It is March! Time for St. Patrick’s Day, spring, and hopefully decent weather. Oh, and it’s also National Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month. Autoimmune disease is basically when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. With more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, it is very likely that you have experienced this personally or know someone who has an autoimmune disease. Some examples of autoimmune diseases are Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Hashimoto’s disease. I have personally been affected by two autoimmune diseases. While I am not a professional in the medical field, I can offer some ideas I have learned along the way.
Tips for Autoimmune Disease Awareness
Pay Attention To Unusual Symptoms
After struggling with infertility for years I saw a specialist, who through a very simple blood test, discovered I have thyroid disease. So even though those expensive ovulating strips showed I was ovulating each month, in fact, I was not. My symptoms started to make sense. I experienced weight gain even though I went to the gym. I had brain fog and hair loss. You know your body best, so if something is not working right, seek some answers!
If Possible, Know What Autoimmune Diseases Runs in Your Family
After I had my third little sweetie, I had these awful migraines. I couldn’t function. I experienced these contraction like cramps at night. My eye doctor and even OBGYN chalked it up to hormones. I persisted and talked to my doctor about my family history. My dad and sister both have Celiac Disease and through another very simple blood test (and endoscopy later) she confirmed that I have it as well. Though I had to figure out a lifestyle change, I am able to control my Celiac Disease by not consuming gluten. Had I not known my family history, I may not have even been tested for it.
Be Easy on Yourself
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with information. It is okay to have boundaries and listen to your body. Try and go easy on yourself and remember that it is okay to have bad days. I allow myself plenty of little self-care breaks. Some of my fast and favorites are taking a bath, going to bed earlier so I can enjoy a book, taking walks when I can, working out at a hip hop class and finding time to write. Remember it is okay to find strength in asking for help too, especially with little ones to care for.
There are so many amazing resources out there. I joined a few Facebook autoimmune disease support groups and talked to others going through the same experience. I started reading books on these topics and listening to podcasts. I found family and friends that are totally supportive. Recently I went on a girl’s weekend away and it meant so much to me that people had gluten-free options, although I never asked them to do that. Family and friends that take the time to be aware make a big difference.
After going gluten-free for a couple of years, my blood work came back so much better! My body is able to absorb the nutrients it needs and I cannot tell you how great it felt to see the hard work pay off. I do believe I celebrated that victory with a date night ending with ice cream. It is so refreshing to know that there is so much to celebrate and your autoimmune disease does not define you!
To all those who have an autoimmune disease, you are truly everyday warriors that fight so many invisible pains. As others become more aware of these autoimmune diseases, make sure you take a minute and look at your incredible journey. Even through all the bumps and lows along the way, you continue to persevere. Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with autoimmune diseases! I would love to learn about your journey.