Baby, It's Cold In Michigan: How To Thwart And Suppress Autoimmune Disease Flare-Ups

Michigan weather tends to be tough on people suffering from autoimmune diseases as those diseases tend to flare when the temperature dips toward freezing. Inflammation, joint, and muscle pain are some of the hallmarks of the autoimmune disease. When your body's immune system is kicked into abnormally low or abnormally high gear, the body goes into attack mode. The antibodies that are supposed to protect your immune system instead assault your body's tissues, organs, and bones. Extremes in temperature can exacerbate an already physiologically stressed immune system. Since temperatures rarely top the century mark in Michigan, barometric pressure, humidity and sub-zero winters are the bane of the Wolverine state's autoimmune disease sufferers.

Kinds of autoimmune diseases affected by Michigan's weather extremes include:

  • Raynaud's Syndrome
  • Sjogren's Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Type 1 Diabetes

Since most Michiganders cannot visit their doctors each time they need symptom control, they have to learn how to holistically fend for themselves until their next appointment. While it is true that some people do all the right things and still suffer from weather extremes, there are some common sense tips for those with no choice but to brave the cold Michigan winters.

Thwarting and Suppressing Inevitable Flare-Ups

Know what triggers your autoimmune responses and circumvent your symptoms as much as possible. This means dressing for the cold, exercising regularly, taking your medications, watching your diet and seeing your physician as recommended. The weather can change on a dime in Michigan, so best practice is to dress in layers. It's an old wives' tale that most of your body's heat is lost through the top of your head. Nevertheless, a hat, scarf, and gloves are a must just to keep as much heat as possible inside your body. You need to be able to peel layers off as needed, especially if you cannot get periodic breaks from inclement weather. Sweating like you're in a hot yoga class isn't healthy for many autoimmune sufferers as dehydration can bring on inflammation and pain. Also, be sensible and keep your joints and muscles flexible by engaging in whatever type of exercise that your body will tolerate in the cold--without getting overheated. 

Eat foods that don't trigger your unique pain and inflammation symptoms. Stay away from that steaming bowl of 5-alarm chili with pasta if gluten bothers you or forgo that sulfite-ridden glass of red wine or that cup of hot chocolate that sounded so good when you were outside freezing. It's easier to thwart autoimmune symptoms than to suppress those already there. 

Contact an immunology service for more information and assistance.