How to Manage Autoimmune Conditions Naturally? Tips on How to Sleep Better, Feel Energized, and Reclaim Your Health!

 In Health, Sleep

A new population-based study shows that autoimmune disorders now affect about one in ten individuals. The study used a very large dataset of 22 million individuals to investigate 19 of the most common autoimmune diseases. They found that, taken together, these 19 autoimmune diseases studied affect about 10% of the population –13% of women and 7% of men. This is higher than previous estimates, which ranged from 3-9% and often relied on smaller sample sizes and included fewer autoimmune conditions.

Living with chronic health challenges, particularly autoimmune conditions, can often feel like navigating an endless labyrinth of symptoms, treatments, and setbacks. Many of us find ourselves trapped in a cycle of self-blame and frustration, feeling as though we are somehow inherently flawed or broken because of our struggles.

Central to understanding autoimmune diseases is recognizing the role of chronic inflammation. Autoimmunity, characterized by the body's immune system attacking its tissues, often leads to conditions such as leaky gut and immune system dysfunction. But our body has a remarkable ability to heal and reverse symptoms, and it's never too late or too early to embark on a journey toward improvement and healing.

These are just some nuggets of wisdom that were shared on our most recent episode of Sleep Like a Boss podcast, by my guest Julie Michelson. Julie is a National Board-Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach, best-selling author, international speaker, and the host of the Inspired Living with Autoimmunity Podcast. 

She is the founder of Julie Michelson Coaching and the co-founder of Navigate Wellness. 

Through her journey of overcoming more than a decade of decline with Rheumatoid Arthritis, she became passionate about Functional Medicine and using lifestyle to create healing. Julie is an expert in supporting others to achieve the changes necessary to experience true wellness.

Battling with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune challenges, Julie refused to accept conventional wisdom and embarked on a quest for healing beyond medication. Armed with her expertise in functional medicine, Julie has not only transformed her own life but also become a beacon of hope and inspiration for others navigating similar paths. Her own journey is marked by determination, setbacks, and ultimately, triumph. From being told that medication was her only option to embracing a holistic approach centered on lifestyle modifications, Julie's story is a testament to the power of resilience and self-advocacy. 

The Five Pillars for Managing Autoimmunity

According to Julie, there are five pillars that matter when it comes to managing autoimmunity: stress management, nutrition, toxins, movement and sleep. 

Stress management 

Stress management isn't just a luxury; it's a necessity for maintaining our overall well-being. Its impacts ripple through various aspects of our health, including sleep, digestion, and immune function. Yet, many of us find ourselves lacking a dialed-in stress management routine, leaving us vulnerable to the adverse effects of chronic stress. Recognizing the importance of stress management is the first step toward reclaiming control over our health.

Here is what Julie suggests: 

  • Incorporating joy into our daily lives is essential for reducing inflammation and promoting healing, even in the face of chronic health challenges like autoimmune conditions. Finding moments of joy doesn't require grand gestures; it can be as simple as watching funny videos, spending time with loved ones, or cuddling with a pet. These small activities may seem insignificant, but their impact on our well-being can be profound.

  • Practicing gratitude is a potent tool for improving sleep and overall mental health. Maintaining a gratitude journal, where we list three things we're grateful for each day, can have significant benefits. Gratitude doesn't need to be elaborate or time-consuming; it's a practice that requires consistent effort but can yield remarkable results. By shifting our focus to the highlights of each day, no matter how small, we can cultivate a sense of peace and contentment that promotes relaxation before bedtime.

Nutrition 

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, has been implicated in promoting gut permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome. This increased intestinal permeability allows harmful substances to leak into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation and immune responses. For individuals with autoimmune conditions, this chronic inflammation can exacerbate symptoms and contribute to disease progression.

Implementing a customized elimination diet, followed by systematic reintroductions, can provide valuable insights into how gluten affects inflammation and overall well-being. By temporarily removing gluten, along with other common inflammatory foods like dairy, sugar, and alcohol, you  can observe changes in your energy levels, sleep quality, digestion, and mental clarity.

Toxins 

The prevalence of autoimmune conditions and other health issues is on the rise, with high toxin loads present from birth playing a significant role in this alarming trend. From exposure to processed foods and environmental toxins to a lack of exercise, these factors contribute to toxin accumulation in the body, impacting gut health, hormone balance, and overall well-being.

Detoxification is essential for managing toxin accumulation and preventing the overflow of the body's metaphorical "bucket" of toxins, which can contribute to inflammation and autoimmune conditions. By adopting intentional detoxification strategies, we can support our body's natural detoxification processes and promote overall health and well-being.

Simple lifestyle changes, such as avoiding plastic use, consuming organic foods, and filtering water, can significantly reduce toxin exposure and support the body's detoxification efforts.

Movement

Exercise is often hailed as a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, and rightfully so. It has numerous benefits for both physical and mental well-being, from improving cardiovascular health to boosting mood and reducing stress. However, when it comes to managing autoimmune conditions, the relationship between exercise and inflammation becomes more complex

While inflammation is a natural response by the immune system to protect the body from harmful stimuli, prolonged or excessive inflammation can damage tissues and exacerbate autoimmune symptoms. On one hand, sedentary behavior and a lack of physical activity can contribute to chronic inflammation and worsen autoimmune symptoms. However, on the other hand, some individuals with autoimmunity may inadvertently exacerbate inflammation by over-exercising in an effort to maintain their fitness and health. Excessive exercise can actually stress the body and trigger inflammatory responses, further aggravating autoimmune symptoms.

So, finding the right balance between movement and inflammation is essential for managing autoimmunity effectively.  Above all, it's essential for individuals with autoimmunity to listen to their bodies and honor their limits when it comes to exercise. Paying attention to how different forms of movement affect inflammation and symptoms can help individuals identify which activities are most supportive and sustainable for their health and well-being.

Sleep 

Sleep plays a vital role in supporting immune function and enhancing the body's ability to fight off infections and pathogens. Chronic sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and exacerbating autoimmune symptoms.

In addition, the interplay between hormones and sleep has profound implications for individuals with autoimmune conditions. Hormonal imbalances can disrupt the delicate balance of the immune system, exacerbating inflammation and triggering autoimmune flare-ups. Additionally, sleep disturbances associated with hormonal dysfunction can weaken immune function, impair cellular repair processes, and contribute to disease progression in autoimmune conditions.

So, as you can see, all of these pillars are pieces of a large puzzle, all connected and affecting each other. This is why, when it comes to autoimmune conditions, it’s important to address all segments at once in order to achieve results. If you are interested in learning more about Julie and her work, make sure you visit her website and connect with her on Instagram

Also, make sure you grab your FREE copy of Julie’s Inflammation Checklist that can give you an idea what's driving your inflammation and some steps you can take to get it going in the other direction.

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