CHALLENGE: AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
Autoimmune disease afflicts 50 million Americans, more than 75 percent of whom are women. In autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks your body’s tissues, resulting in diverse illnesses based on what is attacked, such as your gut in Crohn’s disease or your thyroid gland in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
What to do: Inflammation resulting from a highly vigilant immune system is at the heart of autoimmune conditions. “I like to try an anti-inflammatory elimination diet in patients with autoimmunity,” says Lisa Shaver, ND, LAc, co-owner of Everyday Wellness Clinic in Portland, Oregon. “For one to three months, people eliminate certain pro-inflammatory foods, such as gluten (a protein in wheat, rye and barley), dairy, sugar, soy, corn and nightshade vegetables (such as tomatoes). This can help identify food sensitivities that may trigger an immune system reaction and worsen autoimmune symptoms.”
However, Shaver warns that you shouldn’t eliminate gluten unless you’ve been tested for celiac disease, because testing is inaccurate when you’re on a gluten-free diet.
Shaver also may recommend supplements, such as vitamin D3, needed for proper immune function, and probiotics, which she tailors to a person’s needs. Disruption of the makeup of gut microbes has been linked to most autoimmune conditions. Healthy gut microbiota supports your immune system.
What to eat: Shaver recommends nutrient-dense, whole foods, including ten daily servings of plant foods, particularly colorful vegetables. The antioxidants in such foods quiet inflammation, and the fiber supports healthy gut microbiota. Healthy fats, especially omega-3 fats from fish, also may reduce inflammation.