I like to make sure I make mention of this on my podcast and social media when giving advice: I am not a medical professional! Just a long time lupus warrior learning how to navigate my symptoms through trial and error. So when I share advice, its not because I went to school and read about it, its through experience. With that being said, I would love to share a few things I have learned are best to avoid when you have an autoimmune disease.
I know usually every one tells you avoid certain foods that can trigger flares, which is completely true! There are foods that aggravate autoimmune disease that we should avoid: sugar, caffeine, gluten, red meat and diary being the major ones. I can not and will not be the one to tell you what dietary changes you need to make as I still eat foods off that list. The difference is I now LIMIT the amounts. Living with lupus for 15 years now I have become more in tune with my body and have learned my limits. When I start feeling sluggish and more lethargic I eat less red meat. I stopped with coffee and switched to green tea, etc. Again, I’m not a medical professional so I can not speak freely about what changes are best for you. It just helps to know what foods trigger you.
As unpredictable as lupus is, I can not give blanket statements about the disease. What affects me one way can have a completely different affect on the next person. The one thing I do know is that the major cause of most flare ups is STRESS. Just like lupus, I can not give just one blanket statement about stress in an effort to help you. Stress can look different to every person. My stress factors as a 39 year old mom, partner, working girl might be different for a 29 year old unable to work and struggling with getting disability to pay some bills. I don’t want to just throw a few things out and if you’re reading this and don’t see your particular situation, please don’t think it is because your situation isn’t relevant. Each situation is unique to the individual thats why I offer 1-on-1 coaching to help you address your unique situation and give you tools to rise to your best version.
Going back to the topic, avoiding stress is like avoiding the day. Pretty much impossible. We can not control certain factors in our life. Living with lupus, I realize I can not control the cards life has dealt me. The only thing I can control is how I react to those cards. Being able to manage your emotions can help improve your mental health, in turn helping improve your physical health. Managing your emotions is no easy task though. To be able to manage emotions, first you must be aware of them. Its easy to know when you are upset or happy, it’s those in between emotions that most have trouble recognizing. I’ll dig deeper on that subject in my post about Emotional Awareness. For this post, know that it is a cause of stress to avoid.
Next on the list of things to avoid is direct sunlight. Living in California’s Sunny San Diego, it is hard for me to say avoid sunlight and follow my own advice. So I’m going to give rules to this one. Rule number one (and only): remember that the sun rays are strongest between 10am – 4pm. If you need to be out during these times, seek shade. Wear protective SPF clothing. Wear SPF sunscreen. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. I lived in belief that since I have lupus it meant I have to stay indoors and I became very depressed confining myself to that lifestyle. Most recently, my children were sports and if I still lived with that belief I would have missed some of my children’s most important moments in life. So just make sure IF you need to be outside, be protected!
Rolling off the direct sunlight trigger, another thing to avoid is fluorescent and halogen lights. I loved getting gel manicures regularly up until I realized that my joint pain and sometimes rashes were being inflamed by my monthly visits to the nail salon! When getting mani’s/pedi’s avoid the gel process. Also some offices use certain light fixtures that may flare your lupus symptoms as well. You are able to ask your employer to make reasonable accommodations to either have your seat moved where there are no UV lights or they have to replace them. Do not be scared to request for this through your company’s HR department! There are laws in place to protect you and also protect you from retaliation.
This next one was hard for me in my 20’s because I was trying so hard to fit in with others my age bracket that it ended up further aggravating my condition. When living with autoimmune disease you want to avoid tobacco and alcohol. I say this was hard for me because when you want to enjoy life in your 20’s right? Well I also lived with a debilitating disease that I wanted to escape from. I was going out drinking, smoking cigarettes and experimenting with drugs. All things that were aggravating my lupus.
Autoimmune disease is very debilitating to live with. We have so many physical limitations our diseases put on ourselves it is hard to imagine putting more limits to our life. What if I said these are proven measures that can minimize the impact of your autoimmune disease in your life? Would you be willing to give them a try? Send me an email or message on social media (@shesgotlupus on all platforms) and let me know your thoughts.