A January 2023 study by German researchers suggests that your risk of developing an autoimmune disease is increased after catching COVID-19.
The study included over 38 million participants, approximately 640,000 of whom had contracted the COVID-19 virus, and the remainder being the control group. The study examined the likelihood that an individual would develop one of 30 autoimmune diseases after being infected with COVID-19.
The results of the study found that after being diagnosed with COVID, patients were 43% more likely to go on to develop an autoimmune disease. The most common autoimmune diseases that developed post-infection were: Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Graves’ disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Study participants who had contracted COVID-19 were also more likely to develop, but to a lesser extent, one of: psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, alopecia, and vitiligo.
Study participants who already had an autoimmune disease faced a 23% increased risk of developing an additional autoimmune condition after COVID-19 infection, as compared to those who didn’t get the virus.
This German study adds to the body of research being conducted about COVID-19’s lasting impact on health outcomes. ‘Long COVID’, as it’s been called, can result in neurological problems, breathing difficulty, cardiovascular issues, digestive problems, and more. Now, autoimmune disease may be another outcome to add to the ever-growing list of long COVID health issues.
The results from this German research study on the connection between autoimmune disease and COVID-19 infection shouldn’t be a surprise. The risk of developing autoimmunity after a viral infection has been well documented in the past, such as the connection between the Epstein-Barr virus and autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis. It’s believed that through a process called molecular mimicry, viruses are able to deflect attacks from the host’s immune system, by confusing immune cells, and causing them to target healthy tissues instead.
COVID-19 patients have anecdotally shared their experiences battling autoimmune conditions after an initial coronavirus infection. Famed singer and musician Christopher Cross, for example, spoke out about his battle with Guillain-Barre syndrome after being infected. Children were also shown to be developing a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MICS) after getting COVID, which often proved to be worse than the virus itself.
Back in 2019, I wrote a blog post about my favorite autoimmune disease YouTubers. These are YouTube channels that I personally follow as they document life with a chronic illness.
As a follow-up to that blog post, I wanted to share my favorite podcasts on the topic of managing life with a chronic illness. Although I still do watch YouTube videos fairly frequently, I also enjoy listening to podcasts since it’s so convenient to tune into a podcast while I’m working, doing chores, driving etc. without having to watch something visual.
So, without further ado, here’s my list of chronic illness podcasts that I enjoy listening to!
1. The Chronic Illness Therapist
The Chronic Illness Therapist is a podcast run by Destiny Winters, a licensed therapist in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Destiny has several chronic illnesses herself, including Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and Mass Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). Since she’s both a therapist and a chronic illness patient herself, Destiny understands the impact that managing an illness can have on a patient’s mental health.
As part of her podcast, she delves into a number of challenges that chronic illness patients face, including:
I have found all of these topics to be relevant to my own life, and I think that many readers would find the same. Plus, I highly appreciate her perspective as a therapist and as a patient, because not many people have both the academic and real-life expertise of both of these roles!
2. Sjogren’s Strong
Sjogren’s Strong is a podcast co-hosted by Lupe, a patient living with the autoimmune condition Sjogren’s Syndrome, and her partner Brian. I first learned about this podcast via their blog, after I was first diagnosed with Sjogren’s myself and was looking for information from other patients. The podcast delves into many subjects specific to living with Sjogren’s Syndrome, such as:
Managing common symptoms, like dry eyes, dry mouth, joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog
Sjogren’s medications, treatments, and medical insurance
Living an active lifestyle with a chronic illness
Although the podcast is clearly specific to Sjogren’s, I think it’s valuable for many chronic illness patients, such as those with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.
3. The Chronic Ills
The Chronic Ills podcast is co-hosted by Alina and Angelica, two Australian women who talk about living with a chronic illness as young adults in their twenties. Some of the topics they discuss in their podcast episodes include:
Navigating relationships and friendships with a chronic illness
The portrayal of disability in the media
Alina and Angelica have had very different experiences as a chronic illness patients; one of them experienced becoming ill gradually, while the other had a sudden onset of their symptoms. What I like is that they show that not all cases are alike, and that every patient’s story is unique.
Those are the top three chronic illness podcasts that I’m listening to at the moment! Do you have any Spotify podcasts that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below.
If you suffer from autoimmune disease or other auto-inflammatory conditions, then you’re no stranger to inflammation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, inflammation is defined as the process by which your body activates your immune system to fight off bacteria, viruses, and toxins, and to heal damaged tissue. However, if your body sends out inflammatory cells when you’re not sick or injured, you may have chronic inflammation. Excessive chronic inflammation is what underlies many chronic health conditions, from rheumatoid arthritis to systemic lupus erythematosus.
While modern medicine may turn to pharmaceuticals like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), steroids, or immunosuppressants, patients are increasingly turning to natural products with anti-inflammatory properties to help them prevent damaging inflammation and reduce existing inflammation. In this blog post, we explore 5 anti-inflammatory foods that can help you fight chronic inflammation.
1. Manuka Honey
Honey has long been used in traditional medicine for its healing properties. But did you know that manuka honey sourced from New Zealand has such powerful anti-inflammatory properties that it was approved for wound treatment by the FDA?
What sets manuka honey apart from other types of honey are the properties methylglyoxal (MG) and dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which give manuka honey its supreme quality and purity. These properties have been shown to have various health benefits, including protecting against gastric ulcers, inhibiting influenza viruses, soothing sore throats, and treating antibiotic-resistant infections.
Manuka honey is known to be expensive, since it’s exported almost exclusively by New Zealand in limited supply. Check the label to ensure your honey is certified manuka honey, and not a blend of honeys from various countries.
Are you surprised by number two on this list? While technically not a ‘food’, coffee beans have polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory properties and bioactive compounds like chlorogenic acids, cafestol, kahweol, and caffeine. These compounds have shown in a few studies to reduce inflammation. A 2015 study found that coffee consumption reduced 10 markers of inflammation among regular coffee drinkers. Those who saw the greatest benefit drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day.
Keep in mind that while coffee has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, coffee can mess with your sleep patterns, especially if you drink it late in the day or are caffeine-sensitive. And, since sleep is an important factor in your overall health and wellbeing, it’s something to consider.
The long and short of it is, you can enjoy your cup of Joe (in moderation, that is)!
Turmeric is root vegetable-derived spice with a vibrant, yellow hue. The spice is commonly used in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine, and has been used in traditional medicine thanks to curcumin, a bioactive compound with anti-inflammatory benefits.
In a 2006 study of patients with autoimmune ulcerative colitis (UC), patients who took 2 grams of curcumin a day, along with prescription disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), were more likely to stay in remission than patients who took the prescription medication alone. This suggests that curcumin may help to prolong remission periods for patients with chronic inflammation.
Other research studies on the health benefits of turmeric have shown that curcumin improves memory, lessens pain, fights free radicals, combats depression, helps prevent cancer, and lowers one’s risk of heart disease. That’s a lot of benefits for a spice!
Turmeric and curcumin powder are extremely versatile and can be added to curries, soups, stews, meat marinades, roasted vegetables, rice, eggs, baked goods, smoothies, teas, milk, and more.
One 2014 study found that the group that followed a Mediterranean diet and consumed an extra 50mL per day of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) significantly decreased their inflammatory markers over the course of 12 months. This is likely because olive oil contains an antioxidant called oleocanthal, which has been recognized as a naturally occurring non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), similar to manmade ibuprofen.
Researchers Lisa Parkinson and Russell Keast concluded: “It is plausible that low, chronic doses of a naturally occurring NSAID such as oleocanthal may attenuate inflammation over time, and may then contribute to significant reductions in the development of chronic inflammatory disease.”
Green tea has long been enjoyed in Eastern traditions for its earthy flavor since the Tang dynasty in 618-907 AD.
More recently, research has found that drinking green tea has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and other serious health conditions. Many of these benefits have been attributed to green tea’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate, known as EGCG for short. EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells.
Plus, green tea makes a great alternative to other anti-inflammatory beverages, such as coffee, that still provides a jolt of caffeine for your morning routine.