What Is an Autoimmune Disease?
An Autoimmune disease is a condition where the immune system erroneously attacks the body (the same way Crohn’s Disease does). The immune system is what normally guards the body against bacteria and viruses. Once it senses the presence of bacteria and viruses, it attacks them.
When a person has an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly identifies parts of the body as being foreign and it releases auto antibodies that attack healthy cells. Some types of autoimmune diseases target only one organ, whereas others affect the entire body.
There are nearly 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Some diseases such as lupus are hereditary and run in families, and certain cases can be triggered by infections or other environmental factors. The more commonly known ones include celiac disease, Grave’s disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
It’s estimated that about 24 million (7.5%) of the United States population is affected by an autoimmune disease. Women are more commonly affected than men and it often starts during adulthood.
Foods to Eat With An Autoimmune Disease
When choosing foods, a person with an autoimmune disease needs to select foods that stimulate their appetite without overstimulating the immune system.
Sugar free cranberries help to increase antioxidant intake. They also contain lots of polyphenols, which have valuable antioxidant properties. They also stave off urinary tract infections and help prevent many types of cancer.
Spinach and Swiss chard:
These leafy greens are rich in beta-carotene, leutin, Vitamin K, fibre, and magnesium.
Individuals with autoimmune diseases often suffer from deficiency of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the immune system to function properly. Fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout and snapper have high Vitamin D content. Beverages that have been fortified with Vitamin D are also useful. It should be noted that research is being conducted to determine how helpful Vitamin D can be in treating autoimmune diseases.
Whole Grain Cereal:
Studies have found that individuals who consume more whole-grain foods and less refined grains have lower inflammatory markers in their blood. Good options include shredded wheat, oatmeal and cream of wheat.
It’s believed that low diversity gut bacteria can cause some autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Rheumatoid arthritis. This can be fixed with better food choices. Thus, a diet which is rich in fibre is important. Examples include kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
Foods to Avoid with Autoimmune Diseases
It’s important that individuals with autoimmune diseases either reduce or completely eliminate these foods in their diet:
Gluten and Dairy Foods:
Gluten triggers the release of zonulin in the small intestine. This causes tight junctures in the gut to open up, which produces a leaky gut. Gluten can also lead to molecular mimicry. There are some foreign antigens (like gluten) that closely resemble the body’s tissues. Molecular mimicry occurs when the immune system attacks these foreign antigens but mistakenly attacks the body’s tissue as well. Another major culprit in molecular mimicry is the casein protein in dairy products.
Individuals with autoimmune diseases are very susceptible to the bad effects of sugar. Studies also found that all forms of sugar (like glucose, fructose, and sucrose) can affect the ability of the immune system to function. This can harm how white blood cells battle threats.
Lysozyme, which is found in egg whites, can penetrate the gut’s barrier, enter the blood stream and cause leaky gut.
Alkaloids, which is found in potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, are not well tolerated by individuals with autoimmune diseases.
Histamine, which is found in citrus fruits, can trigger an immune response in the body. Therefore, high-histamine foods should be avoided.