I’ve covered nutrition, circadian rhythms, and stress in the conversation on autoimmune disease. As we now know, healing from an autoimmune disease is a process that includes ALL areas of our life, it’s not a one size fits all and it’s a process. Through science I have learned the one thing that all autoimmune diseases have in common is a leaky gut. Even those autoimmune diseases that effect the stomach had their beginnings in a leaky gut. In other words, our diet was a major part of a series of events that triggered the beginning of an autoimmune disease. Removing gluten from our diet will go a very long way in helping the lining of our gut to heal.
I have also learned that it is a combination of a genetic propensity for an autoimmune disease, a triggering event, and a leaky gut that lead to a diagnosis that most of us aren’t thrilled with. The good news is that we can make our quality of life much better is we commit to making a few changes. These changes are in all areas of our life and our motivation level to get better will be the measuring stick as to how much better we can get. It’s not easy to change habits of a lifetime, I know this first hand as I struggle with it myself on a daily basis. Cutting gluten from my diet has proven to be a challenge, but I am still moving forward as I know that it will be a major part of keeping my Multiple Sclerosis in total remission. I am no longer on any medication for MS, it’s been since December 17, 2012 that I went off my Copaxone, the last in a long line of medications since 1991. I have no intentions of going back on anything!
A piece of the puzzle that I haven’t covered yet is that of exercise. Yes, we have to move! I understand that this is a challenge for a lot of people with autoimmune disease. It hurts to move, balance is non-existent, and things just don’t work the way that they are supposed to work. It’s hard to push when you hurt, I get that. I have to say though, the biggest changes on my journey with MS were when I began pushing my body to perform beyond what I thought it was capable of doing. I didn’t start running or riding the Seattle to Portland (STP) bike ride at the beginning! It has taken me a very long time to get to the place that I am today. I had to learn to push through when things began to hurt as I realized that it was only in the first mile of running or the first 5 miles of riding my bike that the pain was the greatest. Once I warmed up things went much smoother, I just had to get to that point.
I highly encourage all those that are dealing with an autoimmune disease to read the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. In this book he explains why it’s the little things we do on a consistent basis, that make all the difference over time. There is a story in the book of a man named Al Lewis. He suffered a major stroke and was told that he would probably never walk again and he had lost the ability to speak. He didn’t accept that this was to be his lot in life. He began by moving his fingers, that was the best he could do. He didn’t miss a day and soon it was his hands and then his arms. Today he has no signs of ever having had a stroke, he is riding his bike and uses the eliptical trainer 30 minutes a day. In his words “I had faith throughout the entire rehabilitation process that if I could just improve .003 percent each day compounded over time, I would make a full recovery.” He did it and you can too!
This is another major component to your best quality of life. Little steps done over time create huge results. If you can walk, get up and walk around the living room, or maybe just walk across the room. Small things done over time. Slowly increase as you can, you will surprise yourself when you realize how far you’ve come in your own rehabilitation.
We were all born to live a life of peace and joy, this includes those of us that are currently dealing with an autoimmune disease. It does not have to control our life. There are ups and downs, but everyone has those at times, we learn to deal with them and then get right back on track. It’s easy to get off track and then never start back up again, I am here to encourage you to always begin again, you are worth it and you deserve to live life to it’s fullest.