4 Things You Can Do To Determine Your Autoimmune Triggers

I’ve made many lifestyle changes that have helped me to better manage my autoimmune disease flare ups. But do you want to know what had the greatest impact? Avoiding my autoimmune triggers.

This one discovery has had such a SIGNIFICANT impact for me. How significant you ask? Put it this way. Even when I was taking Prednisone and Cellcept I was flaring at least once/month.

When I had to discontinue Cellcept because I couldn’t take the side effects I began flaring almost weekly. Until I discovered what was causing me to flare. Now I go months without flaring. And my flare ups are much milder. I want everyone to know, YOU HAVE MORE CONTROL OVER YOUR HEALTH THAN YOU THINK.

How to determine the causes of your autoimmune flare ups

Flare ups, or a sudden worsening of symptoms, are a fact of life when living with an autoimmune disease. They can be uncomfortable, painful, numbing, itchy, oozing, scaly and downright inconvenient. In the months following my diagnosis I believed that my autoimmune disease flare ups were completely random. But one evening after yet another dinner out with friends ended with an abrupt flare up, I began to notice a pattern. This was no coincidence. Something, in fact, quite a few things were autoimmune triggers for me.

I remember the exact moment I realized I was making a difference. I was learning what my autoimmune triggers were and I was EMPOWERED. Suddenly I became aware that my flare ups were fewer, milder. Like somehow I had gotten the last laugh with this rare disease. And not only that. Some of my other chronic conditions were resolving too. Eczema, bloating, acid reflux and more. Does this sound like something you’d like to try? Here’s what you can do.

First, grab your free copy of 25 Possible Triggers for Autoimmune Disease Flare-Ups.

This list will help you as you begin to pay closer attention to your body to determine what your individual triggers are. Next, take a look at the items below.

1. Look for patterns with flare ups

Have you ever taken medicine to treat your autoimmune disease, and STILL continued to flare up? So you increase your dosage of medicine, right? And sometimes that helps. And sometimes it causes side effects. You’re stuck in what I call the “autoimmune foxtrot”. One step forward, now two steps backwards. The medicine is trying to reduce the inflammation in your body. But your autoimmune triggers are causing more inflammation. It’s time to stop the madness.

The process of determining your triggers can be lengthy. It requires a level of self-consciousness that many of us lack in our fast-paced, overbooked lives. Sometimes we get so accustomed to carrying on in spite of how we’re feeling. We’re not even cognizant of our symptoms until they become insurmountable. Get into the habit throughout the day of asking yourself these basic questions: How am I feeling? How severe are my symptoms on a level of 1 to 10? How often do they occur?  Think you may forget? Setting a daily alarm on your phone to take inventory of how you’re feeling may help. Seriously. Make an appointment with yourself.

Try to find similarities on the days you experienced flare ups. Did it occur after eating something specific? Were you overly exhausted?  Stressed? Record your symptoms on a calendar so you can refer back to them over time. It may also be helpful to record what you’ve eaten from day to day. Sound like a lot of work? Okay, how about this? Every time you have a flare-up record what you’ve eaten that day. Sometimes autoimmune triggers can have a delayed effect. Like maybe you were exposed to an autoimmune trigger YESTERDAY. It’s not uncommon to flare up after eating certain foods. But be mindful that food is only one of MANY possible culprits.

Determine what is causing your autoimmune flare-ups

2. Identify triggers associated with your specific autoimmune disease

I always prided myself on eating healthy. I mean, really healthy. But after a while I began to notice a strange phenomenon. It seemed like the healthier I ate, the more flare ups I got! Other chronic conditions became worst in severity. I started wondering if I was better off eating junk food. Case in point. I used to eat berries everyday with my breakfast. What can I say, I’m a creature of habit. Every day I ate oatmeal with blueberries or strawberries. Sometimes blackberries. Then I read that patients with pemphigus vulgaris, the disease I suffer from, should avoid these foods. The compounds they contain have been associated with the onset of disease in susceptible individuals.

Many health organizations have identified common triggers for specific autoimmune diseases based on scientific studies and observations. For example, the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center advises lupus patients to avoid alfalfa sprouts, garlic and antibiotics like Bactrim and Septra. And according to Multiple Sclerosis News Today, excessive heat from hot tubs, saunas and even the sun can trigger a flare in some MS patients. For more information, perform an online search for triggers of your specific disease.

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3. Identify allergies and sensitivities

One of the earliest symptoms of my autoimmune disease was sensitive gums. They bled like crazy when I brushed my teeth and sagged in certain areas. The sagging was so bad and my gums were so inflamed. Even soft bananas were difficult to bite into. One day I had an epiphany. My flare ups were worsening because of the bananas that I ate.  Allergy testing later revealed that I was allergic to bananas. Years later I developed new allergies. Sometimes I would get a stabbing pain in my throat. Later that day my throat would begin to sting. Just as it did when my disease would cause a blister to form in my throat.It wasn’t long before I discovered the link between allergies and autoimmune disease.

Sensitivities can produce the same results. For example, I’d been eating cantaloupes since childhood until I began experiencing oral allergy syndrome (OAS) as an adult. Individuals with OAS experience itching and swelling in the mouth and throat after eating fruits containing proteins that are similar to those found in pollen. Eventually I was able to eat cantaloupes again but I began experiencing indegestion when I ate them. My bout with OAS occurred at least 2 years prior to the onset of my autoimmune disease. In time I began experiencing flare ups after consuming cantaloupes.

The point is, if your body is trying to tell you something, listen. Don’t ignore symptoms of an allergy or sensitivity or simply mask symptoms with Benadryl.

Determine what is causing your autoimmune flare-ups

4. Consult with a dietician

Living with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s necessary to reach outside ourselves and our medical care team. One of my biggest breakthroughs was when I sought the help of a dietician. I had already come to the realization that I couldn’t eat most fruits and a couple of vegetables, among other things. But from time to time I’d still experience the occasional random flare up.

The dietician suggested  healthy alternatives to the foods I couldn’t eat. To my surprise, she also identified a common factor in many of the foods that triggered my autoimmune disease flare ups. The foods were all high in FODMAPS, a type of carbohydrate that can be difficult to digest, especially in individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. People suffering from Hashimoto’s have experienced relief on a low FODMAP diet, mainly because a diet high in FODMAPS can ultimately lead to leaky gut syndrome, a precursor to autoimmune disease.   I would have never understood the link between all of the foods that caused me to flare if I hadn’t consulted with a dietician. 


Developing the mindset that flare ups are not a random occurrence but a reaction to one or more triggers is an important first step. Becoming more aware of the signals our bodies provide and seeking out information and support from external resources are can also go a long way in managing our autoimmune disease flare ups.