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Love_my_doggie's avatar

Advice for strengthening/improving one's autoimmune system?

Asked by Love_my_doggie (10954points) September 14th, 2015

I have a serious condition that isn’t contagious; it’s caused by an autoimmune problem. My body’s attacking and damaging its own tissues. Currently, I’m treating my disorder with a highly-potent topical steroid. I don’t like doing this (although doing so is making life tolerable) and would prefer a holistic approach.

I’m aware that the autoimmune system isn’t one thing but, well, a system of defenses. Aside from the obvious approaches—eating a nutrition-packed diet, avoiding alcohol, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep—does anyone have advice?

Please don’t respond with “U R a idiott,” or something equally profound. I’m really hoping that some members of the jelly community will have helpful knowledge.

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24 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I was just going to say diet and exercise, so I can’t really help with actual medical advice, sorry.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I have a friend that has issues with her autoimmune system. She follows this website AARDA.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

@Tropical_Willie Thank you for the link. Until now, I hadn’t been familiar with AARDA. I’ll check-out the website and be grateful for your help.

SmashTheState's avatar

Pick your nose and eat it. Not kidding. We are born with an instinct to pick our nose and eat the snot which has to be socialized out of children. The mucous is full of dying and dead germs which help the body build an immune response to full-scale attacks. Same thing with earwax, and for the same reason. Also, don’t be overly careful about cleaning in the kitchen; re-using dirty utensils and leaving the damp rag or sponge around for a few days without disinfecting it will leave it teeming with massive quantities of germs which you will ingest with your food, and which will keep your immune system strong.

jca's avatar

One’s immune system and the autoimmune system are two different things.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know a ton about immunity, but the immune system being in overdrive is part of the problem. Drugs to treat allergies and some autoimmune disorders squash the immune system in purpose.

I believe a lot if autoimmune diseases are actually caused by some sort of undiscovered, or undiagnosed infection. I’m not in the medical field, I just base that in my experience and diseases that were once thought to be autoimmune, but now are treated with antibiotics. I don’t think infection is the answer for all things that fall under the autoimmune umbrella, I just think it accounts for some of them.

What disease are you diagnosed with? I would say get third and forth opinions, and don’t only see rheumatologists, and read up in your diagnosis. Also, consider all symptoms, everything counts. A particular symptom might lead you to a new answer or treatment.

Definitely eat well and do some exercise daily. Lots of colorful veggies and fruits and legumes.

Cruiser's avatar

Take this with a grain of salt…from the extensive reading I have done on this very subject is many herald a healthy whole foods diet free of red meat and white sugars and breads. That IMO only scratches the surface as many studies I have read have suggested our immune systems need selenium to be robust. Sadly over farming of our farmlands do not allow for Selenium to be naturally reintroduced to our soil so most of our fruits and vegetables are devoid of this critical nutrient. We think we are eating healthy yet the ‘octane’ in our foods are stripped of the elements like Selenium we need. Eating organic is a step in the right direction….taking a supplement may be what can help. Makes sense to me but do your own research. Hope you rock it in no time!

Love_my_doggie's avatar

@jca “One’s immune system and the autoimmune system are two different things.”

I’m very new to this and just starting to climb the learning curve. I believe that the immune system defends a body against disease, and autoimmune disease develops when that same system believes that healthy cells are foreign. In other words, the immune system attacks healthy tissues. That’s certainly what’s happening to me.

jca's avatar

@Love_my_doggie: Yes, your description is accurate.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

I’m learning more with each post, and I appreciate everyone’s help and compassion.

So, @jca, if an autoimmune disease is an immune system in overdrive, I guess the place to start is by regulating immunity. That must be how health-laden food, exercise, and enough sleep can work.

@JLeslie I’ve already gone for 3 opinions and a biopsy. The symptoms lead to an obvious diagnosis, so the biopsy was just a formality, to be certain. My condition is external, but it causes severe pain and permanent scarring, along with impeded bodily functions. The super-steroid cream is stopping the pain and preventing any further damage, yet I hate the idea of applying potent steroids. I’d much rather heal from within. Yes, I need a diet that looks like a rainbow.

gorillapaws's avatar

Please be aware of phrases like “supports immune health.” These statements aren’t verified by the FDA for efficacy or safety. I could literally take a bottle of water, slap a label on it that says “supports immune health” and sell it without any legal repercussions (water does support the immune system). Whatever decisions you make, be sure to run those by a MD, and be sure those have been tested in double-blind peer-reviewed studies for safety and efficacy. There is an insane amount of snake oil, marketing and misinformation related to “boosting the immune system” or “supporting immune health.”

cazzie's avatar

When I was first diagnosed with Graves Disease, I also got some very strange allergic reactions. Periorbital eczema became a horrible problem. I started eating as organic and as low on the food chain as possible. No meat. No dairy. No alcohol. I think it helped. I ate weird things that I thought might help clean my system out. Organic garlic sandwiches. Organic dark grape juice. I don’t know if it really fixed the problem or if it would have cleared up on it’s own. I also seem to have a very mild form of Graves and I go into remission for months at a time and never developed secondary permanent problems like the eye bulging problem. Now, I eat and drink pretty much what ever I want. I’m old and suffering from other health issues, like gall stones, as well and can’t be bothered to care anymore. I lived in New Zealand, so finding real food wasn’t a problem. When I visit the US, I always have a hard time finding food that hasn’t been processed or messed with by an industrial process of some sort. I guess it depends where you live.

Topical steroids are harsh but important. Has your specialist suggested any form of light therapy? Here in Norway, they treat some autoimmune conditions that affect the skin with certain light spectrum therapy. http://www.uchospitals.edu/specialties/dermatology/light-therapy/

JLeslie's avatar

I too had biopsies, and had a diagnosis, and used topical steroids, and in the end antibiotics were my magic pill. That doesn’t mean your situation is the same, in fact if you have a definite diagnosis of a known disease, and the treatments help, I certainly am not trying to tell you to not do the treatments. Steroids did give me some relief when things were very bad, and I happened upon an effective antibiotic by chance after years of pain, which might have never happened. I was just short of obsessed with believing there was an underlying cause, because of the total of my symptoms, and in some ways that “obsession” hurt me, and in some ways it helped.

If you get a bee sting and you’re allergic, the body overreacts to the pathogen and instead of a small swelling at the site of the sting the hystamines in the body can swell lots of tissue and even hamper breathing and kill the person. The allergic person dies, and I get the same sting and just have a small annoyance for a couple of days. That’s an example that is not infectious. Lymes disease and stomach ulcers from bacteria are examples of infectious diseases previously thought to be autoimmune with no infectious component.

@cazzie brought up her Graves’ disease, and I too have skin troubles when my thyroid is under or over medicated. I get a subtle rash, it doesn’t feel subtle, on my neck, upper chest, and it can start to crawl up my chin and cheeks. My eyes get very dry, my hair starts to fall out. I must have been tested for Sjogren’s and Lupus 3 different times. I developed some sensitivities to some soaps, latex, and some natural ingredients. I had contact dermatitis testing done and not one reaction from any chemical, except the strips that were holding each chemical
In place. I think part of the sensitivity was similar to when orange juice stings your throat if you have strep or a virus, but otherwise you can drink orange juice just fine.

I certainly am not telling you to ditch what the doctors are advising, I’m only saying over time you might learn new things about the disease through new doctors and patients. It sounds like you are doing just that.

I personally tend to not like “natural” promises that are untested, but some diet changes are probably worth trying if they seem within reason. Things like thyroid, vitamins and mineral you can have tested with a blood test before popping pills.

I would be pretty sure your doctors already tested your thyroid, but I encourage you to look at the numbers yourself. If your T3, T4 or TSH is near the end of normal in either direction, or outside of normal, I would see an endocrinologist.

I tell all people, especially women, to have their B12, D, and iron checked. Most likely your iron or CBC has been checked many times. B12 and D possibly not. If you aren’t tan (darker from the sun not matter what your skin color) you are likely D deficient. If you deficient in any of these things it doesn’t mean getting the numbers to normal will be a perfect cure, but I think
It can help.

Pandora's avatar

I agree with Cruiser. Eat organic as much as possible. At home I have acid reflux every once in a while. When I went to Costa Rica for 10 days I noticed that my acid reflux wasn’t affected by the food. In Costa Rica they are proud of their food being organic. Free from pesticides, gmo, steroids and antibiotics. There are cows and chickens all over the place that roam free to eat. Not caged up in filthy conditions. I could even have 3 cups of their coffee. I bought some home and I found I could drink it all day with no ill effect. My husband used one of our coffees and the first cup of coffee made my stomach sick.

I know this has nothing to do with autoimmune, but my point is that I’m more convinced than ever that our food is tainted and is what is making us sicker than ever. Auto immune and allergies are so much more common. Eczema, asthma and hay-fever has doubled or trippled since the 70’s. So has our weight.But I know plenty of thin people with health issues that they shouldn’t have. I think a healthy diet eating organic foods can help put our bodies back on track and in the long term help us even lose weight.

I remember when steroid chickens were being sold like crazy in Puerto Rico. Young girls were over developing and even getting a lot of facial hair. Young men were also developing facial hair at a young age. Many getting fat as well eating the same diet they always ate. Then it hit the states and the same happened here. I think it is one of the leading causes to obesity and auto immune.and a host of other problems. Through in years of pesticides that still remain in our ground and you end up with crappy health.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora I also think storing food in plastic, and microwaving in plastic, is a big problem. Especially, the plastics that contain BPA.

cazzie's avatar

@JLeslie cans are lined with a BPA resin as well. If you have plastics you store food in, don’t put those in the dishwasher, either, as the heat breaks down the resins and BPA can leach into the food put into the containers, even if not microwaved.

snowberry's avatar

I’m an alternative medicine gal. Unfortunately @gorillapaws is right. There is a lot of false information out there regarding “immune health”, but I’ve noticed the same to be true in the medical community as well. Unfortunately, it’s always “buyer beware”.

If your body is freaking out to the extent you describe, simply enhancing your immune system probably isn’t going to help much. And if you have an autoimmune condition, trying to push your immune system can actually make your situation worse!

Western medicine can help to a point, but if I were in your shoes, I’d get some help from a good naturopath, holistic medical doctor, etc. I’m pretty good at networking. PM me if you wish for more info.

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie I store almost all
leftovers in glass and ceramic. I didn’t know about the dishwasher. I put everything in the dishwasher, but I don’t use the heater to dry. Although, I know the water reaches 150F I don’t know if that’s hot enough to cause damage? Several years ago I went through and checked all the numbers on my plastic storage containers and threw out the ones that had the “bad” numbers. However, I still sometimes heat frozen foods in the plastic they come in, I have no idea if that has BPA, but I assume no matter what it isn’t good to heat in plastic anyway.

cazzie's avatar

@snowberry has a point about the immune system. When I was first diagnosed, I thought I’d be given immunosuppressents because I didn’t know how my disease was treated. You don’t want to do anything to jack up an immune response in your system. One theory about my disease is that it was triggered by stress. Quite possible. Just be careful of quacks. I saw my share and because I was seeing them, I actually suffered a great deal more because I wasn’t getting properly diagnosed and treated. Be sure you keep with your medically trained doctor and specialist and educate yourself and network with people with the same condition.

Lawn's avatar

1) Avoid sugar. Eliminate anything containing ingredients ending in “ose” (glucose, lactose, fructose, etc) or containing the word “syrup” (cane syrup, corn syrup, etc).

2) Avoid gluten as it is linked to several auto immune diseases.

3) As mentioned by @Cruiser, @cazzie and @Pandora, eat organic foods. At the very least, memorize the Dirty Dozen – list of foods that contain the most pesticide residue (it changes from year to year and may differ by country).
Apples
Strawberries
Grapes
Celery
Peaches
Spinach
Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines (imported)
Cucumbers
Cherry tomatoes
Snap peas (imported)
Potatoes

4) If you are taking antibiotics, consider eating fermented foods/probiotics to help restore healthy bacteria.

5) Practice meditation to help control your stress response.

6) And now for something a bit more controversial and fun… if you want to eliminate your dependence on immunosuppressive steroids, learn to suppress your autoimmune response voluntarily.

Consider the combination of third eye meditation, cyclic hyperventilation, breath retention and ice water immersions as described in this scientific study. Here is an excerpt:

“The innate immune system is crucial to our survival, but excessive or persistent proinflammatory cytokine production can result in tissue damage and organ injury, such as in autoimmune diseases. Biological therapies that antagonize proinflammatory cytokines or their receptors are very effective and have revolutionized the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. However, these drugs are expensive and have serious side effects. Therefore, innovative therapies aimed at limiting inflammatory cytokine production in a more physiological manner are warranted.

Acute activation of the sympathetic nervous system attenuates inflammation via activation of β 2-adrenoreceptors by catecholamines, exemplified by the fact that (nor)epinephrine attenuates lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced TNF-α release in vitro and short-term infusion of epinephrine limits production of proinflammatory cytokines in vivo during experimental endotoxemia (i.v. administration of LPS in healthy volunteers). In addition, as part of a stress response, increased levels of catecholamines are often accompanied by elevations of the well-known immunosuppressive hormone cortisol [via activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis].”

kritiper's avatar

Eat any and all kinds of cheese.

greatfullara's avatar

i have a theory that your cells and immunity rely on electricity in your body to function properly.in order to have that you need proper minerals.i.e. selenium,also calcium and magnesium are calming to your system.pesticides upset everything.go gluten free,and do cleanses.lots of good water helps.a proper electric field in your body.rhieki and accupuncture might help.

cazzie's avatar

@greatfullara Look forward to the scientific paper on that. rhieki and accupuncture…... LOL

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