What’s the best autoimmune diet? There are many ways to approach autoimmune diseases and several autoimmune diets. In this article, I share 5 options to start with, the individualized autoimmune diet I use with my patients, and a key point to must do right if you want to your autoimmune disorder into remission.
Autoimmune Disorders and Gut Health
A study published by Yale University linked a pathogen in the gut ((Enterococcus gallinarum) to triggering autoimmune disorders.
This is not surprising. Gut inflammation, dysbiosis, and leaky gut can turn the switch on for an autoimmune disease. Many people raise their brows in surprise as I explain how the gut and autoimmune conditions are connected: 80% of your immune system is in your gut because it’s the largest surface area that protects the inside of your body (blood, lymph, tissues, etc) from the outside world (food, water, pathogens, chemicals, etc). And when you have gut inflammation and irritation, such as growth of a pathogen microbe, your immune cells will get activated. The immune cells are like an army without a general. They start fighting the bad bugs first but then they do their own thing and start attacking YOUR OWN tissues.
The study says that when this gut microbe travels to other organs of the body, it triggers an autoimmune attack. How do they leave the gut? Through the lining of the intestine. If you have leaky gut (medical term: intestinal permeability) then boom… no protection for the rest of your tissues. While the authors suggest a vaccine or antibiotic as a method of treatment or prevention, I’d like to suggest a comprehensive food, supplement, and lifestyle approach to fixing and healing the gut!
After sharing the above article on my Facebook page, I got several questions about the best autoimmune diet for many diseases like Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and others. I decided to answer that in this week’s episode of Thank Gut It’s Fixed Show.
In this video, I share 5 different diet modifications you can try if you have an autoimmune disease. The first one is the easiest to start with, which is going gluten free.
And no, gluten-free diet is not a weight loss diet.
Learn how to identify the REAL causes of your gut problems.
For my private clients, I choose one of the diets I recommend in the video IN ADDITION to a complete personalized food sensitivity test and plan. Food sensitivities are immune reactions. When someone is struggling with an autoimmune condition, their body is already attacking self, and my goal with eliminating foods that also trigger the immune system is to help damper overall immune activity and reduce inflammation.
You can read more about food sensitivity testing here.
How I choose one diet over another? It depends on my patients; the severity of their symptoms, how long they’ve had their autoimmune condition, what they’re eating now, how often they cook at home, how much energy and time they can put in meal prep now, what they are emotionally and mentally willing to stick to, and of course, the specific autoimmune disease they have.
That’s personalized nutrition.
My patients with autoimmune conditions are able to put their condition into remission (silence it). Their symptoms are gone and their labs are improving. Sadly, once you have an autoimmune disease, you can’t really cure it—you can only silence it. However, you can prevent ANOTHER autoimmune disease from developing, because once you have one, you’re at risk for another.
If you have an immediate family member with an autoimmune condition, you’re at risk for developing one if the right triggers combine: gut issues, food poisoning, stomach flu, too much stress, etc. You can do something to prevent it!
Best autoimmune diet to choose from: watch the video or read below the 5 different diet approaches:
5 Autoimmune Diets to Try:
- Gluten-Free Diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats (unless marked as gluten-free). Keep in mind that bulgur, couscous, farro, freekeh are made of wheat too. Wheat can be in meals if flour is used as thickener, breading, or if soy sauce is used.Gluten promotes the production of zonulin. Zonulin is a protein released by the cells of the intestine that controls the openings (tight junctions) between the cells. More zonulin means more leaky gut and more intestinal permeability.It’s also believed that the immune cells attack gluten in autoimmune cases. Since gluten protein looks like other proteins in your body, an attack on gluten also means an attack on your own body proteins and tissues.A gluten-free diet helps reduce leaky gut and reduces autoimmune activity. I’ve seen lower autoimmune antibodies and improved symptoms in my patients who give up gluten.
- Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Diet. Dairy includes milk, cheese, yogurt, kefir, cream, ice cream, half and half, powdered milk (read labels carefully), and butter and even ghee.Dairy proteins can look like gluten protein, thus activate the immune attack the same way gluten does. This is called cross-reactivity. If you eliminate gluten but see no or minimal improvement (assuming you removed gluten 100% without contamination), the next step would be to eliminate all dairy.Measure your antibodies before and after trying a dairy-free diet. Stick to a strict dairy-free diet for 4-12 weeks before judging.
- Removing Grains. Grains include rice, oats, corn, amaranth. They can irritate the gut and cause inflammation. They also cross react with gluten, which means that may have the same effect as gluten and can trigger your immune cells to attack your own cells.
- Paleo Diet (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain and legume-free). Legume, such as beans and lentils, can aggravate the gut and cause inflammation. Despite being touted for their fiber health benefits; legumes can worsen the symptoms of autoimmune disorders and delay gut healing. I often find that my patients with autoimmune disorder also complain of gas, bloating, stomach and intestinal pain, which often good reasons to eliminate legumes anyways.
- Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP). The AIP diet is a stricter version of the Paleo diet. You will have to remove eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, and sometimes even fruit and FODMAPs foods. It’s definitely not an easy diet to follow. I rarely use it because I typically use a customized food sensitivity testing and eliminate only the foods that activate the immune system as opposed removing more and more foods.
Which Autoimmune Diet should I Choose?
Look at where you’re at now and where you want to be. How much energy are you willing to put into your diet? How severe are your symptoms? How can you take it one step at a time and create a sustainable plan?
Learn how to identify the REAL causes of your gut problems.
The minimum diet I recommend to start with is both gluten and dairy-free. It gives you faster results than removing gluten alone. For my private clients, I test and incorporate a food sensitivities in addition to removing gluten and dairy. If someone has digestive complaints, I eliminate legumes as well. I decide on grains on case by case situations.
In addition to one of the above, it’s important to support the organ or system that is being attacked by the immune system. That may mean additional approaches to thyroid, joint, blood sugar, or others.
One Thing you Must Do Right
To get long-term remission, there’s one thing that you must do right, which is getting to the root of the problem!
- Do you have leaky gut?
- Do you have gut dysbiosis or pathogen growth?
- Do you have mold or heavy metal toxicity?
- Are you detox pathways backed up?
- Why is the immune system activated?
- Is there an internal or external source of stress?
Without getting to the root of the problem, you always risk symptoms coming back, worsening of symptons, increased inflammation, and triggering another immune attack to another system or organ in your body (or in other word, another autoimmune disorder)
If you would like my help with a diet approach to your autoimmune disorder and an approach to completely heal your gut, I would love for us to talk. Schedule a free discovery call here.