Living with an Autoimmune Disease
If you are one of the approximately 24 million people in the United States living with autoimmune disease, you know that keeping your condition under control is a lifelong commitment. Illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, lupus, Hashimoto’s and inflammatory bowel disease require careful management, and the conventional wisdom is that there is no cure. With functional medicine, though, it is possible to reverse autoimmune disease and lead a happy, healthy life.
Functional Medicine Approach to Autoimmune Therapy
In conventional medicine, autoimmune diseases are managed using medications and biologics. The goal is to control disease flares, limit damage from inflammation, and extend periods of remission. However, research indicates that the effectiveness of approved therapeutics can be 50 percent or lower, and biologics have and even lower rate of effectiveness. What’s more, some prescription treatments can have significantly detrimental long-term side effects; some medications prescribed for RA, for instance, have been associated with dementia.
Functional medicine takes a different approach. Rather than focusing on symptom suppression, functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of autoimmunity, in order to prevent and sometimes reverse autoimmune diseases. Lifestyle modifications, like getting more exercise, reducing stress, eliminating toxins from your environment, and getting sufficient sleep are all key elements of a treatment plan. Arguably, though, changing the diet is the most important part.
Autoimmune Diet Plan
A nutritious diet is foundational to good health. People on the autoimmune spectrum are often lacking in important nutrients, like vitamin D and B12, which support immune function. Switching to an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet plan can make a world of difference, and has been shown to help reverse autoimmune disease. So what is an AIP diet plan? We will take you through the basics.
What Not to Eat for Autoimmune Health
When you’re following an AIP diet, it’s important to stay away from toxic foods. Sugar, alcohol, caffeine, GMOs, artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives and dyes, trans or hydrogenated fats, and high fructose corn syrup should all be avoided. Essentially, steer clear of processed, junk, and fast foods, because they are full of harmful chemicals and added sugars.
Combating Autoimmune Disease with Diet
The goal of an AIP diet is optimal nutrition. Some nutrients you can get through supplements for autoimmune disease, but for the most part, you will be focusing on whole, nutritious foods. By eating the right foods, it is possible to reduce the pain and inflammation of autoimmune diseases. By eliminating toxic and inflammatory foods and replacing them with essential nutrients, the AIP died can help alleviate symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, headaches, joint pain, and digestive system, as well as healing your gut, reducing inflammation, and improving your overall health. Some of the best foods to provide you with key nutrients for an AIP diet include:
- Grass-fed lamb: High-quality animal protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, as well as making hormones and supporting muscle, cartilage, skin, and blood health. Anyone with an autoimmune or thyroid condition can benefit from eating plenty of meat, because animal protein has the amino acids that are the building blocks for immune and thyroid function. These essential amino acids are difficult to get from other foods. Grass-fed lamb provides protein, as well as the most vitamin D of all meat. Vitamin D is important for T cell stimulation, and it also helps fight off viral and bacteria infections. Lamb is also a good source of iron, amino acids, choline, COQ10, collagen, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA).
- Grass–fed Beef: In addition to being a good source of protein, beef provides zinc, which supports your immune system by regulating your lymphocytes, protecting you against pathogens, and more. If you are following an AIP diet, zinc can be a problem, because it’s primarily found in foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, which can cause immune flare-ups. One serving of beef, however, provides half the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Additionally, when that beef is grass-fed, it also provides anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.
- Wild–caught Fatty Fish: Fatty fish provide protein, and they are a major source of Omega-3s, which enhance B-cell activation and antibody production. This can reduce inflammation and help your immune system fight off pathogens. Cold water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are the best sources of Omega-3s. It’s best to go with wild-caught fish, because farmed fish often have an inferior diet that means they will provide you with fewer nutrients. Wild-caught fish eat a natural diet that keeps them leaned, and they’re full of antioxidants.
- Avocados: Full of healthy fat, fiber, vitamin E, copper, and potassium, avocados are incredibly nutritious. They’re also loaded with B vitamins which boosts immune function. One-third of a medium avocado provides a variety of B-vitamins, including 4% of the RDA for B1 (thiamine), 8% of the RDA for B2 (riboflavin), 6% of niacin (B3), 15 % of pantothenic acid (B5), 6% of pyridoxine (B6), and 10% of the RDA for folate.
- Garlic: A prebiotic, garlic feeds your gut’s good bacteria. Gut bacteria, in turn, boosts your immune system, while keeping bad bacteria and yeast at bay. Further, garlic contains selenium, which can help regulate chronic inflammation and excessive immune response, as well as supporting your thyroid.
- Leafy Greens: The average American eats only half of the RDA for magnesium, but eating leafy greens can help prevent magnesium deficiency. One cup of cooked spinach supplies 39 percent of the recommended daily allowance, and Swiss chard and kale provide 36 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to get all of your nutrition from food, which is why it’s smart to use supplements and cook with anti-inflammatory herbs for autoimmune disease. Glutathione contains three amino acids that help bind free radicals and toxins, and it helps your body detox, making it a top autoimmune supplement. Resveratrol is a polyphenol that is found in red wine, but you can get a more potent dose by taking a supplement. Resveratrol supports, heart health, healthy aging, and a healthy metabolism. L-Glutamine is an amino acid that helps prevent leaky gut or restore gut lining if you already have leaky gut. It also supports thyroid and immune system function, reduces sugar cravings, and promotes healthy weight maintenance. Curcumin supports a healthy inflammatory response, boosts the immune system, and promotes healthy aging. It comes from a highly concentrated extract of turmeric, an anti-inflammatory herb. Other herbs and spices that are good at fighting inflammation include cardamom, ginseng, green tea, ginger, black pepper, and rosemary.
Treating the Whole Person
At Advanced Functional Medicine, an integrated medical clinic, we exclusively practice functional medicine. A full functional medicine approach to healing uses a comprehensive diagnostic screening to get to the root of a patient’s issues. Our whole body approach to medicine utilizes all-natural, researched-based nutritional approaches to optimize the body’s natural healing abilities, rather than just using medication to treat symptoms. Each individual receives unique and customized care, formulated based on the latest scientific resource, and we have a 96 percent success rate in patient outcomes. As a medically driven, patient-focused health clinic, we support our patients’ individual health goals, providing natural relief for symptoms of chronic factors and expert guidance about the decisions affecting a patient’s long-term health. It is our goal to help reverse chronic disease without resorting to dangerous or unnecessary drugs or surgical interventions, promoting healing from the inside out, in its truest, healthiest form. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help restore your health and strengthen your body’s unique physiological functions, call 858-500-5572 or contact us through our website.