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There’s no denying that autoimmune diseases are among the more frustrating physical ailments out there. Although they vary from condition to condition, they all share a similar group of side effects — chronic pain, low-grade fever, constant fatigue, trouble concentrating and more. Undoubtedly, these symptoms can be disruptive to daily life. If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, daily life can start to feel like a constant quest for relief. But we’re here to help.

At Soul CBD, we want you to know that you’re not alone in your suffering. Our co-founder Mike Lee was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the height of his career as a professional boxer. The diagnosis, he says, changed his life forever. But Lee took matters into his own hands, turning to natural solutions like CBD and uncovering the links between stress, anxiety and immune health. Read this guide for a few of the things that continue to help Lee thrive as an athlete and an entrepreneur.

What is an Autoimmune Disease?

But first: some basics. What are autoimmune diseases, exactly? At their core, they’re dysfunctions that occur when the immune system mistakes healthy cells for dangerous invaders, triggering the body to wield a full-fledged immune response when it’s not actually necessary.

For example, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis — one of the most common autoimmune disorders out there — the immune system mistakenly targets the healthy lining of the joints, causing chronic inflammation and pain. Unfortunately, unlike other immune responses, autoimmune diseases tend to be chronic and can linger for a lifetime.

There are over 100 different autoimmune diseases, all of which attack the body in different ways. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, some of the most common autoimmune diseases include multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and type 1 diabetes.

Lee suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a rare kind of arthritis that causes chronic pain and discomfort in the spine and neck. Although each one is different, almost all autoimmune diseases cause stubborn symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue, which can be inconvenient at best and debilitating at worst.

Meet Mike Lee

Soul CBD Co-Founder Mike Lee is a world-ranked boxer and successful entrepreneur who quickly figured out the benefits of CBD for his condition and helped foray into a successful business. 

He was diagnosed with the chronic immune disorder ankylosing spondylitis in 2014. For years, chronic pain and discomfort kept him out of the competition. But making changes in his lifestyle — from cleaning up his diet to getting comfortable with the idea of meditation — helped him get back into the ring and live his life to the fullest. 

“Like so many others, I had dealt with years of daily chronic pain with little to no answers,” he says. “At one point, I was on eight different medications and knew this wasn’t the answer.”

To find relief, Lee eventually dove head-first into the health and nutrition mindset to attack the problem like he knows how — ready to fight. Here are some of the things Lee does daily to help improve his chronic pain.

Cut Out Processed Foods

There’s no denying it: What we are putting into our bodies on a daily basis has a huge impact on our health, and Lee realized quickly that his diet was affecting his autoimmune disorder. “I found myself so frustrated going from doctor to doctor only to be handed pills and asked little to no questions about my diet,” he says, adding that this was especially bothersome considering his autoimmune condition was closely linked with flare-ups caused by gluten and dairy.

Sticking to real food — in other words, foods that aren’t processed — made a huge difference for Lee. Processed foods tend to have a lot of added sugar, sodium and fat, which can not only not help your condition, but it may even worsen it. Cleaning up your diet and sticking mostly to whole foods may help eliminate some symptoms while also helping guard the body from obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Know What Foods Cause Inflammation

With diet in mind, it’s important to think about food in terms of how it impacts your autoimmune disease. There are foods that can help you fight inflammation and others that may trigger it, so be sure to know where your diet stands. With that said, diet affects individuals differently. “Every single person is different, so paying attention to what foods can trigger inflammation for you is incredibly important,” says Lee. 

Figuring out what’s worsening your condition is tougher than it sounds, but Lee recommends logging what you eat in a food journal so you have a better idea of how certain ingredients affect your condition. If you’re still not seeing a clear picture of what foods may be contributing to inflammation, you might consider doing a food sensitivity test to get some real data and what’s to blame.

Take CBD Daily

If you suffer from chronic pain or flare-ups related to anxiety, you may have considered CBD. This is a natural compound that affects the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a major role in our body’s ability to regulate pain, mood and immune response.

But does CBD oil work for autoimmune diseases? According to Lee, it can do wonders for those who suffer from autoimmune diseases, for a number of reasons that go beyond its natural anti-inflammatory properties. “In fact, CBD’s main benefit for me was anti-anxiety,” Lee says. “Stress and anxiety, especially for autoimmune conditions, can cause flare-ups and weaken your immune system.” 

Taking a few drops of CBD oil throughout the day is a great way to help arm the body with the support it needs to combat pain and discomfort. “CBD has so many anti-inflammatory properties and taking consistently on a daily basis is vital,” says Lee. “I truly began to notice changes after seven to 10 days of consistent usage.”

Leverage Vitamins and Supplements

In addition to eating right and making sure you’re not consuming foods that cause flare-ups, it’s important to consume the right vitamins, minerals and supplements to support your specific condition. 

“I began taking anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric, vitamin D and CBD on a daily basis and saw big change in my pain levels,” says Lee. “Learning how important Vitamin D is for your immune system was another eye-opening journey for me.”

Ongoing research shows that vitamin D plays a major role in immune responses, which is why it’s so important for people suffering from autoimmune disorders to incorporate it into their daily routine.

Practice Meditation

As I mentioned above, stress and anxiety can have very damaging consequences to our body, especially for sufferers of autoimmune diseases. The constant onslaught of stress and worry is weakening our immune system and — it’s not a stretch to say — we’re slowly killing ourselves with stress. For this reason, finding ways to decrease stress, anxiety and worry is crucial to the treatment of autoimmune disorders.

“Meditation is a low-risk, high-reward method that has been utilized for thousands of years,” says Lee, adding that it also has the unique benefit of being free. “I love to do short meditations, 10 minutes a day. I use the Calm app or pull up a YouTube video and simply breathe and calm my mind. This has helped me immensely when I get tension headaches from stress or working on a computer all day.”

“Here is the key,” says Lee. “Don’t give up! Meditation is not easy in the beginning, but trust me, it will pay off in the long-run.”

Practice Breath Work

In addition to meditation, Lee recommends doing breathwork. Not only does he believe that it can help you calm your heart rate and decrease feelings of stress, but it can also help improve athletic performance and focus. “I have been doing breath work through my entire athletic career with my strength and conditioning coaches and by myself,” Lee says.

“One of my favorite quick techniques is similar to box breathing — it’s called the 4:7:8 technique. It is simple. You close our eyes, breath in deeply through your nose for four seconds. Then hold for 7 seconds then exhale audibly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Do this cycle three or four times. I have performed this exercise in the dressing room before big title fights for all 22 fights of my career!”

Try Hot/Cold Contrast Therapy 

Hot and cold contrast therapy is all about going back to the basics, according to Lee. This isn’t a high-tech or expensive approach, but it has been used for years by professional athletes and others to recover and feel better.

In short, contrast bath therapy involves quickly switching between hot and cold water. The cold shrinks the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), while the heat opens them up (vasodilation). This open-close motion can relieve multiple symptoms related to autoimmune diseases.

“Using infrared saunas as well as cold tubs have been a great way for me to naturally reduce inflammation and flush out any toxins in my body,” says Lee. “If you don’t have access to these, studies have shown that even a few minutes in a very cold shower can wake up the body and reduce inflammation.”

Feeling Like Yourself Again Fast

An autoimmune disease diagnosis doesn’t just come with relentless pain and confusion. It also comes with a seemingly endless search for coping mechanisms. At Soul CBD, we’re here to help you find natural relief so you can get back to your best self as soon as possible. Be sure to try our high-quality CBD products as part of your search for natural relief.