It can be challenging to get an autoimmune disease diagnosed. Some doctors may not be familiar with the symptoms, or they may attribute them to other conditions like infectious diseases.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. The immune system attacks cause chronic inflammation in normal cells which leads to symptoms of autoimmune disease. There are over 100 types of autoimmune diseases, which is one of the biggest driving factors in how long it takes to get an autoimmune disease diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, autoimmune diseases can seem scary, but don't let that prevent you from living your best life. Just because you've been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease doesn't mean you must stop enjoying life.
As a 20-year wellness industry veteran who also lives with an autoimmune disease, I have made mistakes along the way. These mistakes cost me healing time, missed work, and missed social activities with friends and family. I've definitely learned a lot about what not to do through my own experiences and working with my clients.
Here are 9 mistakes to avoid when first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease:
1. Not seeking a second opinion -
Getting a second opinion is vital to ensure you receive the best treatment possible for your autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases affect many internal organs, blood vessels, and other body systems. You can be confident you're getting the most comprehensive care possible by seeing multiple specialists in order to relieve symptoms.
Autoimmune diseases are complex, and it's essential to have a team of experts working together to ensure that you're getting the best possible care. So don't be afraid to seek a second opinion or see multiple healthcare providers – it could be the best decision you ever make.
Many of us have gone through a number of doctors before finding the right medical team to support and treat autoimmune diseases. If you don't feel comfortable, heard, or validated, keep searching. You're health and wellness are important.
Don't settle for anything less than the best team of medical and allied health professionals who can help you manage your autoimmune disease. With the right support, you can live a full and healthy life despite your autoimmune disease.
2. Not using Doctor Google -
Autoimmune disease patients should make an effort to be as informed as possible about their condition. The internet is a valuable resource for research, but it's important to use credible sources. Google Scholar is a great place to start, as it provides access to scholarly articles and other reliable sources.
I can't say it enough: Do your research, be informed, and ask questions. Know as much as possible about all the current information on your autoimmune disease, treatments, the latest research, and the latest treatments.
Ultimately, the more you know about your autoimmune disease, the better. Knowledge is power. The more you know about your condition, the better equipped to manage it and advocate for yourself!
3. Ignoring your symptoms -
Autoimmune disease symptoms vary widely from person to person. And even autoimmune to autoimmune disease. If you're feeling something isn't right, listen to your body and talk to your doctor.
Joint pain is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Muscle weakness is a common symptom of myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis.
Weight gain is a common symptom of Grave's and Hashimoto's disease.
Headaches are a common symptom of Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and Behcet's disease.
If you're feeling something isn't right, listen to your body and talk to your doctor. Ignoring your symptoms can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. And delayed treatment can lead to serious health complications. So if you're feeling something isn't right, don't wait. Talk to your doctor.
4. Taking medication without understanding the side
Many autoimmune diseases are highly complex and challenging to manage. As a result, many people rely on medication to help control their symptoms. However, understanding the potential side effects of any medication you are taking is a must. Otherwise, you may be unable to tell if new symptoms are caused by the medication or by your autoimmune disease.
Often, the side effects are minimal and include symptoms like higher blood pressure, changes to thyroid hormone levels (which might not be bad depending on your autoimmune disorder), headaches, increased fatigue, etc. But if even these more common side effects are interfering with your activity levels or enjoyment of life, discuss them with your medical team.
In some cases, side effects can be severe or even life-threatening. Therefore, it is always best to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have and make sure you understand all the risks involved before starting, stopping, or increasing the dosage or frequency of any new or existing medication.
I've experienced reactions to medications and did not talk to my doctor in time before having an adverse reaction. Luckily, I only had to stop taking the meds to reverse my situation and once the medication was out of my system, I was back to normal. It was a hard lesson, and I'd hate to see my readers do the same.
5. Overdoing it when you first start feeling better -
Autoimmune diseases can be absolutely debilitating some days. You might feel like you're dragging yourself out of bed, let alone go to work or care for your family.
But then, you start feeling a bit better. You might even feel like your old self again. It's tempting to dive back into your regular routine, but taking things slowly is best. Autoimmune diseases are taxing on our bodies, both physically and emotionally. If you overdo it, you might end up experiencing a relapse.
Easing back into your regular routine gradually will help prevent relapses and ensure that you don't overload your system when feeling good. But by listening to your body and taking things slowly, you can start to reclaim your life.
6. Quitting your medication too soon -
Chronic health conditions are difficult to live with. The symptoms can be painful or debilitating, and the treatments can be expensive. So it's understandable that you might want to quit your medication as soon as possible. In some cases, stopping your medicine too soon can actually make your autoimmune symptoms worse.
But before you do, check in with your doctor. They can help you understand how the medication is helping you and offer advice on other treatment options.
7. Not exercising -
Exercise is key to maintaining your health when you have an autoimmune disease. Be careful not to overdo it, especially during a flare. Signs of exercise-induced flares include muscle aches, muscle weakness, joint pain, fever, and similar symptoms to your autoimmune disease.
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop exercising and consult with a Medical Exercise Specialist (like me!). I will help you find the right exercise type for your body now and in the future as you progress with your autoimmune journey.
8. Refusing to change your eating habits -
Eating a healthy diet isn't just for bowel diseases like Crohn's, SIBO, or Ulcerative Colitis. Eating healthy is a crucial part of managing any and all autoimmune diseases. Your digestive system aids your body's ability to heal and recover from autoimmune flares and boosts your immune system.
This means consuming plenty of vegetables and protein and avoiding processed foods and sugar. For some people with autoimmune diseases, this can be a challenge. They may have grown up eating a certain way or may not have access to healthy foods.
Remember that autoimmune diseases are lifelong conditions, and changing your diet will pay off in the long run. Not only will you feel better, but you'll also be setting yourself up for a healthier future.
9. Not Exploring Eastern or Alternative Medicine -
There are a variety of Eastern and alternative medicine treatments that can help you manage your autoimmune disease. These include acupuncture, Pilates, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, massage, and reiki.
While there is no cure for autoimmune diseases, these treatments can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Always review any herbal supplements with your pharmacist to prevent complications or interactions.
I'm a HUGE fan of combining Western Medicine with traditional and alternative practices to ensure the best positive outcomes for myself and my clients.
Living with an autoimmune disease can be challenging, but following these nine tips can make it easier. Avoid making these mistakes, and you'll be on your way to embracing a healthier life and enjoying the vibrant lifestyle you deserve while avoiding pain or chronic illness!
What other mistakes have you made in your healthy autoimmune disease journey? Share in the comments below!
I love empowering people living with Autoimmune diseases to reduce pain and inflammation, balance hormones (like insulin, glucose, and thyroid hormones), and lose weight without restrictive eating, over-exercising, or mystical snake oil products.
I use a holistic-client-centered approach to helping you live a healthy, vibrant, and enjoyable life. Join my email newsletter and get insider access to my programs, services, and tips not found on my blog.