Many deaths from severe illnesses, like heart disease and cancer, can be prevented. After all, everyone can prevent those diseases with a healthy diet and lifestyle. What about autoimmune diseases? If they cause the human immune system to work against itself, is there a way to prevent them?
Sadly, there is no guaranteed way to prevent autoimmune diseases. There are no cures for them either. The treatments and medications can only manage the symptoms, but the condition can remain indefinitely.
But you shouldn’t lose hope. You might not prevent autoimmune diseases 100 percent, but you can reduce your risks for them. First, let’s understand what autoimmune diseases are and their impact on quality of life.
Understanding Autoimmune Disease
An autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your body. The immune system protects your body from bacteria and viruses, a.k.a. the foreign invaders of your body. It creates an immune response every time it detects a foreign invader, explaining why you contract a fever or feel unwell when you get an infection.
But with an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakes your healthy cells as foreign invaders. Hence, it creates antibodies that attack the specific body part where it finds foreign invaders, like your joints, thyroid, or skin.
An autoimmune disease can affect only one part of your body or your whole body. For example, type 1 diabetes attacks your pancreas, while systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) attacks your entire body.
Doctors don’t know why autoimmune diseases occur. But they know that some people are more predisposed to it than others. According to a 2014 study, the rate of women developing autoimmune diseases compared to men is approximately 2 to 1. That means 6.4 percent of women might get them, while only 2.7 percent of men do. The autoimmune disease usually occurs during women’s childbearing years (15 to 44 years old).
Ethnicity can also play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases. For instance, lupus affects more Hispanic and African-American women than Caucasians.
Autoimmune diseases, especially multiple sclerosis, and lupus can run in the family. Not every family member will automatically get them, but they can inherit their risk factors.
Managing Risk Factors
If you might be at risk of contracting an autoimmune disease, your only defense reduces your vulnerability. Consider these practices to boost your healthy immune system:
Determine Your Family’s Medical History
Determining the diseases that run in your family can help you develop the appropriate health practices. For instance, if one of your parents has chronic fatigue syndrome, consider yourself likely to get it too, especially if you’re female. Women are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome than men.
Stress is the common denominator of all autoimmune diseases. It causes flare-ups, the sudden onset of severe symptoms. Hence, identify your triggers and try to stay away from them. If you can’t, increase your self-awareness every time you feel stress coming. Remind yourself that you’re in control of your responses and thus overcome your triggers.
Watch Out for Symptoms
Many autoimmune diseases are hard to diagnose. So watch out for early symptoms, which tend to be the same in many autoimmune conditions.
These symptoms include achy muscles, fatigue, low fever, swelling and redness, numbness and tingling sensation, concentration problems, hair loss, and skin rashes.
Specific autoimmune diseases can have unusual symptoms. For example, chronic fatigue syndrome can cause swollen lymph nodes, sleep disorders, and frequent sore throats.
If your symptoms disappear, you can be experiencing a remission, a period when symptoms go away. Observe your condition for a time, and if the symptoms flare up again, go to the doctor.
Eat Foods That Can Beat Autoimmune Disease
A few healthy foods can help you manage your risk factors or symptoms. These include broccoli, salmon, and fish with omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, fermented sauerkraut, turmeric, and halibut. You can create various recipes with these ingredients and make your meals healthier and more flavorful.
Get Checked Regularly
You should visit your doctor regularly if you have significant risk factors for autoimmune disease. Checkups are crucial because some autoimmune diseases are complex. For instance, if you might have chronic fatigue syndrome, doctors first need to rule out lupus, hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, etc. You will only receive adequate treatment for chronic fatigue after completing tests.
You might not prevent autoimmune diseases, but you can prepare your body for them. Observing these healthy practices will allow you to experience only mild symptoms. Be consistent with your healthy lifestyle because a remission won’t last if you revert to bad habits or disobey doctors’ orders.