Wise Words – Autoimmune Disorders: Suppressing VS Supporting the Immune System

Submitted by Dr Becky Wise

Do you know how important your immune system is? Your immune system is extremely important because it is your body’s way of protecting you against foreign organisms that could make you sick (e.g. bacteria, viruses, and fungi.) When your immune system attacks its own healthy cells, instead of foreign organisms, this is called an autoimmune disorder. These disorders include: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac’s disease, psoriasis, Graves’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, type 1 diabetes, and many more.

autoimmune-WEBHow do I treat my autoimmune disorder? Autoimmune disorders are usually treated with medications that weaken your body’s immune system in order to protect your healthy cells from continuously being attacked. This is called suppressing the immune system. The major concern about suppressing your immune system is that you are not only allowing your healthy cells to live, but you are allowing any foreign organism that invades your body to live as well. This increases your chances of becoming sick and decreases your body’s ability to fight back if you do get sick.

Some physician’s believe that there might be another way to treat your autoimmune disorder using the opposite approach. This treatment option does not involve you taking any medications, instead, it focuses on ways to boost your immune system in order to make it stronger. This is called supporting the immune system. Supporting your immune system is done by making lifestyle changes that will help alleviate symptoms caused by inflammation and pain. Methods of supporting your immune system include:

1. Healthy diet
a. Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
b. Eat a diet low in saturated fats
c. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods
i. Stay away from processed foods
d. Stay hydrated
i. Drink enough water everyday
ii. Limit intake of alcoholic beverages
2. Quit Smoking
3. Exercise
a. Maintain a healthy weight
b. Control your blood pressure
4. Stay up-to-date on vaccinations
5. Avoid triggers
a. Example: Tanning beds for psoriasis
6. Dietary supplements may be useful
a. Talk to your doctor before you start taking any medications
7. Get adequate sleep

What does this mean to me? If you or someone you know is suffering from an autoimmune disorder, talk to your doctor about all of the options available. Although everyone can benefit from lifestyle changes, some people will still require immunosuppressant medications. Do not start or stop any medications without speaking to your doctor first!

AND REMEMEBER: just because it works for you, does not mean it will work for everyone!!

Written by:
Jennifer Wisen, Class of 2017, LECOM School of Pharmacy

Be Well, Be Wise,


Dr Rebecca Wise
Dr Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Rebecca Miller Wise, MEd, PharmD, CGP. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is a nationally board certified geriatric pharmacist and an assistant professor at a local medical college.


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