Some lifestyle factors may protect against itbaibaz/Shutterstock
Because of the gut connection, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be one way to ward off autoimmune conditions. “A well-balanced diet and weight control are key,” Dr. Cihakova says. “We have considerable evidence now that fat tissue is immunologically active, and that overweight and obese people have more a pro-inflammatory environment in their bodies.” Because the main symptom of autoimmunity is inflammation, weight could be a contributing factor. Dr. Cihakova also recommends exercise, which can “prevent debilitating fatigue that is often associated with an autoimmune disease.” Dr. Somers advises getting enough vitamin D and omega-3s, both of which have been shown to have a protective effect. Finally, try to avoid stress, which has also been linked with autoimmunity in studies. Here are 16 foods that fight inflammation.
Lupus is difficult to diagnoseBuckner_Variety/Shutterstock
There are many autoimmune diseases, but here are a few you should know about. Famous millennial Selena Gomez has very publicly revealed she has the autoimmune condition lupus. This disease causes inflammation in many different parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, brain, blood vessels, heart, and lungs. The Lupus Foundation of America says 16,000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S., with 1.5 million Americans living with lupus. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can mimic other diseases and all symptoms aren’t always present, making lupus hard to diagnose. Common signs are a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, joint pain, fatigue, skin lesions, and headaches. Because lupus affects major organs, it can have life-threatening effects if not controlled with medications such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressants. Find out more silent signs of lupus you should never ignore.
Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t for old peopleI'm-friday/Shutterstock
This isn’t your grandmother’s arthritis: RA affects younger people and is caused by inflammation in the joints, not wear and tear like older people’s arthritis. With RA, your body attacks its own healthy joint tissue, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, most commonly in the small joints of the hands and feet. Although it’s not the debilitating condition it once was, meds are necessary to slow the progression of this incurable disease. These might include “disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs” like methotrexate, and “biologic agents” like Humira that block immune signals. Low-impact exercise is also very important to increase muscle strength and reduce pressure on your joints. Fortunately, “rheumatoid arthritis may actually be decreasing,” Dr. Somers says. More good news for people recently diagnosed with RA: A new study from the U.K. showed that those who got treatment within six months of the onset of symptoms had very good long-term outcomes.