Auto-immune diseases are some of the most difficult illnesses to diagnose correctly.
Patients can get misdiagnosed, or they might be told that their symptoms are a sign of fatigue and stress. Neither of these ‘diagnoses’ will help them combat the disease that’s actually taking a toll on their lives.
Let’s get to know a bit more about how these diseases are diagnosed, and what you can do after a diagnosis has been established:
As there are over 80 different auto-immune disorders, the actual diagnosis procedure will vary to a certain extent. Most will involve a blood test and a thorough and detailed examination of your symptoms and history, as well as a physical exam.
Some of the things blood tests will look for are auto-antibodies, which cause your immune system to attack your cells. They can also point to signs of inflammation or damaged organ functions, which can be an indicator of an auto-immune disease.
As a patient, here’s what you can do to help your doctor make the right diagnosis:
- Get acquainted with your family history, as auto-immune diseases can run in families. It’s worthwhile to check if any of the extended family suffer from something similar.
- Keep a journal to help you track your symptoms. List all the details that you find relevant, such as: what the symptoms are, what you’re doing when they occur, what you had to eat and drink beforehand, whether you had taken any medications, how long the symptoms lasted, what helped ease them, etc.
- Ask for a second opinion. Your own GP may have difficulty in getting the diagnosis right, so try asking for a referral to a specialist, or just ask around for recommendations of doctors who deal with cases similar to yours.
- Try to be patient. Understandably, you’ll be nervous and worried about your health, and not knowing exactly what’s wrong may make your condition even worse. Try to stay calm and approach the problem rationally.
- Don’t trust Google. We all tend to jump online and look for medical answers as soon as something seems wrong. However, we have still not found a way for the internet to be able to diagnose actual cases, so don’t trust whatever the web has to tell you – not before you have an actual name for your disease, and know what you’re dealing with.
Staying as Healthy as Possible
Once you have your diagnosis, you can start tackling the problem, but there are certain things you can do even before you have a name for it.
- Work on your gut health. 80% of your immune system is in your gut, so making sure it is as healthy as possible is a good way to start. Remove as many toxins from your diet and environment as possible, and then work on replenishing the good bacteria that live in your gut.
- Mind your diet. What you eat has a huge impact on how you feel. After all, food is fuel, and you can’t run for miles on bad energy sources. You can find a comprehensive AIP meal plan that will help you eat a more balanced diet, in turn helping you battle your auto-immune disease.
- Work on your stress levels. This applies to any disease, and life in general. The more cortisol and other stress hormones your body fires, the less you will have space to produce hormones that are actually good for you. Try yoga, meditation, or any other mindfulness practice that can help you cut down on the cortisol. This may be something as simple as a walk to work every day.
- Improve your sleep. Sleep is the one thing we tend to underestimate when it comes to our health. In fact, it’s the most important recovery mechanism our body has. When we deprive ourselves of it, all of our other systems suffer, including our immune system. Use comfortable linen and pillows, and get a quality, supportive hospital bed mattress. If you find yourself getting bed sores, or you simply want to improve your nighttime sleeping experience, try using an alternating pressure pad or mattress overlay. Do what it takes to make your bedroom your sleep haven.
Living with an auto-immune disease can be a challenge, but this doesn’t mean your quality of life has to suffer that much. If you start by getting the right diagnosis, you will soon know what you’re faced with. Then you can treat the disease itself, but also work on improving your overall quality of life.
We tend to take our bodies and health for granted, until something happens to shake us up. And when it’s a case of our own bodies attacking themselves, we may feel particularly vulnerable. Don’t drop the battle just because it may get hard. A large portion of your health is in your own hands: try to make it the best it can be.