A question we get asked a lot is “What is the best diet for autoimmune disease?” Paleo? AIP? Vegan? Keto? Truthfully, there is no simple answer. Both the question and the answer are very individual. A better place to start is with the subject of personalization.
Personalization is key in determining the best diet for autoimmunity. No two peoples’ autoimmune realities are the same. It is critical to first determine a persons’ sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances. Each case is completely unique. This makes addressing autoimmune diseases more difficult….but it is doable!
Don’t lose hope! Battle your Autoimmune Disease.
Personalization is VERY important. One person may be sensitive to nightshades, while the next person is sensitive to corn or dairy. It’s different for everyone. Some people may have a bunch of food sensitivities, while the next person may have only one or two.
Before delving into personalization, let’s first look at why diet matters. The primary reason that diet matters is because of one basic thing – leaky gut! Leaky gut is the core and beginning of most autoimmune disease and conditions.
What is Leaky Gut
Leaky gut is highly correlated with autoimmunity. If you have autoimmunity, it’s pretty likely you also have leaky gut. Your gut lining is only one cell layer thick like a nice thin layer of cheesecloth. It’s a thin, clean, beautiful construct until it is penetrated.
Leaky gut is when the lining starts to open up and foreign matter passes through to the gut. The gut lining protects you from things like undigested food proteins, toxins, and bacteria. Add in that your immune system exists to protect you and react to all invaders. So anything that permeates the gut lining is seen as an invader.
And, the amazing thing about the immune system is that it has an immune memory. Your immune system remembers these invaders, and begins to react to them, attacking them.
This is what leads to food sensitivities. It’s like we’re eating non-digested proteins that are getting through. These proteins are larger than what the gut lining allows passing through. The immune system doesn’t like large proteins. (Larger proteins that get through tend to be from things like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.)
The immune system creates a memory cell for these proteins. Then the immune system starts to attack those proteins. Unfortunately, it can start to attack healthy things like broccoli, thinking that it is a dangerous threat.
So, you need to figure out what your food sensitivities are. Elimination diets cut the foods that cause the most common food sensitivities.
Gluten is a very common culprit, for instance.
After a period of elimination of about three to four weeks, you add those foods back in one at a time. If you have any reaction to a particular food, then you know that you have a sensitivity to that food. It’s important to not eat these foods for at least three to four weeks. 21-23 days is a half-life of an antibody. If you have an antibody to a certain food you need to make sure you cut that antibody load in half. When you do this and halt the immune attack it allows you to heal leaky gut.
Then with the antibody load cut in half, when you reintroduce a food you may get an outward expression of symptoms (brain fog, joint pain, diarrhea, stomach discomfort, etc.) that you have not felt previously. This is from the ramp up effect which is the doubling of your antibodies.
Important to note – reactions can be delayed. It can take hours or up to days later to happen, so it’s important to only reintroduce one food every three days or so.
Allergies vs. Intolerances vs. Sensitivities
There is an important differentiation to make between an allergy, intolerance, and sensitivities. An allergy is like a peanut allergy. You eat a peanut and have an anaphylactic reaction, i.e., your throat swells up. It’s immediate, it’s severe.
Intolerance tends to be where your body is not able to process a food. For instance, if you don’t have the lactase enzyme, you will not be able to tolerate lactose.
And then we have sensitivities. That’s what I’m talking about with leaky gut. These immune reactions are delayed and they tend to be mild to moderate in nature, unlike an allergy. So, waiting 3-4 weeks to reintroduce foods is safe and important. Choose one food at a time every few days and learn your results.
A question I commonly get is: How long should I stay on the AIP diet or elimination diet?
Staying on a restricted diet for too long can prevent your microbiome from flourishing. With elimination diet systems it’s not a forever thing.
It can be tough but stick with it. The end result is worth it. Once you determine your food sensitivities you then transfer to a long-term healthy nutritional lifestyle, eating a diverse amount of healthful foods.
Finding your food sensitivities gives you that piece of the puzzle. It can even put you into remission from autoimmune disease. Diet matters!!
There’s no one cause for autoimmunity. There’s over a hundred different autoimmune conditions. This makes it challenging for someone diagnosed with three or more autoimmune diseases. If you have more than one autoimmune disease there is a commonality of where it’s stemming from in your body. When you figure out a food that is wreaking havoc, eliminating it will most likely have a positive impact. It may even impact more than only one of your conditions.
With conditions like lupus or Hashimoto’s in your family, your genetic risk is higher. But it doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop them. If you develop leaky gut you can begin the journey down the autoimmune road but it is not guaranteed.
Autoimmunity is like having the perfect storm of things. We can’t change our genetics, but we can change our environments. We can change the things that affect our genes.
Also known as Epigentics: This affects the “turning on” (or off) the bad genes that can lead to a breakdown of our systems and to autoimmunity. Our goal is to figure out “what are the things in your body that are contributing to or triggering and causing the autoimmune response?” Common triggers are an important discussion.
There are different triggers to autoimmunity. To see other triggers besides food sensitivities and leaky gut, download this diagram we made going over various different underlying triggers
Each person’s causes and triggers are unique. Solutions are never the same from person to person. The same goes with food sensitivities which is why it’s so important to personalize your diet. Learn what your body likes and what it doesn’t like. Learn what it reacts to, because that is going to be your key.
Often intolerances develop because you’re not digesting things well. This causes elevated levels of irritation and causes leaky gut and chronic gut infections. Sometimes these infections don’t manifest with symptoms, so we may not even know they are occurring. Underlying infections can be a trigger to upregulating your immune response.
Insulin can be another trigger to flaring the immune system. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. We do need insulin in our bodies but we don’t want too much, so insulin can be a problem. Even without diabetes, you can have insulin resistance. A lot of autoimmune patients deal with hypoglycemia. They get low blood sugars and that triggers insulin surges in their bodies. Insulin surges can show up with insulin resistance which is often symptomless and precedes diabetes or pre-diabetes. A study from UCLA(1) has shown that over half of California has blood sugar issues and the majority have no idea. You can learn more about insulin as a trigger to autoimmunity with this blog (Autoimmune Disease, Insulin and Blood Sugar).
The Importance of Nutrients in Fighting Autoimmune Disease
Nutrient deficiencies are important. There are some nutrients that are key to the immune system. In order for your immune system to function properly, you can liken it to baking a cake. Without all the right ingredients it’s not going to turn out very well. There are things like glutathione that help regulate your immune system and help you detoxify. If they are missing, or there are foreign toxins or chemicals present, the immune system will be off.
Vegetables are so important. They are a great provider of nutrients and fiber. A variety in the color of vegetables is just as important. Strive for at least 50% of your plate as vegetables. If it’s over 80% even better! All the phytonutrients and antioxidants in vegetables are the best boosters to the immune system. They keep it clean fueled and running strong.
Here are our top six best supplements, herbs, and nutrients:
- D3 – we have 37 trillion cells in our body more so vitamin D. D and thyroid hormone are the only two hormones that have a receptor in every single cell in the body. Vitamin D acts as a prohormone. It’s like the bouncer of the immune system.
- K2 – works synergistically with vitamin D, vital for absorption, bone health, heart health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – known for their anti-inflammatory response. Ability to support a healthy immune function. Antioxidants help support the immune system by combating damaging free radicals.
- Curcumin – used to modulate overactive immune and inflammatory response. It reduces inflammation associated with autoimmunity and autoimmune progression. It also inhibits immune upregulation which can lead to autoimmune responses.
- N-acetylcysteine – the precursor to glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant for your body. It’s also used for detoxification pathways.
- Antioxidants – having an extensive array of antioxidants to combat free radicals will help support your immune system
Supporting you to optimize your immune system, reduce toxic burden, and optimize your self care to increase energy and overall health is our most important goal.
If you support your body’s built-in systems, especially your immune system and decreased inflammation, with pure, highly absorbable, well-formulated nutrients, your ability to remain healthy and happy significantly increases. You may even be able to reverse an autoimmune disease!
We want your foundation of health to be rock-solid, and we provide the tools to do so.
Our proprietary Autoimmune Support product has been uniquely formulated to help balance a healthy inflammatory response, which is necessary in order to help maintain optimal immune function in the body.
And you can try it at no risk! We offer a money-back, 30-day satisfaction guarantee on the Autoimmunity Formulas Bundle. Here’s what you might expect to see from using this product:
- Your inflammation numbers may improve (sometimes drastically).
- Your aches and pains may fade away.
- You may notice your recovery between workouts is much faster.
- May help support healthy immune defenses.
- You may also experience more energy, and your focus may heighten.
It is our job is to figure out what those causes are for each person to be able to put the flames out. That’s how the individuals we work with are able to achieve remission, by addressing these issues. Identifying your unique triggers is the key to success when talking about remission. If you can’t identify where the sources of inflammation and stress are coming from it’s going to be hard to heal.
If you can’t give your body the necessary ingredients to work well, it’s going to have a harder time healing. And we know the medication approach isn’t actually addressing these underlying issues.. It covers up the symptoms and people become reliant on that.
Our goal is to fix the problem and we do that by identifying what the causes are. So the big takeaway on diet is being able to identify if there are any aspects of your diet that are actually perpetuating your autoimmune condition?
There are many different and important aspects, so be patient as you move through options and be ready to stay motivated and try, try, try again.
Dr. Tiffany Caplan & Dr. Brent Caplan
PS: Have fun exploring the creative and flavorful recipes in Dr. Caplan’s cookbook “Friendly Recipes to Calm the Fires of Inflammation.” These delicious recipes are great support for lowering inflammation due to lupus or other autoimmune disease symptoms.
- The Cutting Edge: “Majority of California Adults Have Pre-diabetes or Diabetes”: https://www.uclahealth.org/u-magazine/majority-of-california-adults-have-prediabetes-or-diabetes