptoms that can be present across the board, such as: chronic fatigue, joint pain, digestive issues, depression or anxiety, and inability to maintain weight.

Due to the severity and complexity of autoimmunity, it’s important to work with an experienced and trusted functional medicine doctor to accurately diagnose autoimmune disease. Through a series of lab tests and symptom examination, a practitioner can determine how autoimmunity might be affecting you and the best steps to move forward.

To learn more about my own journey with autoimmunity and how I’ve helped hundreds of patients heal from their autoimmune symptoms, click here.

 

How to Holistically Heal from Autoimmunity

Here’s where the good news comes in. Despite common practice in conventional medicine, it is actually possible to heal (and even reverse) autoimmunity through functional medicine, mind-body techniques, and lifestyle changes.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with autoimmunity, these are the first steps you should take to support your immune system and promote healing.

Food + Nutrition

In the functional medicine world, we view food as medicine. In fact, your diet can be a powerful tool in addressing your autoimmunity. I recommend starting with the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet to get a strong handle on your autoimmunity symptoms and reduce overall inflammation. However, if the AIP diet feels too extreme to start, it’s important to minimally eliminate all gluten and dairy from the diet. These foods are naturally highly inflammatory, exacerbating unwanted symptoms and preventing the body from healing. Ideally, it’s best to adopt a nutrient-dense, whole food diet. For example, aim to consume as much of these foods as possible: grass-fed/organic/wild-caught meats, pastured eggs, organic veggies, seasonal fruits, raw nuts and seeds, sprouted grains, and raw honey. 

Functional Testing

Functional testing dive much deeper than standard conventional medicine testing. It provides valuable insights into what’s going on within the body and aims to find the root cause of your illness. It reveals imbalances and dysfunctions that you might not know about otherwise. These are the functional tests that are commonly run in the case of a potential or recent autoimmune diagnosis:

        • Gut Health – comprehensive stool test and/or urinalysis analyzing gut integrity, microbiome dysbiosis, metabolism, and gut infection
        • Nutrient Deficiencies- to check vitamin and mineral levels
        • Hormonal Panel- include a comprehensive thyroid panel, as well as an adrenal and sex hormones panel
        • Toxins- to test for heavy metals and mycotoxins
        • Immune Function- to test white blood cell count, underlying infections, and auto-antibody screening
        • Inflammation– to track your inflammatory status using lab markers like homocysteine, hs-CRP, ferritin, and more

 

READ MORE:  The Sensitive Approach

Bodywork

As a functional medicine doctor and chiropractor, bodywork plays a major role in my practice and approach to healing. In my opinion, it’s a highly underutilized, yet effective part of treatment. I’ve witnessed every single one of my autoimmune patients respond extremely well to the following bodywork practices:  

        • Lymphatic drainage
        • Chiropractic care
        • Massage
        • Cranial sacral therapy
        • Visceral organ manipulation

 

Movement 

Gentle movement and exercise can do wonders for a healing body. Aim to move your body on a daily basis, in one of the following ways: walking, yin yoga, grounding, swimming, etc. Find the activities that you enjoy most! Note: During the healing phase, it’s important to avoid intense exercise, especially on a regular basis. Opt for gentle, slow movements instead and plan for lots of rest and recovery.

 

Mental/Emotional Health

The mind-body connection is one that is near and dear to my heart. Given the powerful impact your mind can have on your physical health, it’s important to address any mental or emotional imbalances, struggles, or illnesses, in order to experience full healing. Here are a few ways to do so:

        • Psychoneuroimmunology
        • Heal from past trauma
        • Practice gratitude
        • Adopt effective stress management techniques

 

Energy Medicine

Energy medicine is a type of alternative medicine that focuses on channeling healing energies into the body. I recommend working with a practitioner experienced in Chakra work, Meridian Acupressure, or energy work like Reiki.

 

Community

The physical and emotional benefits of a strong community is arguably the one of best therapies available. In fact, loneliness has been shown to be a contributing factor of autoimmunity! So, surround yourself with an experienced, holistic and supportive care team, while also finding others in the autoimmune community to rely on. These relationships can help power you through a difficult healing journey and give you hope when you need it most! 

Also, don’t be afraid to voice your needs about your diagnosis- especially to those who have never experienced a journey like this. Chances are, everyone’s doing their best and figuring new things out as they go, so they’re learning alongside you! 

 

READ MORE:  Top Functional Lab Tests for Autoimmunity

Other Resources

Luckily, in our highly digital world, there is a plethora of resources for the autoimmunity community. A few of my favorite books to read include: “Autoimmune Wellness” by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt, “The Wahls Protocol” by Dr. Terry Wahls, “Against All Grain” or any cookbook by Danielle Walker, and “The Body Keeps Score” by Bessel van der Kolk. In regards to social media, check out the following autoimmune-related accounts: @drnatashaf (mine!) and @autoimmunepaleo.

An autoimmune diagnosis can feel terrifying. I know, I’ve been there myself. However, there is hope! With a little expert guidance, understanding, and support, you can experience true healing and freedom, again!

To learn more about how to work with me one-on-one and understand the root cause of your autoimmune diseases, apply here!

Dr. Natasha F
[email protected]

Dr. Natasha F is a Doctor, Designer, Speaker and Artist. She specializes in healing autoimmunity through integrative chiropractic, functional neurology, functional medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and narrative medicine.

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