As you know, diagnosing and treating autoimmune dis-eases can be tricky. While certain medical treatments and interventions can provide relief, there are daily things that you can do to help your body.
Whether you’ve received a diagnosis or not, you already understand the pain that goes with your condition: burning or tender muscles, tightness, feeling achy, joint pain if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes it feels like something in your body is constantly on fire. Sometimes it goes deeper than your skin, but makes your entire body feel tense.
Though you smile and plug through, the pain can distract you from truly functioning and enjoying life. Your body is putting so much energy into trying to heal, you’re tired much of the time.
Here are 5 tools that you can use to help manage your autoimmune pain.
- Deep Breathing
Deep breathing involves a belly breath. When you engage your diaphragm, (the breathing muscle that runs horizontally across the bottom of your lungs), your body is able to pull in more oxygen. It also increases hormones such as nitrous oxide, which helps to relieve muscle tension.
One of the major benefits of this simple activity is it calms down the nervous system. A hyperactive nervous system, one that is continuously in fight or flight because it’s under stress, increases inflammation in the body. By paying attention to your breath, you can switch to your parasympathetic nervous system, a subdivision of the autonomic nervous system that calms you down.
As you practice deep breathing and your body experiences a state of relaxation, you might notice belly gurgles as your stomach relaxes. Shoulders soften and drop down, back or hip pain releases, and you may feel a warming sensation or your heart expanding.
The beauty of this tool is it’s available anytime, anywhere.
Simply breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, and hold for 4 counts. Do 10 rounds of this and see how you feel.
Regular massage has great benefits, especially for reducing inflammation. One reason is that when you can go to a massage therapist, you’re experiencing the benefit of touch in a way that is nurturing. This increases oxytocin, a feel-good chemical in our bodies that decreases inflammation.
Massage also releases fascia. Fascia is the sticky connective tissue that holds your body together. It surrounds every organ, bone, joint, blood vessel, and nerve fiber, holding them in place. What’s interesting about fascia is it may also be a primary place where emotions are held. As you release stuck fascia, you may also release stuck emotions or trauma that are trapped in your body.
While I’m a big fan of regular massage, there are times we need it NOW, not when the next appointment is available. Fortunately, there are options that you can do at home. All you need is a foam roller or a soft ball. Both are widely available online and in most sporting good stores, in the Recovery/Exercise section.
Foam rolling may be difficult if you have issues getting down on the ground. If you’re able to get on the ground, simply roll up and down your spine and all around your thighs using the foam roller.
If you have a soft ball, can you stand along a wall and roll with the ball between your body and the wall. It’s also a great way to massage the bottoms of your feet, where you get the added bonus of Reflexology. Reflexology is the application of pressure to certain areas of the feet to help alleviate pain in specific areas of the body. You can read more about using reflexology for pain relief here.
If you have neither of those tools, the good news is you’ve got your hands. Simply grab a bunch of skin and use a squeezing motion all over as much of your body as you can.
Yoga is one of my favorite ways to take care of my body. It’s particularly important for me in terms of maintaining joint mobility and balance. I look at it as spending time giving my body a massage/acupuncture session with the added benefit of deep breathing.
Here’s why it’s so powerful. According to Chinese medicine, your body has energy centers called meridians. When you assume the different poses and hold them for a period of time, you give those meridians time to open and allow your energy to flow. As a bonus, while you’re stretching and strengthening muscles, you’re also giving your body deeper benefits. Like calming your nervous system.
All you need is a basic yoga class. You don’t need to get fancy and you don’t need a lot of equipment. A mat, a towel, and some pillows will do the trick. If classes aren’t offered in your area, there are several online. I hold a live class on zoom on Sunday nights. Leave your email in the comments section and I’ll send you the link. I’d love for you to join me.
Toxicity is something that is becoming more unavoidable in our modern world. Did you know that on average, we’re now exposed to 80,000 chemicals a day?! No wonder our bodies are overloaded!
Heavy metal and chemical toxicity in particular seem to wreak havoc on bodies with autoimmune disease.
There are several ways to facilitate detoxification:
- Epsom salt baths
- Switch to whole, organic food over processed or conventionally grown food.
- Eat lots of greens, including parsley or cilantro!
- Long foot soaks (look for someone in your area who offers this modality)
- Lymphatic drainage (look for a practitioner in your area)
- Dry brushing
- Infrared sauna
- Move your body (sweat)
- Cut Sugar
This can be a tough one for people, especially since we’re a society of sugar addicts. But sugar causes inflammation. That’s the bottom line.
You might choose to make some swaps such as honey, molasses, real maple syrup, turbinado sugar or monk fruit powder. You won’t need much to sweeten something and you’ll get more nutrition from natural sources of sweeteners.
Daily self-care goes a long way.
You have more control over your well-being than you may realize. It’s a matter of giving yourself daily space for the self-care your mind and body need. Start by picking one of the tools above and adding it to your daily routine.
Creating a healthy lifestyle to support your body can be challenging when you have an autoimmune condition. It took me a long time of trial and error to find what worked for me. If you need some help figuring out where and how to start, book a free health coaching session with me. I’ll be more than happy to offer you some suggestions and tools that help you take charge of your well-being.