I get asked a lot of questions from people with autoimmune conditions regarding what food they should and should not eat. It’s understandable that there would be some confusion with so much conflicting information out there.
For this post, we’ll focus on what NOT to eat, with what TO eat in future posts.
Autoimmune conditions can feel like they’re taking over our lives. They often lead to feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. However, the truth is you have quite a bit of power over the affect your diagnosis has on your life. Even some minor tweaks to your diet can make a world of difference.
3 Foods to Avoid with an Autoimmune Condition
While diets should really be individualized and specific to the person (rather than a doctrine), there are 3 foods that I have found to be consistently problematic for most people, especially if they are on the autoimmune spectrum. These foods are gluten, sugar and dairy.
Some people find that they can eventually consume some forms of dairy and sugar on occasion. But, gluten is never a good idea for people struggling with autoimmunity. Also, dairy and sugar really should be avoided until symptoms are reduced.
The good news is sometimes removing these 3 things is all that’s needed to see:
- Clearer skin
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Less pain
- Clearer sinuses
- Reduced allergies
- And so much more!
Why These 3 Foods
Between the cells of our gut lining are tight junctures that open and close to allow nutrients into our bloodstream. Gluten, dairy and sugar are known to stretch these openings beyond a healthy size, allowing food particles through.
Our immune system sees these food particles as foreign invaders and starts to attack. However, gluten and dairy have a very similar structure to certain proteins within our bodies. This leads to our immune system attacking our own healthy cells, the very definition of autoimmunity!
This inflammatory response can lead to a variety of symptoms, like:
- Digestive upset
- Brain fog
What confuses many people is that a leaky gut doesn’t necessarily cause digestive symptoms. You might feel like you have great digestion, but still have a leaky gut. In fact, every study I know of that has looked for a correlation between leaky gut and autoimmunity has found a 100% correlation!
Chronic inflammation is a trigger for all sorts of diseases, including those of the autoimmune variety. And these foods all are known to cause inflammation in the body, because our immune system sees them as a foreign invader. This is fine for occasional consumption, but when we’re eating these foods every day it becomes chronic. And that is not fine.
Once we cross the threshold into chronic inflammation, these foods need to be removed completely to give the immune system a break and allow the inflammation to calm down.
Your gut microbiome consists of all the trillions of microorganisms (yep, trillions!) in your digestive tract. When these microorganisms become out of balance, we have what’s known as gut dysbiosis.
One factor in your microbiome is what you’re eating. When we’re eating a lot of the same thing, we keep feeding the same bugs, allowing them to multiply. Sugar and gluten are major food sources of “bad” bacteria.
There are other factors on your microbiome as well, such as infections, medications and environmental toxins, but for the sake of this post we’ll just stick to food.
At first glance, I know the idea of removing these foods can feel overwhelming. Many people respond to that idea with some variation of, “WTF am I supposed to eat!?” I did claim I was going to provide “minor tweaks” after all.
Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) seems like nothing but these three foods. But, here’s the thing: there are TONS of other food options. And once you become aware of your options, these really do start to feel like minor tweaks. In fact, most people I’ve worked with end up feeling so much better without these foods that they never go back to their old way of eating.