Last week I promised you tips on fighting autoimmune flares and I’m here to deliver!! However, I’d like to begin by saying I don’t love the verb “fighting.” When your body flares it’s a signal that something is off. So, I personally prefer to approach it from a place of LOVE, forgiveness, and open-mindedness.
What exactly is a flare?
You’ll know when you have one!!!! An autoimmune flare is characterized by the sudden onset of severe symptoms, usually based on certain triggers. If you haven’t had one imagine all the worst things about your autoimmune disease happening at once… that’s what a flare feels like. So, for example, if you have Crohn’s disease, during a flare your T-cells attack the lining of your gut which can cause horrible stomach pain. Or if you have MS, during a flare you might not be able to get out of bed, you might have trouble thinking clearly, and you might feel extremely weak. We all flare in different ways and based on different triggers.
What are some triggers?
-Exposure to toxins
-Fungal overgrowth (candida)
-Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, ex: aspirin)
-Lack of sleep
Flares are dangerous because inflammatory chemicals are signaled on, your immune system begins to attack itself (which feels like a war inside your body), and your tissues are attacked and can eventually die.
So, lifestyle is a huge part of this formula. To prevent flares, avoid the triggers listed above and in case you missed it, here is last week’s blog on boosting immunity.
We can’t control everything… so here are my best tips for when you experience a flare:
1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Start with forgiveness. You might know exactly what made you flare. Black pepper on a restaurant meal. Gluten contamination. Lack of sleep. That pesky cold. Whatever it is and whether you know the root of it or not, FORGIVE yourself. Say to yourself: “I accept and love myself exactly as I am.” Stressing about something you did wrong will only make it worse. So take a few deep breaths and stop beating yourself up. It will pass.
2. Hydrate. Staying hydrated will help your body do it’s job better. I suggest bone broth. Have 3-5 cups a day with meals or in between meals. My bestie (@kmanstrom) also made up her own concoction which includes hot water with apple cider vinegar, turmeric, ginger, lemon, raw honey (I suggest manuka honey if you have it), and cayenne, if you tolerate it.
3. Make your own fire cider. This requires planning ahead, so make it today. It includes similar ingredients as above but requires 3-6 weeks to sit. The end result is a potent tonic that boosts immunity and is anti-bacterial. Sub peppers for cinnamon if you don’t tolerate nightshades! (RECIPE) Here is a pre-made version, but it has habeneros (for anyone who is on elimination phase of AIP, this is not compliant). Good for those of us who aren’t great at planning ahead though 😉
4. Sleep. Honor your body. Rest. A lot. Give your body time to heal itself.
5. Detox. I’m also not a fan of this word haha. But, it’s important to flush toxins from your body. So by detox I mean: start moving your lymph, support your liver, and get rid of toxins. My favorite ways to do this are salt baths, dry brushing, massage, and taking zendocrine softgels (which you can purchase here).
6. Take a break. Going back to point number 1… don’t be too tough on yourself. The laundry, the dishes, the (insert chore here) can all wait. So either enlist some help or just let them be for now. No one’s judging you but you. So stop.
7. Move your body, preferably outside. This supports our immune system, endocrine system, and is the best way to get some vitamin D. Go breathe some fresh air. Take a short walk. Absolutely not getting out of bed? Try some gentle twists in your bed. Not up for walking? Just stretch a little bit on the floor.
8. Remove inflammatory foods and replace with healing foods. Go back to the elimination phase of the AIP diet. Remove all grains, sugar, conventional meat, dairy, refined oils, and processed foods. Replace with anti-inflammatory healing foods such as wild caught salmon, green vegetables, pineapple, ginger, and cinnamon. It’s tempting to break all the rules when you feel like crap. Resist the urge!!
9. Use essential oils. Diffuse immune boosting oils like on guard and frankincense or a calming blend like serenity. Use vetiver on the bottoms of your feet before bed to help ground you. Oils such as frankincense, rosemary, clove, sage, thyme, and marjoram are all anti-inflammatory as well. Rub a couple drops of basil on the back of your neck for adrenal support. Put a drop of oregano in a vegetable capsule and then fill with fractionated coconut oil and swallow, this helps fight off viruses and infections. (You can purchase oils here. Sign up for my free course on oils here.)
10. Surrender to the experience. Don’t try to keep it all together, that’s even more exhausting. Let it out. If you keep it locked up it will only manifest as anxiety or stress later on. So, CRY, sob, scream, pout… whatever it is you need to release your true emotions. I like to free write in my journal while playing some sappy music. I usually burn whatever I wrote to help release it… and because it usually looks something like… “I’m so damn frustrated. Why is this happening AGAIN? $%#@” An alternative approach would be to journal today (or any day you are feeling really good) and write yourself a love letter. “Dear Sarah, I love you… It’s going to be okay. You will get through this. Rest. Take care of yourself. Stop beating yourself up. Remember to go outside (don’t hate me for saying that… you’ll be happy you did)……” Open that letter when you feel like your body is at war with itself.
11. Ask: “what message is my body sending me?” The answer might be “slow down” or “you need to love yourself more” or “I have a food sensitivity to ________.” Get introspective and consider what you can learn through this experience. Start to gather information. The more you know, the more you can be mindful about preventing flares in the future.
Now I want to hear about what YOU do when you flare? What are your secret tips or remedies? Please share!