As a physician I have noticed the recent upsurge in autoimmune syndromes and diseases. This caught my attention, not only because of the increased numbers of people in distress, but also because I see a worrisome trend – more people with disrupted immune systems. And, in times of an onslaught of problematic viruses (SARS-CoV-2, Ebola) and bacteria (MRSA, C. Diff), we humans need a well behaving immune system. In simple terms, an autoimmune disease is one in which components (such as T cells and B cells) of the immune system (inappropriately) fixate on a biologic process, get aggravated over that process, and then go on the war path against those ingredients of normal biology. The results are significant and ever reaching. I liken this out-of-control response to that of a chained dog, who has gone a little loco, and snarls and bites at anything around it.

In autoimmune disease, the skin can get inflamed, broken, and heaped up (psoriasis). The pancreas no longer makes insulin (type I diabetes). The lining of the bowel gets torn up, irritated, and bloody (Crohn’s disease). Muscles get weak and painful, making it impossible to lift your arms above your head (polymyalgia rheumatica). And multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, and more. Traditional medicine can treat these disorders, but the treatments often are aggressive, and do not just quiet down the overactive parts of the immune system, but also can suppress the normally working parts, so a patient can be more susceptible to colds, cancer, and other autoimmune diseases. So, when you do feel better it may come at a cost.

I have also seen typical emotional reactions to having a diagnosis in this realm when a mutiny has started in the body. Some patients get angry at the body for “failing” the person, some retreat into themselves and become passive participants, some completely ignore the body’s distress and dysregulation (denial). And sadly, none of these approaches do much for improving healing or enlivening the body.

I offer here some additional ways to engage with the disease process and even dial down the inflammation and heightened immune system. First, let’s talk about actions that can be taken in the literal world. As a physician, I encourage the patient to pay more attention to his/her lifestyle. In today’s modern world, we are surrounded by artificial chemicals – in our food, our cleaning products, our lawn care. Many artificial sweeteners and food additives have effects on our biochemistry that are unwanted. Start with the diet — this goes for anyone who wants to live a healthier life, but especially for someone with autoimmune disease. Give up sodas. Toss the processed foods (anything that comes in a box and has ingredients with long, unpronounceable names). Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and clean sources of protein. If possible, eat organic foods. If you want to take things to the next level, skip dairy and gluten. Dairy and gluten have proteins (casein and gliadin, respectively) that trigger the immune system. We want our immune system to be relaxed, not triggered.

If possible, use biodegradable household cleaners. Let your yard have a few dandelions. In other words, stop using the weed killer. Although the EPA says there are no health concerns from glyphosate, I disagree. I believe that if a chemical is strong enough to kill plant cells’ life, it is certainly possible to harm human cell’s life. If you must control weeds, consider making a spray bottle of concentrated salt water, vinegar, and a touch of dish soap. Stop using antibacterial soap, and don’t panic if you get your hands in dirt. When we have constant exposure to bacteria and microbes all our lives, our immune systems learn to tolerate and chill.

Those are the suggestions I have wearing my physician hat. I have other suggestions when I put on my shaman, energy healer hat. When I “see” the energy field of those who struggle with autoimmune diseases, I see the life force flowing in a choppy manner throughout the body, backing up to spin around in inflammatory areas. In other words, things are not smooth. We can change things in the spiritual and emotional realms and do a lot to make our bodies more fluid and enlivened. Here’s how to help squash the rebellion.

Cultivate the energies of gratitude and forgiveness. Find something every day, even a very small something, to be thankful for, and feel the calm come over your body as you feel grateful. The same goes for forgiveness. In a state of forgiveness, anger is dissipated and a calm, benevolent energy takes over. Cells heal better when calm, loving energies flood the system. And metaphysically speaking, when you are calm, you are more in alignment with your Higher Self, so your energy field is being directed from a calm control center.

Spend time in quiet mindfulness, meditation or quietly in nature. When you connect with your Higher Self/ spirit guides/the Divine, you are in the state to influence your energy field and hence your biochemistry. Set an intention to have life force flow through you unimpeded, without any glitches in the cellular machinery. Feel yourself in alignment with the power of the Universe, where everything is synchronized and has evolved for millions of years.

When you connect to the higher wisdom of your deeper Self or guides, you can dialogue to learn what changes you can make in your life, whether certain foods or activities, or even prescription medicines will be in harmony with you. You can get guidance as to the value of stopping all dairy (cheese, ice cream, half and half) – a lifestyle change that takes a lot of focus and discipline. Will this hard work really be worth it? Ask for guidance.

Spend time in your meditative space, and preferably in nature, to calm yourself. The world is hectic and often, quite frankly, “loco”. Spend time diffusing the anxiety and aggravation the outside world can bring. Nature is particularly good for dissipating. Literally sitting on the ground at the base of a tree can disperse short circuiting of the body’s field. And, as discussed above, being calmer leads to a calmer body and biochemical machinery.

You may have a mutiny going on, but you have the power to quell the rebellion and live a pain free, inflammation free, peaceful life.