Integrative Nutrition Blog

Insights on Autoimmune Health and Inflammatory Conditions

Managing Flares with Food

Jul 13, 2022 | Inflammation & Autoimmune Disease

For all my autoimmune warriors out there. What is the one thing that we dread? It’s a flare.  Flares are when or autoimmune disease becomes more active. It can manifest in several ways, depending on the disease that you have. While flares may seem like your world is coming to an end and crashing down all around you, there is a lot that you can do to calm your flare down and get back to being yourself again. Below is a diet cheat sheet to use when you feel a flare coming on. These are foods that you should and should not include when you are going through a flare.

Why Does Food Make a Difference?

Why does food even make a difference in the first place?  Before I jump into this food cheat sheet, it’s important to understand this. The food that you eat can actually trigger inflammation. It does this in a variety of ways. One way is to increase intestinal permeability or leaky gut when your intestinal lining becomes compromised. Large food particles and other substances can sneak through and get into your circulation. This may trigger an immune system attack. Another way food can trigger inflammation is it can disrupt your gut microbiome balance.  When that balance is off, your microbiome loses its ability to regulate your immune system. And lastly, food can disrupt your hormone balance by altering your blood sugar management.

What Can You Do When You Have a Flare?

What do you do when you have a flare? It’s easy to turn to comfort food when you’re sick. However, those foods will actually make you feel worse. When you’re experiencing a flare. The best thing you can do is really clean up your diet and focus on eating the most nutrient-dense diet that you possibly can obtain. This includes:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • high-quality proteins
  • healthy fats,
  • and plenty of fiber

In addition, here are a few flare superfoods to include:

  • Bone broth. Bone broth is rich in gut-healing nutrients to heal that leaky gut. It contains collagen and glutamine and it’s just a great soothing liquid to sip on when you’re not feeling great. Sometimes liquids can be really easy to take in when you don’t feel well. Bone broth is definitely something I always have on hand in case I have a flare coming on.
  • Fermented foods help add probiotics to your gut to rebalance your gut microbiome. These foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and tofu.
  • Organ meats are another flare superfood. I know that this is definitely not something you would gravitate to when you’re feeling sick. But organ meats are extremely nutrient-dense, especially in vitamin A and zinc, which help support your immune function. Liver is my go-to but there are plenty of other options for organ meats that you can try that are just as nutrient-dense (and have less of an organ taste to them).
  • Omega 3-rich foods. This includes things like salmon, sardines, and avocados. This fatty acid helps bring the inflammation down.  It’s important to increase omega-3s when you are feeling a little bit sick or you have an inflammatory issue going on.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower actually contain sulfur, which helps protect against oxidative stress. When your body is on attack, and you’re trying to prevent damage to your cells, you really want to reduce the amount of oxidative stress, that’s where those cruciferous vegetables can really come in handy.
  • Berries.  Berries are rich in antioxidants to have really helped stop cellular damage.

The goal here is really to reduce inflammation by introducing plenty of phytochemicals and antioxidants to protect your body against oxidative stress and
free radical damage.

How Do You Avoid a Flare?

What are some things that you should avoid when I feel a flare coming on? I start to eliminate the foods that I know don’t make my body feel good.  Some of the biggest triggers for me are sugar. I cut out anything with added sugar and really try to minimize the amount of natural sugars. Sugar can affect your insulin and cortisol production. It can also trigger leaky gut. The other negative thing about sugar is it can disrupt your gut microbiome.

Alcohol is another one.  When I’m feeling good and flare-free, I do include an occasional small glass of wine or tequila which is my drink of choice.  When I’m feeling a flare coming on and my joints start getting a little stiff, this is one of the first things to go for me. Alcohol can trigger leaky gut and it really puts a lot more stress on your liver to help your body metabolize it.  Alcohol can also cause dysbiosis in your gut microbes.

Gluten and dairy are other big ones.  I always try to remind my clients about this. I personally stick to a 100% gluten- and dairy-free diet, but some people may dabble here and there with some gluten and dairy. But when I do start feeling some stiffness in my joints I make sure that I’m eating gluten-free and totally dairy-free. I also cut back on eating out to avoid potential cross-contamination from kitchen restaurants.

Food sensitivities are the last one. It’s important to know what foods you are reactive and sensitive to. Obviously, that can change over time as you heal. When I do feel a flare coming on, I do try to cut back on those foods that I know were reactive for me in the past. I am able to tolerate those more and more as I continue to heal, as do most people.  But during flares, I do try to remove those foods to be extra careful.


Today we focused on the food flare cheat sheet.  The foods that you want to include again are bone broth, fermented foods, organ meats, Omega three rich foods, cruciferous vegetables, and berries.  During flares be really careful about eating added sugars and other processed foods, alcohol, gluten and dairy, and any foods that you know that you react to.

If you would like more help managing your autoimmune flares, digestive issues, or just inflammation in general, I would love to chat with you.  Please contact me for a free discovery call. You can also follow me on Instagram at @the.autoimmune.dietitian or Facebook at @annierubinnutrition or my website.

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