Boosting Your Immune System: Tips for Patients with Gaucher Disease

Have you been feeling a little stiff or achy later? Maybe tired? I know that my body has undertaken a lot of stress thanks to the new life changes – and added worry – from COVID-19. Stress, as well as illness or environmental factors, can cause inflammation in the body, leading to physical symptoms. But for people with Gaucher disease, inflammation is just a natural part of life; their immune systems are in overdrive working to fix and prevent damage.

However, all hope is not lost. The National Gaucher Foundation notes that there are a few tips and tricks that people with Gaucher disease can use to boost their immune system and fight inflammation.

Gaucher Disease

Gaucher disease is a rare and inherited lysosomal storage disorder categorized by low or missing beta-glucocerebrosidase, an enzyme which breaks down the lipid glucocerebroside into simple molecules. Because beta-glucocerebrosidase is low, lipid levels build up, resulting in tissue and organ damage. People with Gaucher disease have two mutated copies of the GBA gene. It affects about 1 in 60,000 people.

There are multiple types of Gaucher disease with distinct symptoms:

  • Type I: Symptoms include organ enlargement, anemia, easy bruising, and bone fracturing, pain, and arthritis. Some patients may develop lung disease.
  • Type II: This subset impacts the central nervous system. People experience the same symptoms as Type I, with the addition of seizures, brain damage, and unusual eye movements. This is a severe and quickly progressing form. Most people diagnosed with Type II Gaucher disease do not survive past infancy.
  • Type III: Similarly, Type III impacts the central nervous system and shares the same symptoms as Type II. However, it is slower to progress.
  • Rare forms: There are two rare forms of Gaucher disease, which are perinatal lethal and cardiovascular. The first presents complications prior to birth, and may result in neurological issues, skin abnormalities, and swelling. The second calcifies heart valves.

Enzyme replacement therapies can treat Types I and III, but no treatment exists for Type II. Learn more about Gaucher disease.

Tips for People with Gaucher Disease

Eat an immune-supporting diet.

Processed foods include trans fats and white sugar, both of which can worsen inflammation. So, patients can try altering their diet to more natural, unprocessed food. Foods that can control inflammation, and regulate the immune system, include:

  • Fatty fishes that provide omega-3 fatty acidsThese reduce levels of inflammatory IL-6 and CRP proteins. Examples include salmon, tuna, anchovies, and sardines.
  • Antioxidant-filled fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, cherries, kale, and broccoli.
  • Walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and almonds, whose monounsaturated fat fights inflammation.
  • Seeds, which are full of fiber and healthy fats.
  • Herbs and spices like black pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric with anti-inflammatory properties.

Other examples include farm-raised eggs, dark chocolate, green tea, olive oil, onions, and beans. Read more about an anti-inflammatory diet here.

Engage in Meditation and Mindfulness

Both practices can help you be more in-the-moment and aware of your feelings, emotions, physical status, and overall health. Meditation can decrease blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and strengthen memory.

To do meditation: Begin by sitting in a comfortable area. This can be on the floor, in a chair, or even in your bed. Close your eyes and begin to breathe steadily: in and out, in and out. Be aware of your breathing and how you feel. As you breathe, let your thoughts come and go. If you find yourself focusing too much on one thing, refocus on your breathing and clear your mind. You can meditate for as little as 5 minutes, or longer depending on your needs!

Meditation Apps: If you need help, there are a few apps that provide guided meditation. These include Insight Timer, Headspace, Smiling Mind, and Stop, Breathe & Think.

Explore Exercise

No matter who you are, exercise can help improve your health – internally or externally. However, it needs to be done in moderation. Over-exercising, or under-exercising, both negatively impact immune response. However, according to Dr. Robin Ely:

“If exercise is done in a moderate manner, it is extremely effective in reducing inflammation throughout the body and including the brain.”

Some immune-boosting exercises include yoga, walking, cycling, tai chi, swimming or water aerobics, and pilates. Before starting a new exercise routine, talk to your care team to address any potential health issues.

Approving Gaucher disease with Changed Energy

Dr. Ely believes that the body has certain types of energy, such as qi or prana. Practitioners can improve and balance this energy through massage, acupuncture, and acupressure. Additionally, these assist with managing physical pain or stiffness.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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