Autoimmune disease is one of the most prevalent types of diseases in the United States. Over 23 million Americans have an autoimmune disease, and the number rises each year. Essentially, an autoimmune disease prompts the body to attack itself, starting with organs, tissues, and cells. There are more than 80 varieties that attack our bodies in different ways. Although lifestyle factors play a major role in the development of these diseases, it is unclear what exactly can trigger them. Following an anti-inflammatory diet and knowing your family history can help prevent and minimize flare-ups of your condition.
This autoimmune disease manifests as chronic inflammation in the joints. The cartilage wears away as the bones rub against each other, resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, the joints lose strength, and any excess weight or previous injury can exacerbate the symptoms. The goal in treating rheumatoid arthritis is to reduce pain and prevent further damage. Because arthritis is an inflammatory disease, it can help to eat anti-inflammatory foods. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of the disease and can be found in foods such as salmon, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Patients can also add selenium and vitamin D to help absorb calcium and protect bones.
Lupus is strongly correlated with inflammation in the body and affects not only the joints but also organs, tissues, and cells. Those with lupus are at higher risk for other health conditions, including another autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, or even kidney and heart disease. Diet can help manage lupus, slowing its progression and preventing it from causing other diseases. Eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as fish, poultry, and meat can help ease lupus symptoms. A plant-based lifestyle is beneficial may also be beneficial, and individuals should avoid alcohol and foods containing the amino acid L-canavanine.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that manifests in the skin, specifically the elbows, knees, and scalp. Many people experience scaly, red patches on their skin that cause dryness, burning, stinging, and itchiness. An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce the frequency of psoriasis flare-ups. People with the condition may benefit from eating a gluten-free diet, as there is research indicating a link between psoriasis and celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Some specific vegetables cause psoriasis inflammation, including nightshades such as tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes. It is recommended to eat more foods with vitamin D, such as fatty fish and cheese, or take a vitamin D supplement.
Inflammatory bowel disease includes other diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease typically affects the lower part of the GI tract, while ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine. In these two conditions, the digestive tract is chronically inflamed, causing symptoms such as rectal bleeding and diarrhea. People with these conditions can benefit from following a diet high in animal protein and low in vegetables that are FODMAP or “fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols”; in other words, short-chain carbohydrates some people are not able to digest.
Hashimoto's disease involves the thyroid. The immune system attacks this vital organ, causing it to become underactive, slowing metabolism and decreasing energy, which can affect many areas of an individual’s life and wellbeing. The National Institutes of Health recommends those who have Hashimoto’s avoid food that contains iodine, such as seaweed and iodized salt. Furthermore, avoiding gluten and dairy is typically recommended for patients with Hashimoto’s. As with many other autoimmune diseases, increasing vitamin D is highly recommended.
Celiac disease has been on the rise recently, and the number of gluten-free products in grocery stores has been increasing as well. Those with celiac disease should stay away from the protein gluten found in grains including wheat, barley, and rye. In these individuals, gluten can cause inflammation of the small intestine and lead to malabsorption of nutrients. Diet change is the best treatment for people with celiac disease -- cutting gluten should completely eradicate symptoms.
When the body is unable to absorb vitamin B12, a low red blood cell count occurs within the body. This is dangerous to our nervous system because it leaves the body unable to send proper signals. Those with pernicious anemia are missing a protein in their stomach called intrinsic factor that helps with the absorption of vitamin B12. Many need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12, or even have B12 injections. Consider eating foods that contain B12, such as meat products and eggs. B12-fortified foods and nutritional yeast are suitable for people following vegan or vegetarian diets.
Those with type 1 diabetes rely on self-administered insulin therapy because their bodies are unable to store glucose for energy without it. These individuals must check their blood sugar levels often to ensure they do not run out of glucose in their cells. Following a low-carb diet or even a low-fat diet will help those with type 1 diabetes. Another beneficial diet change is choosing complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and beans, that are absorbed more slowly in the body. Consider speaking with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian before changing your diet plan if you have type 1 diabetes.
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