10 Important Foods For People With Autoimmune Disease

The National Institutes of Health estimates that up to 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. 

That’s more than the 22 million affected by heart disease or the 9 million affected by cancer.

There are over 80 autoimmune diseases, what some would say are other illnesses are caused by autoimmunity, including Type 1 diabetes, Inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism.

Early symptoms of many autoimmune diseases are similar, and might include:

  • Fatigue
  • Achy muscles
  • Swelling and redness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes

Individual diseases have unique symptoms too, such as extreme thirst, weight loss, and fatigue for Type 1 Diabetes.

Stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea might be early symptoms for IBD.

People, too, have varying symptoms.

If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, there’s a good chance you’ve been offered advice by well-meaning friends and even strangers in a cafe.

Try juicing, they say, or what about meditating?

It can be frustrating finding anything that actually helps.

 

What’s Causing Autoimmune Diseases

Thankfully, we’re learning more and more about our bodies, and research is now pointing to one root cause for all of these diseases.

As science discovers more about our gut biome, scientists are finding that a combination of imbalances in gut bacteria combined with low-grade inflammation in our cells causes autoimmune diseases.

Our bacteria is affected by our genes to some extent, but we can affect and change our gut bacteria with the foods we eat.

That’s why “Autoimmune Protocol” helps eliminate certain food chemicals and compounds that cause gut dysbiosis (the imbalance in our gut bacteria) and low-grade inflammation. 

Cutting out certain foods reduces the inflammation so your body can recover and reset, what is medically called remission.

For people suffering from celiac disease, they find remission by sticking to a gluten free diet.

Many IBS patients find remission with a a low FODMAP diet.

Once you reach remission, or a symptom free state, you can slowly reintroduce one food at a time.

That will show you if you can tolerate a food, and how much.

If you begin eating a food again and experience symptoms, cut it out of your diet. Wait to reintroduce a different food back in for two weeks.

Autoimmune Protocol  is considered a universal autoimmune disease diet that should help people with many different issues.

What to Avoid...And What to Eat to Heal Your Gut

The Autoimmune Protocol is a strict elimination diet, meaning that for at least 30 days, the following foods are completely off limits:

  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Nightshade vegetables: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers (capsicum), chili, and eggplants
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable oils
  • Alcohol
  • All products with any added sugar or sweeteners; avoid both natural and artificial sweeteners
  • Food additives
  • NSAIDs, i.e. ibuprofen and aspirin. Consult your doctor if this might be a risk for you.

This can leave a huge void in your diet, so it’s important to know what you can eat.

We’ll talk about 11 specific foods soon, but for a general guideline, look for nutrient-dense foods.

  • Vegetables of all kinds and colors (except nightshades!) such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
  • Good quality seafood with high omega-3 fats.
  • Quality meats, especially organ cuts like liver.
  • Extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and some coconut oil.
  • Fermented foods (probiotic sources) such as kefir, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi.
  • Fruit in small quantities.

And now let’s look at 11 foods that are important for gut health for people with autoimmune disease. (Followed by 2 yummy recipes!)

 

1. Eggs

Eggs are a complete protein and all around super food. The protein and good fats make them a filling and a great way to get your daily zinc, iron, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.

They also improve cardiovascular health, prevent metabolic disease, and boost eye, liver, skin, and brain health.

 

2. Oily Fish

Anchovies, sardines, and mackerel are a powerhouse food for people with RA.

These oily fish reduce blood pressure and prevent fat buildup in the arteries,

Oily fish also reduce joint pain and stiffness.

One 3-ounce serving of halibut has more than a day’s worth of vitamin D, which reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

Salmon, mackerel, sardines, whitefish, and tuna are also good sources of vitamin D include.

If you’re vegetarian, you can get vitamin D from mushrooms grown in sunlight or from UV light. 

 

3. Coconut

Coconut is an antiviral and antibacterial, and good for your gut health.

It’s also packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

That makes coconut a superfood for everyone, and it’s especially good for anyone with autoimmune disease.

Coconut oil is a great replacement for highly inflammatory cooking oils like canola and corn oil, which can damage cells, especially in those with autoimmune disease.

 

4. Avocado

These giant fruit are one of the healthiest foods we can eat, thanks to their high nutrient value and healthy fat.

One serving of 100 grams contains about 25% of your daily required amounts of vitamins K, C, B6, and E.

They’re a superfood that’s high in good fats, fiber, and potassium, while low in carbs, cholesterol, and sodium.

 

5. Broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli and other sulfur-rich vegetables like cauliflower, radishes, cabbage, onions, and kale are rich in a powerful antioxidant called glutathione.

Glutathione has been proven to help alleviate autoimmune diseases because it tames chronic inflammation and protects against oxidative stress.

It is also a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and free radicals too.

Studies show glutathione levels are diminished as much as 50% in people with autoimmune disorders, so it’s critical to get as much as you can in your diet. 

 

6. Asparagus

Asparagus is a great source of fiber, folate, vitamins A and C, and prebiotics, meaning foods that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.

It’s also another vegetable that’s rich source in glutathione. 

 

7. Root vegetables

Carrots, radishes, turnips, and other veggies in the root vegetable family have vital nutrients key to fighting inflammatory-based diseases.

Many are yummy both raw and cooked, like carrots. Baked sweet potatoes are great with just a little cinnamon.

You can buy or make “noodles” from root vegetables like carrots or sweet potato noodles with the spiralizer.

 

8. Sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented veggies

Traditionally fermented sauerkraut is a great source of probiotics. These help balance the gut microbiome and improve the intestine’s barrier function, and that’s critical in protecting against autoimmune conditions.

People with rheumatoid arthritis who take probiotics feel a significant reduction in stiffness, swelling, pain and inflammation.

 

9. Turmeric

Turmeric adds a lot of natural color and flavor to your food.

It also contains curcumin, a powerful healing compound that alleviates multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

And it does so by regulating inflammatory substances in the body.

You can use turmeric for more than Indian cuisine. Try it in a homemade butternut squash soup, or add a dash to salads and roasted vegetables.

Here’s another soup to try that’s packed with foods that fight Autoimmune Disease.

 

Turmeric Chicken Soup with Zucchini Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb chicken breast (omit if vegetarian)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cups chopped celery (stem only)
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 T ground turmeric
  • 3 large zucchini, julienned into thin noodles
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*Can add other root veggies

Place chicken breast, diced onions, chopped celery, and diced carrots in a large pot.

Cover with water and bring to a boil.

Lower to medium-high heat and cook until chicken breast is cooked through (about 30 minutes).

(Hint, chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when you slice into it.)

Transfer the chicken to a plate. Let it cool before shredding it. Leave aside for now.

Add ground turmeric to the soup in the pot, and turn heat down to medium-low.

Simmer the soup for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Then add zucchini noodles and cook for 5 minutes until soft.

Divide zucchini noodles and soup into two bowls. Top with shredded chicken.

*Note: zucchini noodles (or any veggie noodle) will have excess water. If you don’t want to water the soup down, simply boil noodles separately and then add to soup.

 

Sweet Potato Skins

Here’s a fun snack or appetizer that benefits your gut health and fights autoimmune disease.

Ingredients:

  • 4 small sweet potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter)
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons guacamole

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thoroughly wash and dry sweet potatoes.

Lightly grease a baking sheet with the coconut oil.

Using a basting brush to brush melted coconut oil onto the skins of the sweet potatoes, then place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes, then cool 15 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Lay bacon slices on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Drain on paper towel.

Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out some the middle, leaving ½ an inch of the sweet potato still in the skin.

Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes open-side down on the baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes.

Flip and bake for 6 minutes, skin-side down.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Crumble bacon slices on top of the potato skins, sprinkle with chopped green onions, and scoop a spoonful of guacamole on top.

Enjoy!

You can save the sweet potato that you scooped for another recipe or side dish.

Want to learn more about keeping your gut biome healthy? Click here now.

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