Autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel disease have become some of the most common diseases ailing those in the developed world and are one of the greatest sources of pain and suffering for many.
But is medication the only answer? And are you destined to suffer?
Read on to learn how nutrition can vastly improve the symptoms of autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases are a classification of diseases that have a component of the body attacking itself. In these diseases, the immune system is identifying it’s own healthy tissue as a foreign invader and launching an attack.
These diseases are characterized by pain in the area that is being attacked, such as joint pain in Rheumatoid arthritis along with chronic fatigue and a tendency to develop other autoimmune diseases over time. They can be life-changing and debilitating and can leave you feeling hopeless.
These diseases are often treated with medications that block the immune system which reduces symptoms (though not greatly) but can lead to a range of ugly side effects like getting sick far more often, water retention, mental health changes, and many other side effects.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases:
Inflammatory Bowel disease
Type 1 diabetes
Many people also believe that issues like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have an autoimmune component and experience shows that some of these same principles can be beneficial for these populations.
Many people with autoimmune disease have a genetic predisposition. However, genetics are not the end-all-be-all that most people believe them to be. A vastly growing field called epigenetics is showing us the many ways the body can turn “on” and “off” different genes.
Two big factors seem to cause these genetic predispositions to turn “on”- a breakdown in the immune system and inflammation.
With these issues its a bit like the chicken and the egg, which came first? In autoimmune disease, both are often present and a trigger pushes the body into the disease.
For example, a traumatic event like a divorce, death in the family, or car accident can make the body vulnerable to autoimmune disease. However, sometimes there aren’t major triggers, instead a series of stressful life events or a difficult few months, even something as simple as weight gain can trigger an already vulnerable person.
Inflammation occurs in the body in response to a stressor, whether that be a food sensitivity (very common in autoimmune disease) or even an environmental irritant. Chronic inflammation can also come from issues as simple and common as blood sugar dysregulation and lack of nutrients in the diet. The inflammation overwhelms the immune system and when it is chronic, it contributes to a breakdown of the immune system.
70% of the immune system lives in the gut and those with autoimmune disease often have gut-related issues. Whether it be constipation, diarrhea, poor digestion, gas and bloating, or no outward symptoms at all, a breakdown in the lining and imbalance in the bacteria of the gut is often present.
Nutrition is an undervalued treatment for autoimmune disorders that can vastly improve function and reduce pain while reducing inflammation. Here’s my article on rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most common conditions I help with.
Nutrition is valuable because it has the ability to do two things: lower inflammation in the body and (along with therapeutic supplementation) heal the gut.
A process of eliminating, healing, and reintroducing foods, along with therapeutic supplementation is the first step to healing with autoimmune disease. It is not a simple or easy process, but one which you’ll find most everyone thinks is worth it.
Not only can a proper nutrition protocol help reduce pain, it improves mood, increases functioning, and overall helps you live a more normal life. Many people who are able to catch their disease in the earlier stages can reduce symptoms so much that they forget they even have an autoimmune disorder!
When recovering from autoimmune disease, the first step is to see a professional. With other nutrition concerns like losing weight and eating generally healthier, tackling nutrition at home can be appropriate. When autoimmune disease come into play, it’s important to get a customized plan that takes into account your personal issues.
Have quality functional testing run, tests like a microbiome analysis, food sensitivity panel, environmental sensitivity panel, and bloodwork are all good places to start. A functional nutritionist will use the results of these tests to give themselves a bigger picture of your unique issues and where to start with eliminating and supplementation.
Custom meal plans, which are a template for how to prepare food each day, will be created for you. These will be based not only on lab testing, but also on a detailed body analysis which determines your energy needs.
You will do the hard work of changing your diet and your nutritionist will be with you every step of the way. You will check in as needed for accountability and question answering. Together, your nutritionist and you will determine when to reintroduce foods, change your meal plan, and change supplementation.
If you need help with your specific autoimmune issues, I can help. Contact me here.