How to Manage Autoimmune in a Pandemic

I was sitting around speaking with my husband last night trying to determine what I wanted to write about this week, and he brought up autoimmune and Covid. I’m a bit shocked that I haven’t written about it yet given that it’s almost August and this has been around since March. Better late than never, right? So, let’s talk about how to manage those autoimmune symptoms during a pandemic.

First off, because this is a new virus and I’m not an expert in viruses, I won’t be going into detail about Covid itself. But what I am going to speak about is how to manage autoimmune symptoms during all of this chaos, and even how to avoid or minimize the symptoms of Covid. Most of my clients right now are dealing with a resurgence of symptoms unfortunately, and are finding themselves no longer in remission. Stress of course is higher, but there are other factors at play.


Nutrient Status

First, if you missed my post on nutrient deficiencies and autoimmune disease, check that out HERE first. As you likely know by now, there are certain nutrients that when low, can cause symptoms to re-emerge and put you at a greater risk for illness. A big one? Vitamin D. So make sure those levels are above a 40 ng/mL (but below 60). Sure, you can supplement, but then we get into the business of ensuring that K2 and magnesium are also optimal. An easier thing is to ensure you’re getting sunshine on a daily basis, with no sunscreen and no sunglasses. No, I’m not encouraging you to be outside for hours and turn into a tomato, just 10 minutes a day to soak up some rays and help reset that circadian rhythm.


Stress

You know I couldn’t do a post without talking stress! Seriously though, managing stress right now is crucial. And no, that doesn’t mean that because you’re “Type A” or “like to stay busy” that this doesn’t pertain to you. In fact, it does to you more than anyone. Why? Because those that think they manage stress well, or are the go go go mentality, often have weak self care routines (I know, because this was me and it’s still a fight).

I recommend setting aside at least ten minutes a day to do something that relaxes you and calms the mind. Guided meditation is a great one because you’re less likely to get distracted. I’m also a big fan of pausing throughout the day to do some deep breathing, or progressive relaxation (you can read about that here). We know that managing stress is crucial for autoimmune, and stress is higher right now due to Covid, whether you’ve acknowledged it or not. If you ignore everything else in this blog post, prioritize your self care and mindset routine. You’ll see big changes when you do.


Eat right

You don’t have to eat a ‘perfect’ diet by any means, but now more than ever when avoiding illness, it’s crucial to keep your diet low inflammatory. That means greatly limiting sugar and artificial sweeteners, highly processed and refined foods, and loading up on whole foods that come from the earth. The worst thing you can do when trying to avoid Covid is to start loading up on those cookies or alcoholic beverages, because viruses feed on sugar.

If you’re going to indulge (I get it, we’re human), just make sure to do it in moderation and treat it for what it is- a treat. Also, don’t throw your blood sugar and hormones completely out of whack for a piece of gluten free cake or a margarita. Make sure to pair it with something that contains a little protein, fiber, and fat to balance that out.


Support your gut

Hippocrates said it best with “all disease begins in the gut.” One of the best things we can do for autoimmune and overall immune function is to support the gut. Yes, diet and stress management are crucial for gut function, but there are other things you can be doing as well.

First, make sure you’re feeding the good bacteria. That means some regular fermented foods like sauerkraut or kefir, and prebiotic rich foods to feed those good bugs. Those include garlic, onions, less ripe bananas, chicory and dandelion greens. If you’re not a fan of prebiotic or probiotic-rich foods, then opt for a good set of supplements.

The other key to gut health is to ensure that your “eating hygiene” is on point. So chew until your food is applesauce texture, take a breath between bites, and slowwwwww down. Food isn’t meant to be inhaled, it’s meant to be enjoyed. Also, keep that beverage intake to a minimum. A glass during a meal is fine, but anything more than that is diluting all those stomach enzymes that you need to properly digest and assimilate nutrients.


Move

Get up and move daily. No, you don’t need to go to the gym, but spend some time getting some daily movement. If the kids are home with you, get out and walk or bike together. Get some resistance bands and do a 15 minute workout using those (trust me, they work well). Or even just do some body weight squats, lunges and push ups. Sitting all day is one of the worst things you can do for your health. And on the flip side, some daily activity can really help with immune function which is even more important right now with Covid. No need to overcomplicate it, just make sure to move daily.

That’s it! Simple enough, right? People often get overwhelmed with autoimmune, let alone during a pandemic, but it doesn’t need to be rocket science. Take some time to really implement these steps outlined above, and I promise that you’ll find your body going back into balance.


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