What to eat and what NOT to eat to avoid autoimmune disease and fight chronic inflammation
06/24/2019 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Inflammation is a normal occurrence in your body. It is your immune system’s response to threats. However, there are cases in which the immune system impartially attacks healthy tissues and organs, thereby leading to autoimmune diseases.

About 700 million people around the world suffer from an autoimmune disease, and up to 23.5 million people in the U.S., becoming one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the country.

The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown, but scientists believe infections, genetics, and environmental factors, such as diet, toxins and gut bacteria balance play a role. The good news is there are many ways to improve the lives of people with autoimmune disorders. One of these is through diet. Food plays a role in helping people with autoimmune diseases feel better and heal their bodies.

Studies show that a whole-food, plant-based diet can make a huge difference in the lives of people with autoimmune diseases. In a study in the journal Rheumatology, researchers found that a vegan diet -- that is also free from gluten -- could dramatically improve the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Increasing potassium intake could help reduce pain in RA patients, according to a study in the Journal of Pain. Other studies, such as one study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Disease, noted that people with RA were more likely to have low levels of potassium in their blood. Potassium is abundant in plant foods like acorn squash, avocado, bananas, spinach, sweet potato, and pomegranate. A plant-based diet can also increase the levels of certain nutrients that are important in a healthy and balanced immune response. These nutrients include fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, total vitamin A, and vitamins K and C.


Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, coconut kefir, and unsweetened yogurts are good sources of probiotics or beneficial bacteria. These good bacteria improve gut health, which is a vital component when it comes to the treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases. It is also equally important to feed these bacteria with prebiotic foods that help them to increase. These bacteria love fiber, which can be found in apple, asparagus, burdock root, chicory root, dandelion greens, flaxseed, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, and onion.

Other anti-inflammatory foods that you can add to your diet include mushrooms, onions, squash, turnips, rutabaga, and leafy greens such as broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and mustard greens. Some spices also reduce inflammation and enhance the body’s healthy immune response. These include cayenne pepper, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. (Related: Why cruciferous vegetables are a must if you’re on an anti-inflammatory diet.)

People with autoimmune diseases may also want to reduce their intake or completely avoid the following foods:

  • Gluten: Many people with autoimmune diseases are sensitive to gluten, which is found in many starchy foods. It may contribute to leaky gut-related problems, and worsen conditions like multiple sclerosis, asthma, and RA by increasing inflammation, according to a study in the journal Best Practice & Research: Clinical Gastroenterology.
  • Sugar: People with autoimmune diseases are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of sugar. A study in Frontiers of Immunology revealed that sugar consumption can increase the risk of Type 1 diabetes. It can also impair the functioning of the immune system, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • Animal products: Many studies showed that animal products can cause inflammation, which can worsen autoimmune conditions. A study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that consuming a single meal high in animal fats could cause an immediate increase in inflammation that peaked at around four hours. Other studies found that these foods trigger autoimmune attacks and flare-ups in people with conditions like arthritis.

Be mindful of what you eat. Learn more at Food.news.

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