Autoimmune diseases

There are 12 systems in our bodies. One very important system is the immune system, which is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. A healthy, functioning immune system has the ability to tell the difference between self and nonself. In a diseased system the body is unable to tell the difference between self and nonself. When this happens, the body makes antibodies against itself that attack normal cells by mistake. At the same time special cells called regulatory T cells fail to do their job of keeping the immune system in line. The result is a misguided attack on the body. This process happens in all known autoimmune disorders. There are more than 80 known types. I have listed a few of them below. The body parts that are affected depend on the type of autoimmune disease.

Some people are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than others, for example, women of childbearing age or people with a family history. It is also common for different types of autoimmune diseases to affect different members of a single family. This is true for my husbands’ family. Also, inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease, but a combination of genes and other factors may trigger the disease to start such as environmental factors, sunlight, viral and bacterial infections. Finally, people of certain races or ethnic backgrounds are at a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases. For instance, Type 1 diabetes is more common in white people and lupus is most severe for African-American and Hispanic people.  In addition, a person may have more than one autoimmune disorder at the same time.

Here are some examples of autoimmune disorders or diseases:
Addison’s disease
Celiac disease
Graves disease
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Multiple sclerosis
Myasthenia gravis
Pernicious anemia
Reactive arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis
Sjogren syndrome
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Type I diabetes

Symptoms of autoimmune disorders can come and go. When symptoms get worse, it is called a flare-up. If you are living with an autoimmune disease, there are things you can do each day to feel better. As my motto stands, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet ensures that your body is working optimally and not fighting extra toxins or chemicals. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products, and lean sources of protein. And if you can, buy organic…your body will thank you. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. Also, get regular physical activity. Physical activity not only boosts endorphins in your body, but they also boost your immune system to help fight diseases in the body. But be careful not to overdo it. A gradual and gentle exercise program often works well for people with long-lasting muscle and joint pain. Pick an exercise that is right for you and that you enjoy. This may mean walking, running, biking or even yoga or kickboxing!

Sleep is very important. As a mother of three, including a one year old, I am the first to admit that I do NOT get enough! Rest allows your body tissues and joints the time they need to repair. Sleeping is a great way you can help both your body and mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, your stress level and your symptoms could get worse. You also cannot fight off sickness as well when you sleep poorly. When you are well-rested, you can tackle your problems better and lower your risk for illness. Most people need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day to feel well-rested. Finally, and this is something my husband swears by: Reduce YOUR stress. Stress will kill you. Stress and anxiety can trigger symptoms to flare up with some autoimmune diseases. So finding ways to simplify your life and cope with daily stressors will help you to feel your best.

The goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms, control the autoimmune process and maintain the body’s ability to fight disease. Which treatments are used depends on the specific disease and your symptoms.
The outcome depends on the disease. Most autoimmune diseases are chronic, but many can be controlled with treatment. Eating right, getting enough sleep and incorporating exercise into your day as well as keeping stress out of your day may be key elements to fight and live with autoimmune diseases.

Zucchini is a familiar type of squash that is most abundant in summer. It is a member of the gourd family and is always harvested before ripening. Zucchini is great raw, grilled, sautéed and great in breads and muffins. Easy to slip in when you are trying to get your kids to eat vegetables. Zucchini range in color from mottled greens to the less-common yellows. Zucchinis are available year-round, but are most flavorful in their peak growing season, which is typically May-August. The smaller and younger fruits, about 1 to 8 inches, offer a truer zucchini taste experience. Larger squash acquire a bitter taste along with tough seeds that should be scooped out. When buying zucchini, look for smooth skin with a gloss.  Enjoy this delicious gluten and dairy free bread.  Loaded with vitamins, it is an easy and healthy way to start your day or for an afternoon snack for you and your kids.

Gluten free and Dairy Free Zucchini Bread*
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill GF flour
½ cup agave nectar
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 t cinnamon
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup applesauce
1 egg
3 t vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
2/3 cup carob chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix wet ingredients with a hand mixer.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
Pour into a 2- 9 X 5 greased loaf pans.
Bake for 1 hour.

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