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How Diet Affects Autoimmune Diseases

May 25, 2022 | Inflammation & Autoimmune Disease

While there is no cure for autoimmune diseases, there are several things you can do to help minimize symptoms and potentially put your disease into remission. One of those is diet. I personally think the diet is the easiest way to start helping you feel better. Food can be a huge contributor to inflammation and other unpleasant symptoms of autoimmune diseases.  Below are some top reasons for how food affects your autoimmune disease and what you can do to start changing your diet for the better.

Foods Can Be Inflammatory

There are a number of foods that may trigger inflammation in your body. In fact, the basis of many anti-inflammatory eating plans, including the autoimmune protocol (AIP), paleo, whole 30, and the Mediterranean diet were designed to eliminate many of these inflammatory foods.

What does it mean that foods are inflammatory?

Let’s take it a step back by quickly talking about inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s normal process to heal itself from injury or invaders such as viruses and bacteria. in healthy individuals, inflammation is a temporary cycle. Your body responds to injury or viruses by recruiting your immune system to fight. Once the body repairs itself the inflammatory process stops.  With autoimmune diseases our immune system is overstimulated, meaning that it keeps our body in this chronic inflammatory state. The goal with any treatment, medication or not, is to reduce inflammation in order to calm down the immune system.

Food is important here because there are a number of foods that can trigger an inflammatory response. Common triggers include:
  • Sugar
  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Additives
  • Chemicals
  • Alcohol
  • Excessive salt

Additionally, people with autoimmune diseases tend to have more food sensitivities. These sensitivities are individual and vary from person to person. Once you can figure out which foods trigger your inflammation, the removal of these foods from your diet will start calming down your immune system.

Foods Can Trigger a Leaky Gut

Your gastrointestinal tract protects your body from the outside world. We need this lining to be intact. The term leaky gut is synonymous with intestinal permeability. This happens when those tight junctions holding your intestinal cells together start losing their strength. When this happens invaders sneak into your body’s circulation and trigger an immune system attack. Those living with an autoimmune disease likely have a leaky gut, and healing this gut can help us feel better.  Some foods can trigger intestinal permeability. Here are the foods to avoid if you have a leaky gut.

  • Gluten triggers the release of Zonulin. Zonulin is an inflammatory protein that causes those tight junctions to relax.
  • Lectins are found in gluten-containing grains, beans, corn, and nightshades. They can potentially bind to your intestinal cells and trigger a leaky gut.
  •  Alcohol disrupts our gut microbiome and increases bad bacteria in our gut. This bacteria can also cause those intestinal cells to shift apart. If you suspect you have a leaky gut, try avoiding these foods to see if that helps.

Micronutrient Deficiencies Can Trigger Inflammation

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are incredibly important for your body to work properly. Most people do not eat a nutrient-dense diet. This means that the food they eat is not full of vitamins and minerals. Eating in this way, which is basically like eating the standard American diet of processed foods, will set you up for micronutrient deficiencies. There are several important vitamins and minerals that your immune system needs to function properly. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of these micronutrients, your body can’t respond to inflammation in the way that it should.

The top three vitamins and minerals for your immune system include:

  • Vitamin D  plays a very important role in your immune system function. In fact, several studies have linked low vitamin D levels to increased autoimmune disease activity. Vitamin D is best found in sunshine, but you can also get vitamin D from eating fatty fish and eggs.
  • Vitamin C is a major antioxidant for your body and helps to sequester free radicals that can cause damage to our cells and tissues. It is essential for fighting inflammation as well. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and broccoli.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in reducing inflammation. Many people are low in omega-3s because they are mainly found in seafood, which most people don’t eat a lot of. You can also find omega-3s in walnuts and avocados.

Food Can Help Us Balance Our Microbiome

What we eat supports the trillions of bacteria living in our gut known as our microbiome. The microbiome is made up of both good and bad bacteria that should be balanced to support our immune system and gut health.
We eat can negatively affect our gut microbiome and trigger an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Any imbalance in our gut microbiome, or dysbiosis, can affect our health in a number of ways.

Bad bacteria can trigger a leaky gut, increase gut inflammation and suppress the production of short-chain fatty acids, which helps reduce inflammation in our body. So, if you suspect you have dysbiosis, the good news is that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can rebalance our gut fairly quickly.  Foods including sugar, gluten, soy, high amounts of processed fats, additives and preservatives should be eliminated or reduced.

There are many ways diet affects autoimmune diseases. If you need additional support In managing your diet to help reduce your autoimmune symptoms, please reach out and book a free call with me. I love helping people change their lives for the better

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