How to Manage Life With an Autoimmune Disease

This is a blog post by Ellen Christian on Confessions of an Overworked Mom.

Learning how to manage life with an autoimmune disease takes time and practice. Most autoimmune diseases are invisible. You cannot look at someone and tell that they have one. I doubt that anyone would be able to look at me and realize that I’m one of many women who has an autoimmune disease. But, I do. Some days, it impacts me more than others, but it’s always there and I need to be aware of that. It can feel like you’re walking this road alone, but there are many other people out there going through the same thing. 


Years ago, after being sick all the time and bouncing from one medication to another, I was diagnosed with an “unspecified autoimmune disorder.” What that basically means is that although I had symptoms of a number of different autoimmune diseases, the doctor’s couldn’t pinpoint the exact one I had. All they knew was that my immune system was attacking things that it shouldn’t be which resulted in hives for a year and a half that would not go away even after huge doses of steroids and other medications that resulted in problems of their own.

Tired of traditional medicine, I visited a naturopath who taught me how to manage the symptoms and lessen the severity by changing what I hate and how I lived. I eliminated processed foods and drastically reduced the amount of sugar in my diet. It didn’t make the autoimmune disease go away, it made it more manageable provided I was careful. Some days I’m more careful than others.

One of the most important things that I’ve learned about how to manage life with an autoimmune disease is to be aware of what I’m doing. I’m easily distracted, and I tend to do about 15 different things at once. Just because I’m pretty sure I took my medication already, doesn’t necessarily mean that I did. Have I already had my three cups of coffee today? Or did I have four? Have I walked four times this week? Or was it three?

In order to keep my symptoms controlled, I need to keep track of what I eat and how much caffeine I have. Keeping active helps with pain management and with weight control. Too many “splurges” puts extra strain on my liver when it’s already working overtime to process things. Forgetting to detox weekly slows down how my body eliminates toxins and artificial ingredients. That’s just too many things for me to keep track of in my mind or with a piece of paper.

Health Storylines is an app that can be used to help you stay on top of what you need to do to take care of yourself. You can track your medication and set reminders so you don’t forget. I have an awful time remembering to take my medication with food. I always remember right before bed when my stomach is empty. Now, I have an alarm that goes off at lunchtime reminding me.

I also use the Food Diary in Health Storylines to keep track of what I’m eating and how my body reacted to it. I don’t handle artificial preservatives well, but they aren’t always disclosed as well as they should be on all foods. Keeping track of what I eat lets me see if there are patterns to the foods I’m reacting to so I can adjust what I eat. This can also be a valuable tool for those that need to keep track of carbs or sugars for a condition like diabetes.

One of the most helpful parts of Health Storylines is the Dailly Moods and Healthy Doses. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re struggling physically. Daily Moods lets me track how I feel each day and why. Being aware of how I respond to different things will let me be proactive about managing my emotions. When I feel like I need a boost, I can visit the Healthy Doses section for a quote or photograph that will help lift my spirits.

Health Storylines helps me remember to be mindful of what I’m doing instead of operating on autopilot. It gives me an easy, convenient way to keep track of all of my information in one place. Since my phone is always with me, my information and my reminders are always with me. If you’re struggling with an autoimmune disorder or another type of chronic illness, I hope that a few of my suggestions will help you manage.