When it comes to autoimmune disease, diet and lifestyle play an equal role in management and quality of life. It’s important to remember that every day is a new day, and some days will be easier and others more challenging.
To navigate the ups and downs, strive to maintain a routine that supports optimal physical, psychological, emotional, and social functioning.
I offered diet suggestions in a recent article. Here are some tips for optimizing your lifestyle with SLE:
- Make mental health a priority. This is a tough one for individuals in general. So often we feel like a burden, and choose to tackle all the struggles we face alone. It’s important to remember to ask for help from a medical professional when experiencing symptoms that affect your ability to function, such as pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
- Sleep. Commit to at least seven hours of sleep a night and take a short nap in the middle of the day, when possible, to reduce flare-ups and pain sensitivity. Be careful not to spend too long in bed, though, as it can disrupt the circadian rhythm and make falling asleep in the evening difficult.
- Essential Oils. These highly concentrated plant-based treatments can be diffused or applied topically using a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, to increase energy and help fight fatigue.
- My favorites are:
- Thyme — helps with general fatigue
- Cinnamon — helps with cravings
- Bergamot and lemongrass — helps with physical fatigue
- The quality of the oil is of utmost importance. Ensure your oil has no fillers, synthetic ingredients, or harmful contaminants. Click here for my recommendations.
- My favorites are:
- Be active. Engage in activities that maintain weight, and reduce inflammation and joint pain, such as low-impact swimming and walking.
- Daily meditation. This practice helps to access the inner strength to manage headaches and general mood. Even five minutes of focusing on the natural flow of the breath through the nose can make a difference.
- Get outside. Even though light sensitivity can trigger symptoms, it’s still important to leave the house. Make sure to use sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher, and to avoid direct light exposure. Always bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sit in the shade.
- Practice good hygiene. Washing hands before and after eating is key for optimal immunity.
- Managing pain. Consider trying hot showers, sea salt and lavender baths, acupuncture, tai chi, and therapeutic yoga.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene. This practice includes curating your environment to ensure the air quality is top-notch, and quitting habits like smoking. When the body has to struggle to breathe, it places stress on the heart and blood vessels. This extra stress can be problematic in the long-run and contribute to worsening of symptoms.
The good news is that small changes in lifestyle can greatly influence and enhance the quality of life in individuals with SLE. It is important to remember to be kind to yourself, and take it slow and steady when incorporating these changes into your daily routine.
Self-compassion is one of the most important trainings to practice, as it creates new pathways for the mind and body to support healing.
Alana Kessler, MS, RD, CDN, E-RYT, is a registered dietitian, nutritionist, weight management expert, and an accredited member of the CDR (Commission on Dietetic Registration) and the American Dietetic Association. She is also a yoga and meditation teacher, Ayurveda specialist, and the founder of the New York City-based fully integrated mind, body, and spirit urban sanctuary, BE WELL. Alana’s BE WELL ARC System and Method Mapping technique is a holistic multi-disciplinary approach to health and wellness that blends Eastern and clinical Western diet and lifestyle support to effect long-lasting behavior change.
A graduate of NYU with a BA and MS in clinical nutrition, Alana is dedicated to helping others learn how to nourish themselves, create balance, and understand their true nature through nutrition, yoga, and inner wellness. She leads Yin Yoga workshops and trainings as well as wellness retreats at international locations. Her health, fitness, and lifestyle expertise has been featured in Aaptiv.com, Droz.com, EatThis.com, RD.com, Redbook, WomensHealthmag.com, and Vogue. For more information, visit her website at bewellbyak.com.