Welcome back to part III in a continuing series on autoimmune diseases.
In part I gave a brief overview of autoimmune diseases with a focus on how I helped my client, Amy, change her diet. In part II we heard from Amy herself as she discussed the dramatic improvements it made in her in her life-long battle with a rare autoimmune condition.
Today, I thought I’d wrap things up by sharing an inspirational video by a doctor who’s reversed her multiple sclerosis through similar dietary changes. If you know someone with MS, please forward this to them. It could change their life!
To summarize and expand just a little upon Dr. Wahl’s recommendations, here’s a short list of five things to eliminate and five things to incorporate if you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. In essence, the lists below are about decreasing inflammation in the body. After all, autoimmune diseases are inflammatory conditions. And while these recommendations are not specific to individual autoimmune conditions, they represent a good general starting point. I might add that this list could do wonders for just about any chronic health issue!
1. Processed foods.
I could sum up processed foods in one word: pro-inflammatory. Sugar, highly processed vegetable oils such as corn, cottonseed, canola and soybean and chemicals such as MSG are pro-inflammatory. Just look at the ingredients of the products in the middle aisles of supermarkets. As I tell all my clients, try as much as possible to get out of conventional supermarkets! They are the realm of Big Ag and Big Ag has no interest in your health.
2. Most grains, especially gluten.
It is estimated that of the 100 or so known autoimmune diseases, gluten triggers over half of them. It is a very complex protein and difficult for the body to break down. Americans consume a tremendous amount of gluten in the form of cereals, breads, pastries, baked goods, sweets, pasta and so on. Furthermore, modern wheat has been greatly changed through hybridization. As such we are seeing a tremendous rise in gluten sensitivities and allergies.
3. Modern dairy.
Modern dairy is nutritionally deficient and potentially toxic due to the pasteurization and homogenization processes. If you are unaware of the difference between raw and pasteurized milk, go to www.realmilk.com to learn more.
This is obviously easier said than done. No one can eliminate outside sources of stress. But you can eliminate inside sources, which is essentially the real source of stress. By “inside sources” I mean your conditioned reactions to things that happen outside you. You can learn to free yourself from cycles of anger, depression, anxiety and fear. Meditation has worked wonders for me. There are dozens of stress-busting, mind-body relaxation therapies these days in the form of meditation, yoga, tai chi, etc. Find one that works for you.
5. Toxic chemicals.
Besides the chemicals in processed foods, you can also minimize your exposure to them in your personal care and household cleaning products. Soaps, shampoos, hairsprays, sunscreens, deodorants, skin moisturizers, perfumes, nail polish, lipstick and many others are just loaded with toxins. Same for household cleaning products like all-purpose cleaners, window cleaners, laundry detergents, furniture and floor polish, etc. Have you ever looked at the chemicals in these products? It’s scary.
Here’s a great rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it on your skin.
Look for skin care products made with natural oils, herbs, vitamins and minerals. If they’re easy to pronounce, they’re more likely to be safe. As for household cleaning products, it’s amazing what you can clean with things like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.
OK, now that you know what to avoid….
1. Organic fruits and vegetables.
Organic produce is not only more nutrient-dense than conventional produce it is also free of chemical residues from pesticides and insecticides. Focus on green and colorful in-season vegetables as they present a wide range of micronutrients and anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants.
If your budget presents obstacles to shopping organic, check out this list of produce with the highest and least amount of pesticide residues.
2. Cultured vegetables and probiotics.
Cultured vegetables are easier to digest and even more nutrient dense than regular vegetables. They are also chock-full of healthy probiotic bacteria that promote healthy digestion and immunity. Supplementing with a good probiotic can assist your body in this process. And remember, 70% of your immune system resides in your gut! Healthy digestion and healthy immunity go hand-in-hand.
3. Omega-3s and vitamin D from REAL food.
Good sources include pastured eggs, grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish.
4. Omega-3s and vitamin D from fermented cod liver oil.
Fermented cod liver oil is more nutrient-dense than other forms of fish oil. The fermentation process not only preserves the nutrients but also concentrates them. And speaking of vitamin D, as important as it is to get more of it in your food, there’s an even easier, cheaper place to get it…
This is truly our best source of vitamin D. Two words: get outside.
Well I hope you enjoyed this three-part series on autoimmune diseases. If you have some insights you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
And if you’re in western MA and would like to join a group class that can help you incorporate the ideas above, the next Get At The Roots 12 week weight loss/wellness class begins on September 27th. Check out www.pvnutritionaltherapy.com/weight-loss for more details.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.