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The Best Anti Inflammatory Diet and Foods for Autoimmune Diseases

The Best Anti Inflammatory Diet and Foods for Autoimmune Diseases

About 50 million Americans currently live with autoimmune diseases.  Below are some of the most common autoimmune diseases.

  • IBD
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • multiple sclerosis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • psoriasis
  • GBS
  • Hashimoto Thyroiditis
  • Graves’ Disease
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Vasculitis

Diet is reported to be the cure to such diseases but our research shows that a healthy anti-inflammatory diet only has a supportive role in treatment. This means that you should not count on diet as the only means to keep your autoimmune disease under control.

In this article, we will go over what you can do to have the best diet for your autoimmune disease:

  1. Reduce consumption of foods that cause inflammation such as refined carbohydrates, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, alcohol, and processed foods.
  2. Switch to a Paleo or Mediterranean diet.
  3. Consume more foods that are rich in omega-3 fats instead of omega-6 fats.
  4. Take a vitamin D supplement.
  5. Try adding herbs that reduce inflammation such as turmeric, green tea, or ginger.

What Foods Cause Inflammation?

Foods That Cause Inflammation

The modern American diet is rich in a variety of pro-inflammatory foods. Some of the most common foods that cause inflammation include:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – A mouse study found that sugar impaired the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.1 A different study found that high-sugar soft drinks increased uric acid levels, which contributed to inflammation and insulin resistance.2
  • Refined carbohydrates – While not all carbohydrates are bad, refined carbohydrates have been over-processed and had their fiber removed. Studies show that a diet high in refined carbohydrates can increase inflammation and insulin resistance.3 Other studies also show that refined carbs contribute to the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria, which can increase the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases.3
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is also known as ethanol which is used as a gasoline substitute and can be used to kill bacteria and other living organisms. Recent study claims that consuming 1-2 drinks daily increases the risk of death 20% compared to someone who drinks 1-2 drinks 2-3 times per week.4 Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), uric acid, and leukocytes.5

Processed foods and foods with added sugars are often the biggest dietary culprits for inflammation.

The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicines in Autoimmune Diseases

While there are no cures for autoimmune diseases, there are a variety of treatments available that can help to relieve symptoms, reduce inflammation, and generally keep diseases under control. With proper treatment, many autoimmune diseases can go into remission. Common treatments involve the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and drugs that suppress your overactive immune system.6

In addition to getting medical treatment, incorporating a healthy diet can help immensely with autoimmune diseases. Here are some foods and dietary changes you should consider to complement your autoimmune disease treatments.

The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet, or caveman diet, is based around foods similar to what might have been found in the Paleolithic Era, generally dating from 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. This essentially limits processed foods and foods that emerged with the innovations of farming (including dairy, grain, and legumes) in favor of:

  • Lean meat
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds7

The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is a stricter version of the paleo diet and centers around foods that are high in nutrients while eliminating any foods that could cause inflammation. While the paleo diet and AIP diet are still generally similar, the latter removes all oils, eggs, and any vegetables from the nightshade family (which includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes). This diet is thought to help heal a leaky gut, which thereby resets the immune system, prevents your body’s autoimmune responses, and reduces symptoms of autoimmune diseases.8

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet combines the basic tenets of healthy eating with components of cooking rooted in the cuisine of countries along the Mediterranean Sea. The key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • A diet focused on plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains)
  • Replacing salt with herbs and spices for flavor
  • Replacing butter with olive oil and other healthy fats
  • Limiting red meat to just a few times a month and replacing it with fish and poultry (eaten at least twice a week)
  • A moderate amount of red wine

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with reduced levels of LDL cholesterol and improved heart health.9 Studies also suggest that the Mediterranean diet may help autoimmune disorders. In one study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis for at least 2 years were randomly allocated to a control diet or the Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks. Participants were given their respective diets for lunch and dinner at the outpatient clinic’s canteen for the first three weeks. The researchers performed clinical examinations at three- week intervals and used a physical function index, composite disease activity index, a health survey of quality of life, and daily consumption of NSAIDs to measure the efficacy of either diet. The results from the baseline to the end of the study showed significant improvements in patients eating the Mediterranean diet, including reduced inflammatory activity, increased physical function, and overall improved vitality.10

A Diet Centered Around Foods that Reduce Inflammation

Foods with Omega-3s

  • Salmon
  • Oysters
  • Anchovies
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Fish Oil Supplement

Omega-3s are an essential fatty acid, meaning that the human body cannot synthesize them on its own and can only obtain them via diet. These fatty acids are integral to cell membranes throughout the entire body and can affect the functions of cell receptors in these membranes. Furthermore, they provide the basis for the creation of hormones involved in regulating blood clotting, the function of arterial walls, and inflammation. These fatty acids are found in several food sources but are most commonly found in fish and fish oils.11

Ongoing studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help symptoms caused by autoimmune disorders. In a study, patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis for less than 12 months were randomly assigned to take either high or low doses of fish oil. The high dose group was given 5.5 grams of fish oil per day, while the control group was given just 0.4 grams per day, along with their regular medication protocol. The results of the study showed improvements across the board for the high dose fish oil group, including reduced failure of medication and a higher rate of remission.12

In another study, 50 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus were assigned to take either a fish oil supplement or an olive oil placebo for six months of treatment. Researchers measured variables that included the fatigue severity scale, the SLE disease activity index, and a physician global assessment. At the end of the study, results showed improvements in most categories for the fish oil supplement group, including physician global assessment and some inflammatory markers.13

Foods with Vitamin D

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Okra
  • Collards
  • Soybeans
  • Fish

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best known for promoting calcium absorption in the gut and regulating calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood. It also plays a significant role in bone growth and remodeling.14

Multiple and ongoing studies have pointed to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for several autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, though researchers lack direct evidence pointing to vitamin D and its effect on the progression of MS.15

Vitamin D deficiency has also been implicated in the increased susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and greater disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.16 Moreover, RA increases the chances of developing osteoporosis. For these reasons individuals with RA should take a vitamin D supplement.

Herbs for Inflammation

There are a wide range of herbs shown to reduce inflammation, including:

  • Willow bark contains salicin, a precursor to aspirin and acts as an analgesic and antipyretic.17
  • Pine bark, or pycnogenol, inhibits pro-inflammatory enzymes and contains a powerful antioxidant compound known as procyandin.18
  • Green lipped mussel has been shown to exhibit gastroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties in mice.19
  • Rosehip has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and clinical benefits for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.20
  • Stinging nettle extracts have been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties that may offer clinical benefits for arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.21
  • Boswellia serrata gum-resin extracts contain monoterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, and other compounds known to inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes.22
  • Ginger contains a rich phytochemistry that includes gingerols, shogaol, paradols, and other compounds that exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.23
  • Devil’s claw contains harpagoside, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints.24
  • Turmeric is the major source for curcumin, a polyphenol shown to possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may aid the management of inflammatory conditions.25
  • Holy basil, also known as tulsi, has been shown to protect tissues and organs against physical and chemical stress and possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.26
  • Green tea is high in a variety of flavonoids, particularly catechins, that exhibit high anti-inflammatory potential.27
  • Chinese skullcap contains a variety of key flavones, including baicalin and wogonoside, that have been shown to provide several pharmacological functions, including neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant effects.28

In conclusion, there are a number of things that you can do to have the best diet for your autoimmune disease:

  1. Reduce consumption of foods that cause inflammation such as refined carbohydrates, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, alcohol, and processed foods.
  2. Switch to a Paleo or Mediterranean diet.
  3. Consume more foods that are rich in omega-3 fats instead of omega-6 fats.
  4. Take a vitamin D supplement.

Try adding herbs that reduce inflammation such as turmeric, green tea, or ginger.