Where to Start When You’re Diagnosed With an Autoimmune Disease

So, the dreaded diagnosis comes and you’re left thinking…wtf do I do now? I certainly remember how we felt the day my husband received his first diagnosis (he was diagnosed with his second shortly after). Multiple emotions were happening for both of us, just from two completely perspectives. Because of that, and because of the fear I’ve seen so many go through, I wanted to help other navigate their journey.


Initial Emotions

First, it’s ok to freak out a bit. You’ve just been diagnosed with a bizarre medical condition where your immune system starts targeting the beneficial microbes and the healthy cells of your body. It’s totally fine to feel all the emotions that you’re feeling, and in fact, it’s good. But, I usually tell my clients that the fear stage shouldn’t last more than a few weeks, because there are things you can do to feel better and put your disease in remission. If you stay in the fear or anger stage, your body won’t heal.


Research

After the initial shock, it’s time to move into the research phase. You need to know what you’re dealing with, especially since there are more than 100 autoimmune diseases. Beyond that, you’ll also want to know what organs are involved, what complementary care may help, and even who you can connect with who are dealing with the same thing (because support is huge).


Diet + Lifestyle

Once you have a good grasp on your autoimmune diagnosis, this is when I generally recommend people start making the necessary diet and lifestyle changes. With this, there are usually more emotions. For my husband, he actually had a short period of mourning when he realized he had to give up gluten.

This stage is where you should be spending the majority of your time, because for most, you likely have many changes that need to happen. While everyone’s journey here looks a bit different, there are several things that are truly non-negotiable if you want to get better:

Gluten

– Gluten needs to go. I know, I know. I won’t elaborate on it too much here, but there’s a lot of research supporting that gluten is a common trigger of autoimmune disease. If you want to read the science behind that, click here for a great study.

AIP

– AIP (autoimmune paleo protocol) is likely in order, or even something like Wahl’s protocol. Neither are easy, and for some, they need to ease into it. If diving into drastic nutritional changes is too difficult, check out my guide to making small steps for big changes here. If you are ready to hit the ground running, THIS SITE is fabulous for getting started on AIP.

Lifestyle Factors

– Stress management, sleep and self care also need to be evaluated and worked on as needed. For many, autoimmune diseases are triggered by multiple factors, and lack of sleep or stress are two common areas of imbalance. Make sure your sleep habits are allowing you to get 7-9 hours a night, and manage your stress appropriately. Even though most of us have busy, chaotic days, stop to smell the roses. Literally. Take some deep breaths throughout the day, do stuff you love, laugh, and say no when you want to. You’ll be surprised at the positive effects you’ll experience from those small things.


Seeking Answers

This is what I consider to be the last phase, and along with diet and lifestyle changes, it’s a long-term one. Many choose to take a medication in hopes that it helps, and/or live with debilitating symptoms. I’m here to tell you that you can and will feel better. Not overnight of course, but in time. It also really helps to have an open mind to different therapies, and be willing to work on any past emotions or trauma that are hindering the healing process.

For some, alternative therapies like acupuncture, energy work, and reiki can be extremely beneficial. In addition, find a functional medicine practitioner to help you navigate what you need the most help with- do you have an imbalance of gut flora? Pathogens? Genetics that need ‘cleaning up’?

Dealing with a new autoimmune diagnosis is scary for most, but I promise that there is hope. I’ve seen it first hand in my own husband and dozens of clients. Stay strong, keep a positive outlook, and start looking for answers!

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