Autoimmune diseases affect up to 50 million people in the United States. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, which develop when your immune system thinks that normal and healthy cells are actually foreign bodies and attack these cells. Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, Hashimoto’s disease, and type 1 diabetes. While these chronic conditions have no cure, there are ways to keep an autoimmune disease in check.

Limit Exposure to the Sun

Sunlight exposure exacerbates many symptoms of autoimmune diseases. For example, sun exposure can cause lupus flares-ups and rashes. Those who have multiple sclerosis must make sure their body temperature doesn’t get too high. If their body temperature rises, the heat can cause a temporary worsening of symptoms, such as imbalance, tremors, problems with vision, and painful spasms. Therefore, it’s important to limit your exposure to the sun, and attempt to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day.

Adjust Your Diet

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Allergies to food and your diet can trigger some autoimmune diseases. If you suspect your autoimmune problem is linked to your diet, cutting out certain foods can help you reduce the chance of a flare-up. Some of the main culprits for food allergies are dairy, wheat, nuts, corn, soy, and fish. You should also try to eliminate sugar, trans fat, salt, and foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. A diet that is high in lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains will give you all the nutrients you need for a healthy lifestyle.

Reduce Your Stress

You may notice that stress and anxiety trigger flare-ups of your autoimmune disease. Even though it’s impossible to completely eliminate all stress from your life, there are simple ways to reduce the impact of daily stressors and learn how to cope with them. Meditation and guided imagery are both relaxation techniques that can help you reduce stress and lessen pain. Support groups also offer a safe place where you can talk about your disease, find ways to cope with stress, and meet with others who are dealing with the same issues

Take Care of Your Skin

Many autoimmune diseases can cause issues with your skin. Psoriasis can leave your skin red and irritated, while reactive arthritis can leave sores on the skin. Not only is it important to take care of these flares-ups to help relieve discomfort, but you also want to keep them clean to prevent infection.

If you’re not sure whether you have an infection or if a skin condition relates to your autoimmune disease, you can use the Curely app to discuss it with a doctor without having to leave your home. Simply select a health professional based on his or her specialty, take a picture of your ailment, and send the information through the app. While Curely doctors cannot prescribe medication, they can help you decide if your skin condition warrants seeing your regular doctor.

While most autoimmune diseases won’t go away, by treating your symptoms and making a few lifestyle changes, you can still enjoy a full and active life.