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Autoimmune Disease & Beauty: Looking Good, Not Feeling It

You’re looking great, but there’s a battle going on inside of you. Real people with autoimmune diseases share how they soldier on so they feel as beautiful as they look.

| November 21st, 2011
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Autoimmune Disease & Beauty

“But—you look so good!” your friend says with a confused look, after hearing that you’re sick.

One of the ironies of certain illnesses is that even when you’re feeling cruddy, you can appear just fine. But imagine that you didn’t feel your best most of the time...would you still try to look it?

For those who suffer from autoimmune diseases, looking good means masking a civil war going on inside: Your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body as if they were enemies. Over time, tissues become inflamed and cause pain in the war zone, which differs based on the affliction. In the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) the battlezone is your joints; your intestines with Crohn's Disease and for Multiple Scleroris, the brain and spinal cord.

MORE: Inflammation and Your Skin

There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases, some of which may have genetic components. The environment can also make things worse by prolonging or exacerbating symptoms. For example, stress and infections can kick up symptoms by activating genes that trigger an autoimmune response.

While some people experience chronic, debilitating symptoms, others have the occasional flareup. It’s unpredictable, and it takes effort to maintain a strong sense of personal style and inner beauty.

“You could feel fabulous today and horrible tomorrow,” YouBeauty reader Jane says about RA. When a bad day strikes, she’ll stay in bed. But most of the time, she puts her best face forward, even if she’s swollen and in pain. “I make a point of looking my the best,” she says. “I always feel better when I put on my red lipstick.”

COLUMN: Embrace Bold Lipstick

Integrative Health Expert Jim Nicolai, M.D. agrees—you could lift your spirits with something as small as finding a really good set of cosmetics. “If there’s something you feel really good about and it makes you feel good, I promote it as a health strategy,” Dr. Nicolai says about working with patients at the Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Wellness Program at the Miraval Spa in Tuscon, Arizona.

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