• Megan Benzik

Don't Let Lupus Stop you! Live your best life

Updated: Feb 28

For those of you that may not know, I was diagnosed with Lupus when I was just 12 years old. At the time, I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. I just knew that I couldn’t go in the sun, I didn’t feel well, and that life is not something to be taken advantage of. Even at a young age I knew I had 2 choices. I could let the disease give me every excuse to stop living the life I want to live OR I could fight. This mindset is what set me in the right direction towards overcoming my diagnosis of Lupus. Fast forward 17 years and I am living the life I want to live on my own terms without letting the disease limit me. I am living my best life.


So what is Lupus?

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own organs. Unfortunately, your organs are not the only thing effected. The inflammation caused by the body’s attack on itself can affect almost every body system - including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain. While most autoimmune diseases attack certain body systems, Lupus can affect any and/or all of them. It is because of this that Lupus can be a very challenging disease to manage. There are common symptoms that a majority of people with Lupus experience, like crippling fatigue, but overall the disease manifests itself in various ways and is very person dependent.


With that being said, I have discovered the main lifestyle habits I needed to implement to help me manage my disease activity. Strangely enough, these are very much in line with The Live ATOP Cairns (Lifestyle Guidelines) and so I have organized them in this way




The Live ATOP Lupus Cairns


Through following these lifestyle guidelines I have been able to come off of all of my medications, and have managed to keep my Lupus quiet for over 5 years now. The only flares I have experienced have been minor, and typically due to occasionally straying from these guidelines. I am not recommending that anyone should go off their medication. Please ALWAYS listen to your doctor and consult them before trying anything new. These are simply tips that I wish someone could have told me when I was first diagnosed and so I couldn’t resist in sharing them with you!


Sleep

Being diagnosed with lupus means we need extra sleep. There is no way around it. I still make sleep a priority. When you have Lupus, your body is constantly using energy to create cells to attack itself. Besides needing sleep to carry out daily activities, sleep deprivation can actually be very harmful to the immune system. Research done through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has shown that neurons that control sleep interact closely with the immune system.


Goal: Shoot for at LEAST 8 hours of sleep per night. Extra credit for hitting 9. ;-)


Move

Stay active. After I was diagnosed at 12 years old, my mom did the best thing she could have done for me. She made me go to the gym with her regardless of how much pain I was in. I listened because I found that once I started moving, the pain would diminish. If you wake up in pain, the BEST thing you can do is move. If all you can do is go for an easy walk that day, do that. If you are feeling pretty good, hit a harder workout...but whatever you do, don't blow off movement because you hurt. I know it's hard, but even going through some easy stretches will help get your lymph moving and improve your immune response. Besides increased circulation, exercise will strengthen parts of your body that may be affected by Lupus, like the heart, lungs, bones, and joints. It will also help in reducing overall fatigue (as long as you don’t overdo it). Not only does exercise help physically, but it also helps in boosting your mental health, making it easier to cope with life stressors and improving overall mood and self-esteem.


Goal: Shoot for 1 hour of exercise a day. You can split this into 2 half hour sessions, or even four 15min sessions. Start where you are and do what you can. Eventually, you want to add in strength training.


Hydrate

Staying hydrated helps your body function optimally and properly. This includes your immune system. Drinking plenty of water also helps to flush out toxins, increase energy and helps with improving mental clarity (goodbye brain fog).


Goal: Drink half of your body weight per day in oz.


Nourish

Nourishing your body properly is EXTREMELY important when you have any autoimmune disease. Scientists are starting to run more and more studies on this and have recently found a direct link between gut health and Lupus. Overall, you want to implement a anti-inflammatory diet. Since our bodies are already producing its own inflammation, we do NOT want to add to that. I highly recommend having a food sensitivities test done. While these tests are not 100% accurate, they will help you rule out some foods that may not be the best for you. Another way you can determine what foods may be causing you more harm than good is to pay attention to how you feel after eating and do an elimination diet with the foods that you think may be affecting you. I have done both of these things, along with maintaining a balanced macronutrient diet, and it has made all the difference in helping me improve my gut health and overall health.


Goal: Eliminate the following foods from your diet

Dairy

Gluten

Alcohol

Sugar


Goal: Add the following supplements to your diet

Fish Oil

Probiotic

Tumeric

Vitamin D (and lots of it)

Multivitamin/Greens supplement

DHEA

Apple Cider Vinegar Shot


Goal: Change your food habits

Chew your food 30-50 times per bite

Limit processed foods

Limit red meat


Focus

Stay focused on overcoming the disease. Don’t focus on the disease itself or identify with it. Don’t sulk and focus on things you can’t do. Focus on doing whatever things you can do. Identify with being healthy and winning over the disease. It doesn’t matter what else life throws at you. As soon as you are diagnosed with a disease, your life focus needs to shift towards getting your health back. You are fighting for your life.


Goal: Practice self-affirmations to help keep yourself motivated. Remind yourself daily that you ARE going to overcome this.


Gratitude

Practicing gratitude has been proven to increase your overall sense of well being and happiness. Living with Lupus is rough. Fatigue, depression, negative self-talk, doctor appointments, and that horrible feeling of hopelessness can sneak up on you fast. By practicing gratitude every day, you are training your brain to see the good in life, no matter how dark it may seem at times. This will also help decrease your overall level of stress, and stress does nothing but reak havoc on the body.


Goal: Spend 5-10min a day journaling about what you are grateful for and the amazing things that happened that day. For ideas on how to lay this out, check out our blog “Journaling to Happiness and Success”




Last, but certainly not least, never let any disease bring you down mentally. Your mindset through this battle is the one thing you DO have control over. You are mentally stronger than any disease out there. Refuse to give in. Enjoy life to the best of your ability every day and experience as much of it as you can. Smile even when you don’t feel like it and do your best to keep your vibes positive. When you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, don’t get down on yourself. Simply take a deep breath, and find a way to change your thoughts to something positive. We don’t always get to choose the cards we are dealt, but we DO have a choice in what we do with them.


Don’t try to implement all of these things at once, and don’t let this list overwhelm you. Start by implementing one or two things at a time and see if you notice a difference. As I mentioned previously, this is not a complete list of everything I believe could help someone with an autoimmune disease. This is a list of things I have found to help me specifically. Always consult your doctor before making any changes.


Living with an autoimmune disease is not easy, to say the least. Kudos to you for making it this far AND for actively searching for ways to beat the disease. You’re doing great and already on the path towards winning. It is possible to live your best life while having Lupus, and I am living proof of that.



If you're still feeling overwhelmed, have questions, or simply don't know where to start, click here to schedule a free consultation with me! I would love to chat!


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