Two years after Emily complained of weight gain, depression and fatigue, she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s. Autoimmune illnesses are often difficult to diagnose as symptoms can be quite diverse.
It takes a skilled doctor to put together some of the complex array of symptoms that people may experience. Autoimmune diseases are on the rise in our society and oftentimes, the symptoms can bubble away in the background before they’re finally diagnosed and treated.
If we have a healthy immune system, we are protected from invading microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi as our body produces antibodies or white blood cells to kill these ‘invaders’ and dispatch them. A healthy, functioning immune system never turns against its host – us!
However, in some people like Emily, their immune system becomes sensitized to cells from their own body, and this can lead to an autoimmune disease. Instead of protecting the body from invading microorganisms, the immune system turns on the body’s own healthy cells.
This may involve the immune system attacking joints, the skin, the pancreas or a combination of these or some other part of our bodies, depending on the kind of auto-immune disease.
TYPES OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
There are over 100 autoimmune diseases including some of the well-known ones like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, psoriatic arthritis, Addison’s, Grave’s, irritable bowel disease (IBS), ulcerative colitis, Sjogren’s, celiac and Hashimoto’s. Around 5% of Australians are affected by an autoimmune disease.
Many people suffer in silence with the symptoms of these chronic diseases, though people often have flare-ups, and it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the cause of these exacerbations of the disease. However, most people find that stress definitely has a negative impact and can be the cause of a flare-up.
Regardless of the kind of auto-immune disease you might have, you’ve probably found it debilitating, possibly painful and it’s probably severely impinged on your activities and your quality of life.
The number of people suffering with these challenging diseases is increasing every year and they are looking for ways to help themselves in addition to whatever treatment they may be using. Indeed, some people have found ways to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the disease, which has greatly improved their quality of life.
Many factors contribute to a positive healing outcome for someone who has an auto-immune disease. Addressing the underlying inflammatory processes behind the symptoms can have a profound and positive impact on your physical health, as can improving your ability to deal effectively with stress. It is remarkable that very few doctors are interested in what a patient eats and yet, our microbiome – our gut bacteria – is always involved in autoimmune diseases.
Some of the areas that are useful to reflect on when living with an autoimmune disease:
- Addressing the physical as well as the emotional distress and frustration that inevitably accompany a chronic illness.
- Improving nutrition. Keeping inflammation down is essential. Removing toxic and inflammatory foods from our diet – in other words, adopting a low H-I diet (a low Human-Interference diet) and adding in nutrition-dense foods that support our health.
- Finding the right exercise. Exercise is therapeutic in most cases when done gently and gradually increased. Too strenuous exercise can trigger autoimmune flare-ups.
- Improving sleep level and quality. It can be a difficult cycle to break – sleep loss impacts the immune response, and the immune system, in turn, alters sleep patterns.
- Reducing exposure to chemicals in food, our personal care products, our cleaning products and the garden shed.
- Effectively managing the emotional rollercoaster of exhaustion, frustration, anger, pain and isolation.
CREATING A HEALING ENVIRONMENT
Quest for Life’s holistic recovery-oriented programs have the potential to change people’s lives in profoundly positive ways. Long-term research on the impact of Quest programs shows over 90% of participants improve their quality of life and feel more in control of and able to make positive changes to their life.
At Quest, we recognise that many people with auto-immune diseases also have chemical sensitivities. No chemicals are used in the grounds or buildings at Quest to ensure a safe and healthy environment for people with life-threatening or chronic illnesses.
There are two electric beds in our group meeting room so that participants who need to lie down can still participate fully in the program.
At our Quest for Life program, you’ll be nourished, educated and supported to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which creates an environment for profound healing. Learn more about ways to create a healing environment through our Quest for Life intensive 5-day residential program.