If you suffer from an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or Sgjoren's syndrome, then your doctor has probably prescribed therapeutic immunosuppressant medications to keep your symptoms under control. These medications can work very well, but they can also have a number of side effects, including diarrhea and an increased risk of infection. Luckily, there are some things that you can do, as a patient, to reduce the severity of these side effects or even prevent them entirely.
Eat plenty of fiber.
A diet that contains plenty of fiber can help prevent diarrhea when you are taking immunosuppressant medications. Fiber absorbs moisture and gives your still bulk. The USDA makes the following recommendation for fiber intake:
- Women up to age 50: 25 grams per day
- Men up to age 50: 31 grams per day
- Women age 51 and older: 21 grams per day
- Men age 51 and older: 30 grams per day
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber. Track your intake for a few days, and make sure you are meeting the USDA recommendations. Doing so should help prevent diarrhea as a side effect of your autoimmune treatment.
Get plenty of sleep.
Immunosuppressants, by design, reduce the reactivity of your immune system. However, you don't want your immune system to become too inactive — you still want it to protect you from colds and the flu, when possible. Getting plenty of sleep can help keep your immune system a bit more active, reducing your risk of infection. Go to bed an hour earlier, and sleep in when you can. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, consider taking melatonin. It's a natural supplement that can help you drift off to sleep more easily when you take it about a half-hour before bed.
Be vigilant about sanitation.
You will also want to take steps to reduce your exposure to infectious bacteria and viruses so you don't develop an infection as a side effect of your treatment. Avoid touching surfaces when you're in a public place, like a grocery store. Bring hand sanitizer with you, and use it often. Also, do not touch your face unless you have recently washed your hands.
Immunosuppressant medications are really helpful for treating many different autoimmune diseases. Just make sure you're eating a high-fiber diet, being vigilant about sanitation, and getting plenty of sleep when you are taking these medications. Contact someone near you for details about autoimmune therapy.