When your immune system encounters a new virus, it manufactures a custom antibody specifically designed to kill that particular virus. When you have recovered from the virus, your body keeps a copy of that antibody to act as a blueprint if you ever encounter that virus again and need to make more antibodies. That is why kids get so many viruses, and adults do not — kids need to make a store of antibodies against common viruses, while adults already have their library of antibodies. This is a fantastic feature of our immune system that helps keep us safe against many infections.
Unfortunately, our immune system’s ability to remember how to fight invaders also means that when it malfunctions and attacks the body’s own tissues, the resulting autoantibody (“auto” means self) never goes away either. Because of this, autoimmune conditions can’t be cured. However, autoimmune diseases can be controlled, and many types of autoimmune diseases can go into remission.
Self-Help for Soothing Autoimmune Conditions
The first step in fighting an autoimmune condition is to get a diagnosis, and then follow your doctor’s orders. While self-help can make a difference, many autoimmune disorders can be serious and require medical care. However, in addition to seeing your doctor regularly, there are many steps you can take to help keep your autoimmune condition under control:
- Take your medicine as prescribed. Many autoimmune diseases require daily medication for life. If you are not experiencing symptoms, it can be tempting to skip your medication because you feel “better”. However, if the medication is keeping your symptoms at bay, they will come roaring back as soon as you stop. If your doctor prescribes medication for you, make sure to ask how long you need to take it and why.
- Avoid known triggers. Some autoimmune diseases have very specific triggers. For example, in celiac disease, eating gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine. If your illness has specific, known triggers, avoid them at all costs.
- Keep a symptom journal. Each day, jot down your symptoms, how much activity you did that day, a quick note about what you ate and drank, your stress level, and anything unusual in your environment, such as high air pollution or the start of spring allergy season. Over time, you will start to identify things that trigger your symptoms so that you can avoid them.
- Take good care of yourself. Everyone should strive to eat well, get lots of sleep, manage their stress levels, and get frequent exercise. For people with autoimmune conditions, this type of self-care is even more important. By keeping your body strong, healthy, well-fed, and well-rested, you will boost your immune system in positive ways and help your autoimmune condition settle down.
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