Going through life with an autoimmune condition, or several, like I do, can be a difficult process. Over the years I’ve been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and I have the markers for antiphospholipid syndrome, which can lead to blood clots. When many of us start our health journeys, even if we are fortunate enough to get a diagnosis, we can quickly end up with more questions than answers. Often when it comes to autoimmune conditions there is no perfect solution or clear path forward. Coping with autoimmune conditions can sometimes feel quite lonely. When I first got diagnosed, some encouraged me to keep my struggles to myself, but I’ve found that it’s always been better to be honest about my needs and realities than to stay silent. I believe strongly in sharing my journey, my solutions, and the things that have helped me with anyone who could use it— this is how communities are formed.
If you’ve been struggling with the symptoms of an autoimmune condition, and experience anything from dryness to soreness to an upset stomach, hopefully something on this list can make your life with autoimmune a bit more manageable. Keep in mind that not everything in this list might make a good fit for you, and you might have discovered solutions I haven’t even heard of yet and would love to hear. When it comes down to it, you get to make your own rules for your life with your autoimmune conditions. I hope you get something out of my routine and that you’ll share your own tricks and tools for staying healthy!
For Dry Eyes
With Sjogren’s Syndrome, dryness of the eyes is a never-ending problem. It’s important to keep my eyes properly lubricated all day and all night to avoid painful dryness, redness, and irritation. I use these lubricant eye drops throughout the day so that I never have to deal with the pain that dry eyes can cause; I’m also allergic to preservatives so these drops are safe for me to use.
These eye drops are a bit thicker, which prevents me from using them during the day when I’m wearing contacts. However, they’re perfect for use just before bed, giving me relief from irritation so I don’t wake up with any painful dryness in my eyes.
One of my favorite night time rituals is after I have put in my last round of eye drops is to use this Japanese eye mask. The lavender scent is my favorite but there are chamomile and citrus and non scented ones as well. They are disposable and I usually wake with them rolled up in a ball, but my eyes always feel much better. Putting heat on my eyes increases circulation and just keeps them feeling fresher and healthier.
For Dry Skin
Dryness can be such an issue with my autoimmune conditions, and truth be told, I just feel old when my skin shows dryness, so it’s always been important to me to make sure my skin stays properly moisturized. I have a few products to help keep my skin hydrated throughout the day; one of my favorites is FIJI Body butter.
For added smoothness and moisturization, I apply this oil after using lotion on my skin. A tip I learned from working with dancers is to put the oil on the outside as the final step to keep the moisture in. Sealing your lotion with an oil is incredible, and nothing feels better than feeling fully hydrated.
Because I use my hands a lot, keeping my cuticles healthy is important to me. After lotioning up I use a cuticle oil; Opi’s is my favorite. Even though I may not be getting to the nail salon like I used to, I am still able to keep up my cuticles at the very least. It helps me have the confidence to use my hands without having to look at the dryness all the time and be reminded of my condition.
If you ever come to a taping of one of my shows, you’ll see that I’m always using sprays. This is because, as a Sjogren’s Sister, I’m always battling dryness and do whatever I can to keep myself feeling comfortable. I love these sprays because scents are very important to me and I love coconut and rose. I spray one of these on my face when is start to feel dry. I also like to spray it into the air and walk through it, which always makes me feel like I just walked through a little breeze.
I can always trust this mist to freshen up my space, and its simple bottle fits into any environment without clashing. It can also be used over make up or during your facial cleansing routine. I always carry it in my purse for the times that I need a bit of refreshment.
Whenever I travel to a new space and the air feels dry to me, I use a mixture of lavender essential oils and distilled water in a spray bottle to help hydrate and refresh the air. It’s a great way to take control of the energy in a space, making sure it’s fresh and welcoming.
For Dry Hair
I’ve been dealing with dry hair due to my autoimmune conditions for years, and since having COVID it’s become even more delicate. I have an entire article detailing my favorite products to help lock in moisture and keep hair feeling fresh, soft and healthy that you can read here.
For Dry Mouths
Sjogren’s can also leave my mouth feeling uncomfortably dry; because so much of my career involves talking to people, it’s always important to me to have a mouth spray like this one on hand to get rid of any dryness.
These mints are great to keep on hand; they are sugar-free, taste great, and help with saliva production. I like the fruity flavor of the berry mints, but they have many different flavors. You can find your own favorite to have on hand to keep your breath fresh and your confidence up.
For Muscle Soreness, Aches and Pains
Muscle pain, joint pain and aches are a body’s worst nightmare. Even small aches and pains for a person with autoimmune conditions can signal much worse developments on the horizon; soreness in one spot can lead to immobility elsewhere, and flare ups are always a concern. Because of this, much of what I do in life is to avoid pain, minimize it, or nip it in the bud so that I can continue to live my best life. These are some of the products that I use regularly to help me avoid and manage pain.
I get flare ups all the time, and physical activity always increases the odds of a bad flare up. When I work out, my muscles tighten up so much that the pain can prevent me from getting into a consistent schedule. Using a massage gun right after I work out helps reduce the risk of muscle pain and flare ups. Full disclosure: Muscle Hammer is owned by my brother, so of course it’s my favorite!
The Muscle Hammer helps to prevent lactic acid buildup (which is what causes post-workout soreness) so that I can work out again the next day. This has become especially important during the pandemic, as I used to rely on personal massages to keep autoimmune related inflammation at bay. This massage gun helps to fill that need while we all stay safe at home. It saves money in the long run and helps you feel good about taking care of yourself. The Muscle Hammer is also much quieter than many similar products on the market, meaning you can use it around other people whenever you need without worrying about disrupting anyone.
Another natural remedy that I use quite often is epsom salts. I take epsom salt baths anytime I feel a flare coming, or have any muscle tightness. Sometimes I use it just to calm my senses. The ones I use have lavender essential oils in it, because I love lavender. Eucalyptus is a great addition if you’re dealing with clogged pores or sinuses— I used to use it until I found out it’s toxic to cats and now I keep eucalyptus out of my home entirely.
Epsom salt baths are a great way to combine physical healing with emotional and spiritual self care, and all are important for living a full, balanced life with autoimmune conditions. Light a candle, turn on some music and calm your spirit. If you need a wake-me-up, you can throw some lemon or orange or lemongrass essential oil in the bath as well to help your senses come alive.
After taking a warm bath, I often will rub Traumeel on my legs, neck and shoulders. I have found it helps with pain and inflammation. I keep it in my nightstand because often nighttime, before falling asleep, is when pain tends to be hardest to ignore. I like Traumeel specifically because, unlike Icy Hot or Tiger’s Balm, it’s almost scentless, making it a nice subtle choice for my evening routine. I use Traumeel almost every night for muscle discomfort; so much of my routine is built around pain management and preventing flare ups, and using Traumeel daily is a big part of this routine.
As my fellow autoimmune warriors know, fatigue is always at the top of the list of concerns. When I feel fatigue coming on, I’ve found that energy drinks leave me worse for the wear. One remedy that I use when I am feeling depleted and just need a boost to get through my day is Bach Flower’s Olive Remedy. Bach Flower Remedies are homeopathic tinctures developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s, and each one has a different application. I’ve been using these products for years to treat everything from stress to sleeplessness. It does contain alcohol, so if you can’t use alcohol because of medications or any other reason, just check with your doctor. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctors before mixing anything with your medications.
For Sinus Congestion
Ever since I was a child, I have had to deal with a stuffy nose. I’ve struggled with allergies all my life. Sinus health is an issue for me, because infections can be painful and draining. I use a neti pot every morning in the shower to clear my sinuses and keep them moist. This one is great because it comes with the saline packets; you just have to mix warm water with the packet, tilt your head and pour…one nostril at a time. Gravity does all the work, and the process will leave you feeling clear and refreshed.
I’ve been using Afrin to treat stuffy noses since I was a child. This pump isn’t meant for long term use, but when you need to open your nasal passages quickly, this works the best. I always carry one in every set bag and in every purse I own; this small pump is small and easy to transport and use.
For Sensitive Stomachs
I have a sensitive stomach. Recently I was diagnosed with IBS, and I’ve been going through an antibiotic treatment that’s improved my system a lot so far. However, my stomach is still sensitive, so when I’m not feeling great, or just when I want a hot drink in my mug, I use these packets. I stock them in every dressing room and always have them at home. This drink tastes great. It does have a lot of sugar so it might not be right for those of you who are on a no-sugar diet, but I’ve found that these are a great remedy for upset stomachs.
For Avoiding Flares
For me, autoimmune flares often come when I’m overwhelmed or trying to take on too much. In many ways, I think that flares are signs from the universe to slow down and treat yourself with more care. This is one of several reasons that I keep a big dry erase wall calendar up at all times. Not only does it help me keep track of my work schedule and reiki and acupuncture appointments, but it also helps me schedule in days for rest. These are days that I’m not allowed to work or even make plans with anyone else. Planning ahead to give yourself time to recharge without feeling bad is vital to a healthy life balance for me. Because I’ve suffered from insomnia for the past few years, naps have become a big part of ensuring that I get the amount of good sleep that I need to thrive. Even if you’re not big on taking naps during the day, even just taking ten minutes to grab some headphones, put on a meditation from Insight Timer or Calm, and shut out the world can have such a positive impact on how you feel for the rest of the day.
For Brain Fog
I often find myself grappling with the “fibro fog” that comes along with my fibromyalgia diagnosis; this fog can make anything from reading the teleprompter at The Talk to remembering appointments very challenging. I try to keep notepads all over my house to jot down things as they come to me. I also keep a Moleskine journal in my purse and am constantly making to-do lists. Sometimes I don’t even need to come back to these lists but the process of writing them down helps it stay in my memory easier. Another thing I’ve found is helpful when dealing with these fogs is simply to be honest about them with those around me, and forgive myself for having them. When I’m able to have empathy and compassion for myself instead of shame or disappointment, it helps to create a more supportive and understanding environment around me as well.
I’ve known that apple cider vinegar is good for digestion, but I’ve always avoided it because of the taste. I was so thankful when we started trying these gummies at The Talk; they’re delicious and they’ve really helped to improve my digestive system.
I take this every night before bed. Probiotics can do a lot to help my system maintain balance and keep my immune system boosted.
I’ve always used L Carnitine to help me have more energy when I work out but a friend of mine who has lupus uses it on a daily basis to keep up her energy.
Carrie Ann’s Stay Healthy Shake Recipe
I also use probiotics in a shake to get maximum nutrients and immune defense. Just blend and enjoy!
- Garden of Life Raw Organic Fit Vanilla Protein Powder
- Green Vibrance Probiotic
- Supergreen Complex
- Fruit of your choice (I use peaches)
A gentle reminder: when it comes to autoimmune conditions, there is no one perfect solution. Everyone’s path to healing is deeply personal, and usually it’s a mix of several remedies and practices mixed together. Each person is different, and you always need to listen to your own body when it tells you what it needs. Over the years, these are all products and practices that I’ve found bring me relief and allow me to live a more balanced and full life, and I wanted to share these with you. If you have your own solutions, please leave them in the comments below— the tip you share might change someone else’s life for the better, and we could all use that.