by Tracey Pollack
Your immune system is your body’s best defense against disease, but if it turns against you, it can become your worst enemy. This is what happens with an autoimmune disease. Yet it’s simply a case of mistaken identity. But make no mistake, autoimmune diseases affect the lives of more than 24 million Americans, triggering anguish and anxiety on when their next attack will strike. What causes these diseases seems to be a mystery, so uncover your risk, the reality and the remedies.
Attacking Autoimmune Diseases
Normally, your immune system protects your body from germs by sensing foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. When it senses these germs, it sends special cells to fight them off. But autoimmune diseases confuse your immune system, so it’s no longer able to tell the difference between those invaders and your own cells. This mix-up makes your body completely overreact and mistakenly attack your own healthy cells. And this is what happens with an autoimmune disease.
A Break Down of the Symptoms
There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases, each with its own signs and effects. Some attack a single organ, while others don’t discriminate and assault any organ or tissue. The most common are Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease. The symptoms each person suffers is based on several factors, such as genetics, personal health, lifestyle and environment. Symptoms may come and go. When they worsen, it’s known as a flare-up, but when symptoms get better it’s called a remission. While each disease is different, many have the same symptoms. The most common signs include:
- Achy joints
- Sore muscles
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Digestive issues
- Unexplained weight changes
- Skin rashes
- Low-grade fever
- Hair loss
An Outbreak of Treatments
While there isn’t any cure for autoimmune diseases, there are ways to cope and control them. Today’s treatments can help regulate your body’s immune response, which can help relieve the symptoms and suffering. Most treatments include some combination of medications, such as prescription pills, over-the-counter medicines, injections and IV infusions. The type of treatment depends on the type of disease and specific symptoms. Luckily, exciting new treatments are being researched all the time.
Calming Coping Tactics
Along with a variety of incredibly helpful medications, there are many ways to cope that offer hope for real relief. These soothing strategies include:
- Eat Better to Feel Better – Follow a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and dairy products.
- Cut Back on the Bad – Limit your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, salt and added sugars.
- Get a Healthy Amount of Activity – Exercise regularly, but don’t over do it.
- Stress Less – Stress can trigger a flare-up of symptoms, so use meditation and relaxation techniques to ease any tension.
- Give it a Rest – Get plenty of sleep because it allows your body to heal and helps your body fight off diseases.
Autoimmune diseases are destructive to your body and disruptive to your life, so use these helpful tips to attack them head-on.