Dietary Therapy for Autoimmune and Inflammatory Diseases

Many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases respond well to dietary therapies. The disease may still be present, but symptoms can often be largely contained. I healed my own Multiple Sclerosis by avoiding gluten, corn, eggs, and almonds. Other chronic autoimmune diseases, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, to name a few, respond well to dietary changes.

Here is a list (not exhaustive) of common conditions that can be helped through dietary therapy:
Asthma
Atheroslcerosis
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Crohn’s disease
Depression
Eczema
Fibromyalgia
Floaters in the Eye
Gingivitis
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Lupus
Migraines
Multiple Sclerosis
Osteoarthritis
Plantar Fasciitis
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tendonitis

Systemic Inflammation
If your condition has “itis” in the name, you have an inflammatory condition. People with inflammatory conditions AND with autoimmune disease typically have widespread systemic chronic inflammation in their bodies. To reduce inflammation, you need to drastically simple carbs such as grains and sugar, if not eliminate them entirely. You can also up your intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as onions, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, spinach, broccoli, garlic, and turmeric. If You have dialed in your eating according to Fi4God principles by eliminating grains , industrial oils, and sugar, and have added the above-mentioned anti-inflammatory fods to your diet and you still have symptoms, then do the full diet prescribed for autoimmune disease described next.

Autoimmune Disease Diet
Autoimmune diseases arise from an inappropriate response of the immune system to tissues in the body. The immune system identifies bodily tissues (myelin in the case of MS, joints in the case of lupus, etc.) as foreign invaders and seeks to destroy them. Food proteins can trigger the immune system to attack the self through a process called molecular mimicry. In molecular mimicry, the body sees food proteins, which have leaked through the gut (leaky gut syndrome) into the bloodstream as foreign invaders. Those food proteins mimic bodily proteins, and so the immune system is unable to differentiate the two, and so attacks both. That is how foods can trigger symptoms in autoimmune disease. Take out the trigger foods and you have not cured your disease, but you have prevented one pathway by which symptoms occur. Removing gluten, eggs, and almonds from my diet keep my MS fatigue at bay, and removing corn has kept my tingling and numbness at bay.

There are six food triggers that tend to be common among people with autoimmune disease. But which foods trigger symptoms is idiosyncratic and varies greatly from person to person. It is imperative that you be your own detective and experiment until you find all your trigger foods. For me, it took about 4 months to identify all my trigger foods.

Know also that trigger foods can change over time. For example, when my gut was extremely leaky, I had to avoid gluten, corn, eggs, almonds, potatoes, tomatoes, spices like chili and cayenne, bananas, raisins, grapes, and pineapple. After about a year of healing my gut, I was able to return to most of these. I was even able to return to raisins and grapes for about 6 months, and then had to take them out again.

Idiosyncratic across AND within people is the watchword! You always have to be on the lookout and paying attention to what you eat and how it affects your body.

The six most common trigger foods are gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, and legumes (peanuts, cashews, peas, and anything with the word bean in it), and nightshades (potatoes, peppers, eggplant. Know also that many people who react to gluten will also react to other grains. If you find you react to gluten, then you should also immediately suspect all other grains, including certified gluten-free oats, corn, and rice to name a few.

Here are the basic steps to recovering from autoimmune and inflammatory diseases through dietary therapy:

Heal Your Gut
It all starts with a leaky gut. Food proteins that cannot cross the gut lining are unlikely to cause symptoms, so your first order of business is to heal your gut. You do this by avoiding things that irritate the gut, and by doing things that promote gut healing.

1. Avoid damaging the gut:

a. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs
b. Antacids like TUMS and Zantac
c. Caffeine
d. Alcohol
e. Spices like chili powder, cayenne, paprika
f. Vinegar
g. Gluten
h. Antiobotics

2. Promote healing the gut:

a. Eat ½ to 1 pound of salmon per week
b. Try taking a teaspoon of local raw honey per day
c. Take a probiotic every day (Pearls, Culturelle, Reuteri, and Garden of Life are good brands. There are others, too).
d. Consume homemade bone broth every day. Either have it as a soup, or drink it as a warm drink with meals.

Avoid Trigger Foods
Take gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast, legumes, and nightshades out of your diet. Either take them all out at once, or take gluten out one week, then dairy the next week, then eggs the next week, then yeast and legumes the following week, then nightshades the next.

Keep a detailed food diary every day and write down absolutely everything you ingest, along with any symptoms you are having. After a food has been out of your diet for at least a week, try adding it back in (add back only one food at a time) and record how you feel.

If you find that you react to gluten, you will want to take out all other grains as well to see if you react to them. Some people will know immediately that a food is a trigger food. After being off gluten for only one week, my MS fatigue had lifted so much that I knew I would never eat gluten again. I didn’t even add it back in to see what would happen. It was just that plain to me. For other people, it may take a few months, or maybe even as much as a year to see results.

Know that some foods can be very tricky to identify. Gluten is a hidden ingredient in many foods. Read my article Your Guide to Gluten for information about going gluten-free and the foods in which it often hides.

It took me about 4 months to realize that corn was my primary trigger for tingling and numbness. Part of the difficulty was that corn is a hidden ingredient in so many things. I had to learn that there were corn products in my toothpaste (sorbitol), my Splenda (maltodextrin), lunchmeat (caramel color), Tylenol (corn starch), and even in the disease-modifying injections I was giving myself every three days (mannitol). If you suspect you might be reacting to corn, I highly recommend you visit Jenny Connors’ Corn Allergens web site at www.cornallergens.com.

Avoid Toxins
You will need to be in excellent health to fight your autoimmune disease. It is essential that you eat as healthfully as possible so that you give your body the very best chance to heal. It took me about 6 months on my recovery diet before I felt pretty good, and it took about a year before I felt almost completely normal. But once you heal, don’t get complacent! Going back to your old ways of eating is a surefire way to wreck your health! You need to avoid the three big toxins for optimal healing: grains , gluten (I recommend you avoid gluten even if you test it and it doesn’t seem to affect your symptoms, simply because it is so toxic in so many other ways), industrial oils , and excess sugar . Read through the articles I just linked to in order to learn more about why and how to avoid these toxins and also read through our overview article Your Guide to Getting Started with Fit4God .

Eat the Most Nutritious Foods You Possible Can
All of God’s foods are nutritious in their natural form or cooked with fats, but some are more nutritious than others. Some are considered God’s superfoods and are often referred to as God’s “vitamins” because they are so chock full of nutrients your body needs. Here are the most healing and nutritious foods you should be eating each week:

1. Salmon – eat 1 pound per week
2. Liver – eat 4 ounces per week
3. Bone broth
4. Sweet potato
5. Coconut oil – aim for 2 tablespoons per day
6. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and greek yogurt. You are trying to get the probiotics through these foods. If you don’t have a high quality source for these foods or if you can’t tolerate them, you can take a daily probiotic. I like Pearls brand probiotics. They are readily available at Walmart and Walgreens and are scientifically proven to remain in your gut, unlike some lesser quality brands. Check them out at www.pearlsprobiotics.com.
7. Green tea
8. Egg yolks and whole eggs

Round it Out with Sun and Sleep
There are two final things you need to do. First, get at least 10 minutes every day of midday sun on as much of your body as you reasonably can. Getting outside in nature is calming and healing in itself, and the Vitamin D you get from the sun is terrific for your immune system. If you can’t get enough sun, consider supplementing. I personally take anywhere from 4000 to 6000 IU of Vitamin D per day. I’ll write a post on Vitamin D supplementation and production as soon as I can.

And second, it is critical that you get enough sleep and enough rest. Rest means don’t overdo it at work, don’t exercise too much, and take some time in the midafternoon to get off your feet, whether to have a nap or just a cup of tea. Sleep means get 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Be in bed by 9 or 10 pm. Start dimming the lights as soon as it gets dark outside, and no electronics after about 7 or 8 pm. Make your bedroom pitch black (so you can’t see your hand in front of your face) by removing nightlights, using blackout curtains/shades, and putting pieces of felt over clocks or other light-emitting electronics. I’ll do a full post on getting good rest as soon as I can. If you have trouble falling asleep the darkness strategies mentioned should help considerably. Melatonin supplementation about 30 minutes before bedtime can also help. Also try Epsom salt baths before bed.

Click  here for more info about sleep, sun, and supplements.

This was kind of quick and dirty, but I think I’ve got the basics of healing from autoimmune disease covered. It WILL be hard at first. You will wonder what you CAN eat, since you took out most of the things you were used to eating. But you will learn, you will adjust, and the healing you experience will make it all worth it!!!!!

Contact me anytime if you need help or have questions by emailing glenn@fit4godonline.com and asking him to forward your email to me.

For some fascinating information and inspiration, you might want to check out Dr. Terry Wahl’s TEDx Talk “Minding Your Mitochondria”, a 17-minute video on You Tube, where she tells about recovering from a debilitating case of Multiple Sclerosis through diet.

Blessings to you on your journey of recovery!

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