What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune disease is complex and according to AARDA.org, it’s currently impacting 50 million Americans. Since autoimmune disease is grossly under diagnosed, it’s likely the number of people suffering from autoimmune disease is much higher.
Autoimmune disease occurs when our immune system targets healthy proteins within our bodies. Our bodies produce antibodies as a natural defense against foreign, harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. When antibodies find an invader, they bind to it and a red flag is raised that signals to our immune system to attack it. This system works in most healthy bodies, but for people with autoimmune disease, the these antibodies get “confused” and latch onto healthy proteins. Antibodies that attack healthy proteins are referred to as autoantibodies and indicate a likelihood for developing autoimmunity.
The autoimmune disease people are diagnosed with depends on which proteins in their body are being attacked. I have hashimotos and alopecia, so my body attacks my thyroid and my hair follicles.
Whether or not we develop autoantibodies comes down to three major factors:
Genetics (thanks mom & dad)
Diet & Lifestyle
Today we’re going to focus on the diet & lifestyle piece. One thing nearly all autoimmune diseases have in common is something called intestinal permeability or “leaky gut,” which can oftentimes be reversed through diet and lifestyle changes.
What’s Leaky Gut?
When our guts are functioning properly, they act as a filter between the outside world and our bodies. As we digest food, it’s broken down into tiny particles of nutrients that are allowed through the gut barrier and into our blood stream. If our gut barrier is damaged (which is the case with leaky gut), microtears in the small intestine are able to let other substances cross into our bloodstreams. Undigested food, bacteria, toxins and other waste makes it through the barrier. Once in the bloodstream, the body sees it as a foreign invader and goes into protection mode. The immune system is ramped up and starts to attack the foreign particles.
If we’re genetically predisposed to autoimmune disease, our immune system produces autoantibodies when it’s responding to a threat. When leaky gut is present and foreign particles keep seeping into our bloodstream, the immune system is always firing and producing lots of autoantibodies. As time goes on, these autoantibodies cause damage to different parts of the body and that’s when autoimmune disease develops.
What contributes to leaky gut?
There are several ways a gut can become leaky, but below are some of the top contenders.
Eating an inflammatory diet (like the Standard American Diet)
Prescription drugs (like antibiotics, birth control and antidepressants)
Regular use of NSAIDS (like asprin)
Regular use of proton pump inhibitors (acid suppressers)
Infections (like h-pylori, norovirus and strep)
Regular exposure to toxins
Heavy alcohol use
How to tell if you have leaky gut?
If you have one or more of the below symptoms you may be struggling with leaky gut.
Achy joints or arthritis
Brain fog and headaches
Regular gas and bloating
Chronic constipation or diarrhea
Skin rashes like eczema, rosacea or psoriasis
aip is one of the best diets for healing leaky gut
The best way to get started healing leaky gut is by removing potentially inflammatory foods from your diet and increasing the amount of nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods you’re consuming. The diet I use with my autoimmune clients to help heal and seal the gut is called the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).
I’ve watched people heal through dietary changes countless times with clients, friends, and myself. There was also a recent study that points towards AIP as a healing modality for those with inflammatory bowel disease. This was huge news for the autoimmune community because most people look at us like we have a third eye when we talk about healing through diet and lifestyle changes.
Foods to remove on AIP:
Grains (including pseudo grains like amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and chia)
Beans with edible pods (green beans and snow peas)
Processed veggie oils
Processed chemicals, preservatives and food stabilizers
Processed sugar and sugar alcohols
Foods to Include on AIP:
Grass fed and pasture raised meat
Wild caught seafood
Vegetables (besides nightshades)
Adequate amounts of water (click here to find out what that amount is for you)
I know the list of things you can’t eat is pretty overwhelming and that you might be thinking, “WTF, Whitney, how do I do this?” Lucky for you, I’ve dedicated a lot of blog space to helping people heal through dietary changes. There’s an entire section on Autoimmune Protocol recipes, a Free 7 Day AIP Meal Plan, and an AIP store.
If you look this over and still feel like you need some extra help getting started, you can apply to work with me for six weeks and make this transition easier.
Autoimmune disease doesn’t have to be a hopeless diagnosis. It’s possible to reverse your symptoms and live an incredible, full life. You just have to commit to making some changes. I believe in you!
WANT A PRINTABLE LIST OF ALL THE FOODS ALLOWED ON THE AUTOIMMUNE PALEO DIET? I’VE GOT YOU COVERED!