Stress and Autoimmune Disease
Are you doing everything right to heal your autoimmune disease but nothing is working? Stop. You could be stuck in a stress spiral - especially if you haven’t been sleeping OR you’ve been working out like a crazed person - OR - you are literally human because of everything that is going on in the world right now.
Many people don’t realize - and you may be one of them - that stress is deadly and it is a major cause of autoimmune disease and autoimmune flares. I’m not being dramatic. It has a physical effect on your human suit especially when it is sustained or routinely happening. Stress doesn’t just have an impact on your physical health though, it causes our health, energetic field, relationships, and livelihood to suffer. Stress changes our moods, impedes our ability to form clear thoughts, actions, and plans - it makes us more susceptible to getting sick and more prone to autoimmune disease and flares of existing autoimmune conditions.
Overall, stress can weaken your body and spirit. - it doesn’t make you weird, or wrong, in even incapable of healing. There are so many experts out there shouting “do this!” and “get rid of that!” and because they look like experts and when we are suffering we are desperate for something to work - we jump on board and then find ourselves still suffering from symptoms and on top of that now suffering in emotional ways because we gave up our favorite foods.
We are changing that today friend! Today we are talking about stress and autoimmune disease - which may be more important that ever before.
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Stress and Autoimmune Disease
Transcript (this is fairly raw transcript - there will be errors)
Stress and Autoimmune Disease
Welcome if this is your first time listening - I’m Audrey Christie - I’m a functional and integrative nurse nutritionist and energy medicine practitioner. I help women stop chasing symptoms and find relief and ultimately learn how to heal their bodies from autoimmune disease.
A brief word about Racism and White Privilege
It would be violent, remiss, inappropriate, I can think of many things here - but let's go with wrong of me not to mention what is happening in the world right now especially because silence is violence. Many of you wondered where I was last week - I committed to a week of amplifying and centering black voices so that I could listen. You have to listen and learn and unlearn. One of my biggest takeaways and it makes total sense, I am sad I didn’t think of it before is that this is a white people problem and it is up to us to fix it now and raise up people of color.
There are so many ways to get involved because this is a long fight - I have a list of places you can get involved from free to paid and from marching to from the comfort of home.
For me, I am committed to donating funds to causes like GrassRoots Law and the National Bail Out Fund for Black Mamas. I have been learning about systemic racial oppression and participating in ways to change that in my local government, and unlearning and learning all that I can. I am also confronting racial injustice even when it’s uncomfortable. I am currently reading Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad and encourage you to seek work on this topic from BiPOC authors and compensate them (it's not their duty to teach us for free).
I am teaching my kids about the things that I thought they were too young to know about, like racism because it is a privilege for them to learn about it and not experience it.
I will continue to fight for equitable nutrition in schools and underserved areas as I always do but with a new focus and passion because I believe that when we know better we do better. I won’t always say it right but I stand in solidarity. It's up to all of us, to educate ourselves and then take action.
It’s interesting with all of the stress 2020 has brought for this week’s topic to be about STRESS, right? But here we are.
What is the deal with stress and autoimmune disease?
Without stress you are dead but with chronic stress, you are also dead or suffering from chronic illness and like an autoimmune disease. Bummer right?
Stress is considered any experience that causes tension, whether physical, psychological, or emotional, especially if it sets off the “fight or flight” response.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing, it’s actually a built-in response so that when you are in danger, you can use the resources in your body to fight, flight, or freeze.
The problem is happening because the rate at which the world around us has evolved has been so much faster than our human suits have been able to evolve to keep up. So our bodies, specifically something called the HPA-axis, still puts the body on high-alert whether it's your job stressing you out or a bear chasing you. Severe stress puts the immune system into overdrive and you get...autoimmune conditions.
The HPA-axis is a system that uses stress as a way to put the body on high alert includes the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. Once it is activated the body is put on high alert, ready for action. On deck to run away and flee, stand up and fight, or simply freeze.
Statistically, 3 out of 4 patients that go to see their doctor are seeing the doctor for a stress-related reason. Even if they don’t appreciate it or verbalize it as such or if their doc is remiss in telling them about it.
I encourage you to reach out and name a reason that you went to the doctor and I will tell you how stress plays a role.
The good news is there are lots of ways to mitigate stress. And no - there isn’t a pill or powder or potion that will fix it - this takes rolling up your sleeves and changing your lifestyle. I’m not a fan of taking stuff away (but sometimes that is the only resort!) so let’s look at some things that you can add easily to mitigate stress and help your body to perceive it in a way that lowers the stress response → meaning you have less impact in your human suit.
Stress can be a very good thing when it enables your body to survive for another day, like avoiding a dangerous predator for example. Let's be honest, is “well I didn't die today” really a metric you want to be evaluating your entire life by?
It reminds me of the empathy I feel when I hear someone say their day was “fine.” I would rather them say it was terrible because at least they are in tune and able to express their feelings. But I digress...
It's really important for the physiology of our human suit to lift ourselves out of this perpetual state of “well I didn’t die today” and out of fight-or-flight mode.
How do we fix stress?
So we know that stress is any experience that causes tension, whether physical, psychological, or emotional, especially if it sets off the “fight or flight” response.
While there are many things you can do to burn off stress, it's really critical to not just burn off stress but also to de-excite your nervous system. My favorite tool for this is a healthy dose of meditation. and before you push back and say “I don't have time to meditate” let me tell you that statistically, people gain 6 to 10 times more productivity by spending 30 minutes a day sitting on their butts in meditation. That is just 1 of the benefits!
Mitigating stress and handling your stress response changes your life and your health. It literally rewires the brain, calms your nervous system, and it actually creates new neural pathways via neuroplasticity mechanisms. It serves to actively lower adrenaline and cortisol (also known as the stress hormones), lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, and decreases total body system-wide inflammation - critical for those suffering from any autoimmune disease or chronic illness or looking to release excess weight. Learning to de-excite your nervous system actually promotes healing on a cellular level.
Here's some food for thought, “there is no such thing as a stressful situation, only stressful responses to a given situation.” I'm not sure who originally said that but it really illustrates the point that stress is not what happens to you, stress is your reaction to what happens to you. When you begin to meditate de-excite the nervous system and allow that stress response to go away.
How to meditate to stop stress
Hit the mediation space 2 times per day for the best results. Don't worry it doesn't have to be perfect.
Twice per day is ideal. I recommend when you first get up - before coffee (wake, pee, meditate) then go on with your day and then mid-afternoon to evening. BEFORE your evening meal.
- Settle into your seated comfortable position. Your feet can be on the ground, crossed up “criss-cross applesauce” style, you can have your knees at your chest, any position seated that is comfortable for you.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes.
- Begin the Mindfulness Portion (lasts approx 2 min)
Close your eyes.
Take 2-3 “2x breaths” simply breathing in through your nose for a count and out through your mouth for double that count. (Example: in for 2, out for 4 OR in for 4, out for 8)
Allow your breath to return to normal just simply breathing in and out.
- Begin to notice your senses - tune in, listen to every sound, without judgment of good or bad. Feel sensations on your skin. With the eyes closed, what do you see? Blackness? Beyond the blackness? Maybe the cells dancing in front of your eye membrane? Maybe a light through your eyelids? What do you taste? What do you smell?
- Focus on the present. Now keeping your eyes closed, bring all the senses together.
- Begin the Meditation Portion (lasts approx 15 min) Allow your mantra (if you didn’t receive a personal mantra - you can use “one”) to creep in. Simply repeat that mantra in your head, allowing it to change and fade in and out. When thoughts creep in (and they will) gently return to your mantra, repeating “one, one, one, one, one.” At the end of 15 min, when your timer goes off or you check the time and notice its up, release the mantra and allow your mind to wander.
- Begin the Gratitude Portion (1-2 min) begin to think of 5-10 things you are grateful for. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything grand, start with your breath or the sunshine or the bird chirping or your fav dinner.
Don’t worry you don’t have to remember all these steps - you can grab these steps in my free pdf download and bonus meditation here.
I also have another free resource I have created just for you, its called 5 Steps to take TODAY to stop Autoimmune Disease - which talks about stress management and 5 other ways to start your healing journey.
To wrap this up -
Let’s stop living in the perpetual “welp I didn’t die today” and start living our most beautiful and truest expression of ourselves. For any resources I mentioned be sure and check out the show notes page at /118
Thank you so much for tuning in, if you have a second it would mean the world to me if you could leave a rating or review! That helps me help more people get clear of autoimmune disease. I’d be oh so grateful.
I hope you have the most magical and restful day friends, and I challenge you to leave your world, however you can, a little better than how you found it when you got up this morning.